Sunday, March 8, 2009

Addiction For Dummies: A Million Little Pieces teaches the average person about the horrors of 'I need it'.

James Frey spent 6 weeks in rehab, where he battled his addiction to both alcohol and crack. His recollection of his attempt to get clean is the most raw, unsugar-coated, "take-me-as-I-am" piece of the writing I have ever read. A Million Little Pieces allowed me to enter a world that I had no idea existed, especially in this type of severity. I have no experience with addiction and abuse, nor can I fully comprehend the intense need of something rather than simply wanting it.

This book begins with James' awakening on a plane with no recollection of how he got there. His mouth tastes like blood, he has holes where teeth used to be, he smells like vomit and urine. He is 23 years old. His parents take him to rehab, where his first few days are pure hell. He has an extremely difficult time at the beginning, both emotionally and physically, where his body is adjusting to functioning without drugs or alcohol. He is often sick to his stomach and has trouble keeping his temper in check. Throughout the book, James has ups and downs, where following the rules is difficult but making friends seems to ease his tension. He meets men from all different walks of life...dealers, judges, athletes & average-joe addicts. James even meets a woman, Lilly, who is an addict and prostitute, and falls in love with her. James leaves rehab as a free, sober adult and has been clean for nine years.

James speaks in the first-person, but there are no paragraphs discussing anything except his thoughts and reactions. The reader is never allowed to leave James' mind. I think using this form of writing style compliments the content and goal of the book. James' personal struggle is being used as a form of therapy in this book and I think the directness and openness conveyed through this writing style suits the goal that James has set for himself. Here is an example from the book, pages 43-44

Hi, Mom.
I hear her call my Father. My Father picks up the phone.
Hi, James.

Hi, Dad.
How are you?
All right.
How is it there?
It's fine.
What's happened so far?
I'm being detoxed and that sucks, and yesterday I moved down to the Unit and that's been fine.
Are you feeling like it's helping?
I don't know.
I hear my Mom take a deep breath.
Anything we can do?
I hear my Mom break down.
I listen to her cry.
I gotta go, Dad.
You're gonna be okay, James. Just keep it up.
I listen to her cry.
I gotta go.
If you need anything, call us.
We love you.

Based on the content and subject matter, I would never read this book again. I think the reader really only has to read it once to get the full picture of James' struggle. The content is heavy and sometimes very draining on the reader, so one time is definitely enough.

I recommend reading this book because although the average person reads and hears about addiction, we really have no idea what it does to people and their families. This book allows non-addicts to feel the pain of needing something so badly that life just cannot continue unless that need is fulfilled. I cannot empathize with James, but I can certianly sympathize with him. I, along with other readers, congratulate him on his success.

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