Saturday, February 20, 2021

Reading | A Million Little Pieces

A Million Little Pieces | James Frey 

"I am an Alcoholic and a Drug Addict and a Criminal." James Frey spends six weeks in an icy Minnesota rehab, learns some stark truths about himself and the people who love him, and manages to come out the other side as a human being who is not fully healed but on a path toward healing. Along the way, James takes full responsibility for his problems, rejects Twelve Step therapy as a foolish means of replacing one addiction with another, and comes to terms with his explosive, seemingly inexplicable anger which he calls The Fury. He also learns to love. Written in direct, demanding prose, the author dispenses with grammatical conventions to create an experience with the written word that puts us directly into James' stream of consciousness. 

* * * * *

If I had read this book five years ago, it would have completely freaked me out. Gritty, harsh, unrelenting, the author pulls no punches in revealing all the sordid details of the addicted life, and its ugly underbelly of lies, betrayals, violence, and dishonor. But for the past 4+ years, I've walked alongside of a friend who is also an Addict, so there is not much that shocks me anymore.

Which is to say that James' story rings true for me. His devastated body, tough guy exterior yet tender heart, constant need to fill himself, and unflinching assessment of himself as unworthy of love - these are all things I know to be true of the addict in my life. James' story also plays out a truth that I believe holds for many people whose lives are in crisis - he learns that at the root of his addictive, destructive behavior lies a childhood trauma, an event that skewed his early perceptions of the world and of himself, and sabotaged his ability to develop a healthy sense of self-worth.

I've come round to believe that this type of childhood trauma, consciously or subconsciously, lies at the heart of every addict's journey. No sane person would ever choose to be an addict; but when there is a profoundly painful trauma that needs to be suppressed, mind-altering drugs actually provide a powerful albeit deeply flawed solution. 

I'm thankful that books like this exist

to shine a light on the humanity of addiction, 
to remind us that addicts are often intelligent, sensitive, thoughtful individuals, 
to give us insights into their struggles and pain.

And I pray for the day that our world learns to treat addicts with kindness and care, leading them toward trauma-based counseling and a deeper understanding of themselves, just as James received, that will allow them also to heal. 

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