Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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James Frey's A Million LIttle Pieces

I read an absolutely fantastic non-fiction book over the break called A Million Pieces (amazon.ca | amazon.com) by a drug addict and alcoholic turned Hollywood screenwriter named James Frey (Google | wiki). My take on the book is that he appears to have cured himself of his addictions with the help of the Tao Te Ching. He strongly disavowed the 12-Step Program underwritten in the treatment centre in which the memoir takes place, opting instead to use his own latent self-insight and self-knowledge to overcome the bad decision-making patterns he established in early life.

One thing that struck me over and over was the way in which I could substitute the word "food" for "crack cocaine" in his book and feel like he was describing the same thing. The compulsive feelings he had for crack cocaine are extremely similar to the compulsive feelings I have about food. I could really identify with his struggle to control his unhealthy urges, even if the extent of damage caused by our respective addictions is vastly different. (In Frey's case, he overcame his addictions through a mental process whereby he took his own honest inventory (à la AA), admitted to himself and to his parents that he was an alcoholic, a drug addict, and a criminal, and that he had ruined his life and that of his parents through his self-destructive decisions and behaviour regarding alcohol, drugs, chemicals, and crime.)

The book was picked up by Oprah's book club, and I don't doubt it will garner a lot of attention for its audacious writing style, its ironclad grip on your emotions, and its inspiring message. Our friend Maggie's initial reactions to the book were most à propos: raw but not rude... clipping but not harried... reality but not lacking imagination.


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