A Review of Aidan Martin’s Euphoric Recall
With the increased social awareness towards mental health, trauma, and addiction, we’re starting to see more literature that takes in the increased spotlight of these subjects that has developed since the turn of the millennium. We’re starting to better understand how trauma can be generational, how addiction takes on more complexities than dependence on narcotics, and how mental health issues deserve more sympathy and support instead of being something to be locked away in an attic. Regardless of how an author chooses to approach their own personal history, committing their history to print is a surefire way of continuing the development of awareness and support that is surely needed as we go into this next decade.
In Aidan Martin’s memoir Euphoric Recall, Martin traces his personal history and how he came to struggle with addiction and trauma in his 30+ years of life. Born in a working-class setting in Scotland, Martin grew up in a dangerous neighborhood, a poor education system, and an environment that left him to his devices and where he could indulge in practices and behaviors that weren’t appropriate for him in his developmental years. It wasn’t until the events of the memoir’s first chapter, “Groomed,” that Martin’s life began to take a much darker turn, where it would take a long time before he was finally on the path to recovery and self-actualization.
Euphoric Recall is a brief, but haunting memoir, and while the book traces the various events and issues Martin faced as a troubled youth and young adult, it’s not entirely dedicated to the miserable moments. Martin’s prose is quite blunt about how troubled he was, and is written where he’s able to have some humor looking back on his less-than-favorable moments under the influence. His attempt to ask a girl out over the phone while high is a funny anecdote, even as awkward as it is and how troubling the circumstances behind it are.
However, while Martin is able to inject some humor into his life’s story, it still doesn’t shy away from how tragic and horrifying the context around a lot of these moments are. It’s one thing to read about Martin trying to navigate a surprise family Christmas while high, but it’s also sad to realize it was the last Christmas with a family member, whose cancer diagnosis massively affected the family and would send Martin into further drug and alcohol usage.
Something that makes Euphoric Recall stand out is the kind of trauma and addiction it chooses to address. Many of Martin’s issues were exacerbated in the “Groomed” chapter, where a 15-year-old Martin had a sexual encounter with a middle-aged man he had spent a year cultivating an online relationship with. While this wasn’t the inciting incident that pushed Martin into his downward spiral, it’s upsetting to realize how Martin was pushed to such a moment and how that would inspire a lot of his self-destructive tendencies and mental health issues. The memoir addresses how being taken advantage of at such a crucial age in Martin’s life would lead to further issues down the line, culminating in the realization that Martin’s greatest addiction is one of degradation. Many of his actions are various ways for him to humiliate himself and feed into his desire to be seen as lesser-than. It’s chilling to realize that this is a possible form of addiction, but Martin’s intelligent writing makes it easy to understand and to become aware of such an issue.
It’s also fascinating to realize that a lot of Martin’s issues come from an environment rife with toxic masculinity. The male figures in Martin’s life affected him for better and for worse, and the dangerous neighborhood and schools he attended prized dangerous shows of masculinity. Fights were common, with Martin as the aggressor and the victim, and could easily have led to his early death or incarceration. A lot of the male figures he associated with, such as Derek the online predator and some of the drug dealers he consorted with, show how he puts himself around people who can either make him feel greater or worse. Even the degradation addiction can be looked at as Martin wanting to admonish himself for his failure to fit in to these ideals and to waste himself away as a junkie. The “Fit or Minger Game” he played (where he’d send poorly taken photos of himself to women to ask if he was attractive or not; hence “fit or minger”) gave him a rush to be seen as unattractive by women he would desire otherwise. It’s painful to see how troubled he was, but also made the rest of the memoir all the more satisfying as the reader discovers how he was able to pull himself out of this and how he could gain the needed perspective to address these issues and come to terms with them.
Euphoric Recall is a challenging memoir about the affects of addiction and trauma in a young man’s life. Martin’s detailed prose and heartbreaking anecdotes bring light to issues that wouldn’t be commonly examined, but are worth addressing. It’s a raw look at how addiction and trauma can be made worse by toxically masculine environments and figures, but also how a person can address these matters and grow beyond them. While it may be a bit triggering for some readers, it’s still a worthwhile look into these matters and for a needed perspective as we come to better understand these issues.
Author’s Note: If you’re looking for additional memoirs about addiction, trauma, and health, I highly recommend Carly Israel’s Seconds and Inches. You can read my review of it here in Quail Bell Magazine.