My Fair Junkie: a review

Always honest, often right. Ladies and gentlemen, Ms Amy Dresner.

In My Fair Junkie, former stand-up comic Amy Dresner gives us a searingly honest portrayal of what she was like, what happened, and what she is like now. People in recovery from addiction can ask no more of each other than that, and Ms Dresner’s memoir is a gift to anyone with addiction.

Dr William Silkworth wrote about those early AA members who wrote the Big Book, “You may rely absolutely on anything they say about themselves.” We can say no less of Amy Dresner. Her memoir is both honest and terrifying. She does not flinch in telling us to what lengths her illness drove her. She seems to hold nothing back. To read Amy’s story is to crawl inside her mind with her, and once there, realize that we aren’t the only ones to think and feel this way.

Those without addiction will likely read My Fair Junkie and feel superior, but I doubt it was written for them. The seemingly endless stream of drugs and behaviors aimed at quieting, even for a moment, the pain of living in Amy’s head, will make most people without addiction wonder why she’s still allowed to walk around in public. But for those who have been there, even if they didn’t do everything she did, there is a treasure trove of understanding. With her honesty Amy describes the true pain and emptiness that people with addiction feel.

She shows us that addiction isn’t the things she did, but rather how she felt when she wasn’t using. She describes her long arc of transitions from speed to alcohol to cocaine to cutting to sex, and shows us that there are no differences between them. And that leads me to the only bone I have to pick with Amy.

Her story is so powerful, and so powerfully told, that many people new to recovery will naturally pick up her language. She refers to the many rewards she used to attempt to end the pain as “addictions” and while describing them in a way that makes it clear to anyone who has a good bit of recovery that this is all the same process, the newcomer to recovery might just think these are separate illnesses. If there’s one thing I wish she’d done, it is to point out that the focus on the drug is neither helpful on an individual level or a societal one. We still have poor addiction treatment, as Amy points out, in this country, and one of the big reasons is the misunderstanding about the internal vs external nature of this illness.

But Amy didn’t write a textbook on addiction, she wrote a wonderful, funny, honest, and horrifying memoir that tells a story not yet close to being finished. This book isn’t Amy’s last word or last work, but it’s a wonderful way to get to know someone you’ll want to hear from for years. If you know someone struggling for recovery from addiction, get them this book and get yourself a copy as well.

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