Eight Addicts in Search of a Life
By Benoit Denizet-Lewis
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9780743277822, 352pp.)
Publication Date: January 6, 2009
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America Anonymous is the unforgettable story of eight men and women from around the country -- including a grandmother, a college student, a bodybuilder, and a housewife -- struggling with addictions. For nearly three years, acclaimed journalist Benoit Denizet-Lewis immersed himself in their lives as they battled drug and alcohol abuse, overeating, and compulsive gambling and sexuality. Alternating with their stories is Denizet-Lewis's candid account of his own recovery from sexual addiction and his compelling examination of our culture of addiction, where we obsessively search for new and innovative ways to escape the reality of the present moment and make ourselves feel "better."
Addiction is arguably this country's biggest public-health crisis, triggering and exacerbating many of our most pressing social problems (crime, poverty, skyrocketing health-care costs, and childhood abuse and neglect). But while cancer and AIDS survivors have taken to the streets -- and to the halls of Congress -- demanding to be counted, millions of addicts with successful long-term recovery talk only to each other in the confines of anonymous Twelve Step meetings. (A notable exception is the addicted celebrity, who often enters and exits rehab with great fanfare.) Through the riveting stories of Americans in various stages of recovery and relapse, Denizet-Lewis shines a spotlight on our most misunderstood health problem (is addiction a brain disease? A spiritual malady? A moral failing?) and breaks through the shame and denial that still shape our cultural understanding of it -- and hamper our ability to treat it.
Are Americans more addicted than people in other countries, or does it just seem that way? Can food or sex be as addictive as alcohol and drugs? And will we ever be able to treat addiction with a pill? These are just a few of the questions Denizet-Lewis explores during his remarkable journey inside the lives of men and women struggling to become, or stay, sober. As the addicts in this book stumble, fall, and try again to make a different and better life, Denizet-Lewis records their struggles -- and his own -- with honesty and empathy.
Benoit Denizet-Lewis is an award-winning contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. Formerly a senior writer at Boston Magazine and staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, his work has also appeared in Sports Illustrated, Details, Slate, Spin, Out, and others. A former Alicia Patterson Fellow, Denizet-Lewis lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
"I couldn't put this book down. I was blown away by the remarkable cast of characters, who come fully alive in Benoit's gentle hands. He exposes and explodes a million myths about addiction, never succumbing to the temptation to make addiction -- or recovery -- less complex than it is. This unforgettable book is far more than a compilation of irresistible, artfully told stories about addicts. It's about truth, healing, survival, and hope." -- David Sheff, author of Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction
"Benoit Denizet-Lewis writes with an impressive mix of transparency and compassion about the addict's eternal battle between will and action. He sees deep into the sadness of desperate people, and equally deep into the systems that redeem such sadness. This is an intimate, compelling volume." -- Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
"This book reaches into the dark depths of the heart and soul of addiction by telling the stories of people who have struggled to find their way into the light of healing. I t is a collage of potent experiences from ordinary people -- women and men caught in the web of addiction whose fight for recovery will inspire anyone who reads Benoit's book." -- William Cope Moyers, author of Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption
"One of the best books I've read in the last year, and one of the most powerful I've encountered about addiction." -- Rachel Kramer Bussel, The Huffington Post
"A dazzling portrait of eight addicts and their intimate, sometimes heartbreaking struggle... Addicts will read this book; those who want to understand addiction should read it!" -- Susan Cheever, The Daily Beast
"An arresting, personal glimpse into the merciless world of drug and behavioral addiction. All eight of the people (Denizet-Lewis) followed are gripping subjects, and he describes their plights in seasoned, dexterous prose." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A graceful, compelling book focusing directly on people, not on concepts or proscriptive ideas. Denizet-Lewis relates their successes, relapses, and struggles to stay clean with warmth, clarity, and a deeply refreshing, unpuritanical frankness." -- Kate Christensen, ELLE
"I was skeptical about another book about addiction, but Denizet-Lewis finds a fresh, provocative approach to the subject... I often felt like I was right there listening to the conversations. And, boy, was I paying attention." -- Rochelle Olson, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Engrossing... Denizet-Lewis gives readers a sense of the ravaging power of addiction." -- Vikas Turakhia, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"America Anonymous makes for addictive reading." -- Johnny Diaz, Boston Globe