A good writer, especially a memoirist, will describe life in ways you cannot describe it yourself. Enter Amy Dresner, writer at The Fix, comedian, a woman in recovery from drugs, alcohol and sex addiction whose memoir My Fair Junkie releases September 12. Our stories share a few obvious details: we both hit bottom in Los Angeles, and we both suffer from an onslaught of cross-addictions. But these surface similarities are not where I identify best with Dresner’s story.
This book reads like a good 12-step lead in comedy club forum. It is memorable for its story, hilarious in delivery, and fast. Super fast. Speed-freak fast. Dresner’s taken to the long form the way she admittedly takes to everything: with urgency, immediacy, and an insatiable appetite for more.
As dizzying as the story becomes — addiction reigning, ranging from pints to pills to powders, not to mention pussies and dicks — it still manages to walk a straight line to its destination: recovery. While on the fringes of alcoholic insanity, it is told with clarity.
Walking the line between unspeakable madness and clean prose is what makes you read this memoir at the speed you binge-watch Netflix.
My favorite thread that strings the story along is Dresner’s work in community service, a fate that a judge sentenced her to. Gradually, the chore becomes a privilege, the job begins to work over the worker. I’ve had this exact experience in recovery. My first sober job was washing dishes. I thought it was a cruel twist of fate when I landed that work. My roommates used to give me all sorts of shit because I refused to do the dishes when I was active in my addiction. I was too busy thinking about myself in a thousand ways to move the plates and cups from the sink to the dishwasher. Like Dresner’s probationary sentencing, washing dishes sober gradually became a source of joy for me. The work was satisfying. The clean plates came out of the sanitizer and I stacked them proudly for cooks to plate them and customers to dirty them once more. I was on the upward end of a cycle after spending a life on the downward slope. Dresner told my story as she learned the joys of showing up.
Her description of the addict’s alienation from the world is staggering. That sort of language, for a writer nearly 10 years clean and sober himself, should be all used up. Dresner rejuvenates the feeling. I got to know myself better as I read.
Dresner goes into great depth on the subject of lust, the escapism of sex. It does not take a sex addict — I don’t identify as one, at least — to relate to what sex, or porn, or even a good ogling can do to the psyche of a person who suffers from addiction. My personal favorite of the many brilliant turns of phrase comes in a line of dialogue when a friend informs Dresner of her relationship to sex. As I read a pre-release copy, I cannot quote it. You’ll have to read it for yourself.