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The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle


The Power of Now

The Power of Now is, to say the least, POWERFUL. Eckhart Tolle does a phenomenal job expressing the importance of the present and how it can change your life. Being in the Now is something I have tried to stress in some of my earlier blogs focusing on meditation and awareness. While meditation is one way to get there, through this book you will find that you can be in this moment every second of every day. Luckily for you, the audiobook is now free for 30 days from Audible.com. This company is affiliated with Amazon and you do have to check out with your information secured for after the trial ends. However, if you listen to it everyday, I promise you can finish it and end the renewal before it comes to bite you. If your still unsure about signing up, you can always head to your local library and find either the book or audio recording there. Anyways, I highly recommend it! Even though there is not much mention of addiction, you will find this book incredibly resourceful. Below is a review from the Audible website.” -Enjoy, Robyn

Review from Audible.com:

To make the journey into The Power of Now you need to leave your analytical mind and its false created self, the ego, behind. Access to the Now is everywhere – in the body, the silence, and the space all around you. These are the keys to enter a state of inner peace. They can be used to bring you into the Now, the present moment, where problems do not exist. It is here you find your joy and are able to embrace your true self. It is here you discover that you are already complete and perfect.

Although the journey is challenging, Eckhart Tolle offers simple language in a question and answer format. The words themselves are the signposts to guide you on your journey. There are new discoveries to be made along the way: you are not your mind, you can find your way out of psychological pain, authentic human power is found by surrendering to the Now. When you become fully present and accepting of what is, you open yourself to the transforming experience of The Power of Now.




Take Twelve


This is about the time we begin to ask if she is still alive…

And she is!

And now we ask if she is still sober..

She is!

But is she still sane?

It appears so…

What a happy day! She spent three hours in total driving to and from the unbearably busy mall to get her computer fixed and while it does turn on, there are fuzzy technicoloured lines that remind her of tripping… no matter.

She has spent the past few weeks unpacking, painting and decorating her rooms in her new house. Her mom was kind enough to give her two little rooms to use as a massage room and a bedroom. She’s had fun placing all her nick-hacks and art work on her walls. But thats boring stuff! We don’t care about the day to day, we are curious about her head.


She woke up— everyday seemed to be the same. Time was dragging on. It seemed like it was taking forever to get things done. Would she ever find a sense of normalcy again? She felt guilty for not going to the gym, for eating poorly and waking up only minutes from noon. She grabbed a bottle of water and went out on the back porch and find her mom rocking in a wicker chair with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. She sat down next to her and lit one up for herself.

“It’s like we’re here decorating someone else’s house and we’re going to go home when its all over,” her mom spoke softly.


“Theres just so much to do. The trip down here was so hard. So stressful. Everything is… so stressful.” A tear fell down her face.

“I know. Its a lot. I’m struggling too. I’ve tried not to let it out.” Her mom looked up at her as she said this, cocking her head to side suggesting to tell her more. “Its unpacking all my things… It all comes rushing back. I left it all behind when I came down here earlier to stay with Grandma and Grandpa. Living out of a bag for a month, it was like an escape.. But now its all back. Every little thing reminds me where I’ve been. What I’ve done. How I’ve hurt everyone…” She hesitated and continued, “I found a letter that Daddy wrote to me and hid in one of my travel documents before I left for India. He had so much faith… but so much fear. I could tell. It broke my heart.” She burst into tears. Together they sat crying.

“You know we love you. No matter what, we will always be here for you.”

Her throat knots as she writes this and recollects this moment of weakness. It’s always in the back of her mind but every second of every day she pushes it out. She has learnt to recognize when she is about to slip and quickly resists those feelings. She doesn’t want to break down. She does’t want to fall into depression and get lost in the past. But she remembers it all. The letters she opened on the plane to France from her parents, her sister. They left so much love in those few pages. So much hope for her future. She let them all down.koorg

She ventured into the depths of the messages that were sent from her parents while she was in India.

Tears are rolling down her face now. She could tell when she was going crazier and crazier. She can see the dates. The times. Those words. Those lies.

I have been catching up with time, got lost in koorg for those few days hanging out with my friend pooja —3/22, 10:52am (11:22pm India-time)

‘Getting lost in Koorg.’ Koorg was where it began. The unraveling of her mind. She remembers the trip that set it off. Physical and mental.

Right now its too hard to write about. Maybe later, she thinks as she tries to shove it off. She’ll probably post it, password protected, on her blog soon. Stay tunes I guess. 


Must Read: Fall to Pieces, A Memoir of Drugs, Rock’n’Roll and Mental Illness by Mary Porsberg




In March 2007, twenty-four hours after Mary Weiland dragged her husband Scott’s pricey rock-star wardrobe onto their driveway and torched it, she was locked up in a mental hospital. Watching all this were her frightened extended family, a conflicted husband wrestling with demons of his own, and a tabloid industry gone gleeful at the “Bonfire in Toluca Lake!”
To the outside world, Weiland had led what seemed to be an enviable life. A successful international model in the nineties, she married her longtime sweetheart—famed lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots and, later, Velvet Revolver, Scott Weiland—in 2000. Mary was the sane one, went the story—it was the tempestuous, unpredictable Scott who was crazy. In her gripping memoir Fall to Pieces, Mary Weiland reveals that the truth is somewhere in between.

From her earliest days in San Diego, Weiland displayed signs of trouble: a black depression that sometimes left her immobile for days, a temper that sent her into wild rages she didn’t understand, an overdose. But her fierce determination to “have more” led to early success as a model. At sixteen, she fell in love at first sight with Scott Weiland, then an aspiring musician who was hired to drive her to and from modeling gigs. Slowly, her casual relationship with beer and pot grew into an affair with cocaine and heroin that rivaled her love for Scott, who was addicted as well. From rehab to rehab, from breakup to reconciliation to eventual marriage, the couple fought their way back, welcomed the babies they’d dreamed of, and hoped their struggles were behind them. Then came the bonfire breakdown and the full onset of Mary’s bipolar disorder, a widely misunderstood and misdiagnosed mental illness that affects more than five million Americans and had been, in fact, stalking Mary Weiland since her teens.

With refreshing candor, innate comic timing, and earned wisdom, Weiland recounts the extreme highs and lows of her life, including an unforgettable love affair with the man she always knew she’d marry, the careers and rock tours that took them around the world, and her fight to finally come to grips with the addictions that could have killed her. In her journey to understand and manage her bipolar disorder, she takes the reader on a wild ride into the dark and back into the light


Take Ten


What if she woke up one morning and actually listened to that little voice inside her head? The one that tells her go outside and practice yoga, to read instead of waste time online, to eat smaller portions, to go to the gym, to paint, to journal, to pray, to live? Sometimes she’ll just lay there, listening to the voice as it goes on and on. Later, she says. She begins to make excuses.

She’s been in Florida about a month now. Doing not much else but sleeping, eating, driving from doctor to doctor and playing the day by ear. Some days are good; she reads, she writes, she works out a couple hours and makes it to a meeting. But now, ever sense she broke down at the gym a week back, she hasn’t visited since. It was terribly embarrassing. One second she was doing crunches and the next she is balling into tears. Likely PTSD caused.. She sees her time now here as doomed. When she thought all insanity was forgotten, she was suddenly hit by an episode of uncontrollable guilt and remorse. If she would’ve known that the music of Indian trance would set her off in a crying fit of hysterics, she may have not played it in the first place. Then again, there was that voice, in the back of her mind, that did warn her. She’s been ignoring that voice ever since. “Why ignore the voice that tried to help you?” the voice says. She doesn’t reply.. “Your in denial.”

Maybe she is in denial. Its been harder and harder to be the girl she was before her world came tumbling down but she thought this fresh start could really help her.  She thought she could spend this time to search for that girl she thought she was. It has been meaningful, there is no denying that. She’s written countless journals, poems, and spoken to many friends to find some reminisces of serenity. She sees the clouded skies and rainy days as an excuse to stay in. An excuse to withdraw from the world. Now she just waits for Sunday. The day she suspects her mom will arrive with all the furniture they packed. Then she will be busied with moving in, finding a new healthcare plan, applying to college and getting a part-time job.

Yet today is only Thursday. She still has time. She still has seven more days to finish her ’90 in 90’ and one more day until she’s been clean for 90 days. That’s all good. That’s something to be proud of. For the meantime though, she should listen to that voice.

Today she woke up early, watched the sunrise and had a lunch wrap. She sits here writing this thinking about how the rest of her day might pan out. Her grandma wants to get her nails done, thats something. She has to blog, thats obvious. If the sun comes out she could go to the gym, maybe read/bike for an hour then do the usual drill. She hopes she won’t run into that guy she went on a date with. That was a bad idea. He claimed she was looking at him and he caught her doing so several times. The only thing is, she could’ve sworn she’d never seen him before. They had nothing in common but they still talked for hours. More like he talked for hours… She knows all but his last name. He loves to workout (used to be fat) has a kid but has been separated from the baby-mama for a few months. He was wearing camo shorts and a tee shirt— so not her type. He had a messy apartment and ADHD.. just boring southern fellow really. Not an ounce of creativity and not an ounce of wisdom, from what she gathered. She ignored most of his texts trying to give him a hint, it worked eventually. She has to admit that it was nice to finally talk to a local enough to share even a glimpse of her story. But that glimpse, while it may be interesting, is very strange. She has decided to remain a mystery to anyone else she meets. They don’t need to know her past, she’s not there anymore…

Where she is now is a place of comfort. A place that doesn’t remind her of her past. Well, not the one she is ashamed of. She recalls the first time she snorted cocaine in her house. It was all fine until she took it a little too far. She snorted a little too much. Just after dinner, just before bed, she was ready to feel that surge of energy. She wanting to make art—she hadn’t in so long. That night she did stay up but instead of drawing she worked on making a schedule for work and homework and other meaningless stuff. She doesn’t quite remember. What she does remember was the look on her face when she looked in the mirror and saw the whites of her eyes gradually being sunken in red blood. She opened her laptop, searching for an answer on the web, she found that her blood vessels had popped due to the pressure of her amateur inhale. She freaked out but by the time morning came her shift was about to start— she took another line. When she came home her eyes were completely red, nothing but her blue iris’ left, bright with the contrast.

Blue Eye Blood Vessels PoppedShe looked like a vampire.

She made up some story about sneezing in the night after eating too much cayenne pepper (which, according to online sources, stimulates blood cells). People just shrugged it off.

She had to deal with that embarrassment for a week before she quit her job at the local coffee shop and began her new one at Starbucks. What a great first impression… From then on she was afraid to to take another hit. So she developed a new way to get her high. This way was a much lighter way, a more hidden way. She would ration out enough powder for a day in a small baggie. Stealing her moms cigarettes (for first few times), she would lick the edges, roll them in cocaine and light up when she could get away from work or school. She would smoke on her breaks occasionally, before she went to the gym, on her way to school, and before she went back home. She’d stay up late into the night and crash in the afternoon. It worked for her. She got a lot done.

She was very meticulous about how much she used a week, knowing she had a limited supply, she would never waste any on a lazy weekend. She was pleased with this drug, it was nothing like the opiates she had used in High School. The rush, the fire, it’d burn inside her but she was able to still be in control. It kept her out of the dumps. It actually brought her quickly into mania. She was shopping like crazy and inhumanly productive. She began to stop eating and people would praise her for her good looks. She’d smile and offer some grandiose advise; lying through her teeth about how it all had to do with her vegan diet and exercise. It wasn’t until she began to run out that things started to fall apart. She had tried cutting it down little by little but she couldn’t stop herself from using more and more. Until one day, poof, it was gone. She went into work a complete disaster. She was unbelievably tired, completely depressed and horrendously lost. Her mind was going a mile a minute, wondering how on Earth she would find her next fix. She thought about everything; asking strangers, going to a strip club, prostituting, ect. She knew she couldn’t do any of that, at least in that moment, all she wanted to do was fight. She was hanging onto the moments before she started using. They were never as great as when she was but they were livable.

Eventually people were starting to notice. At school she would shy away, this time not with her head in her books or hovering over her laptop; she was sleeping. She would drag her feet on the floor and plop down in the hallways, sometimes dozing off so long she would miss class. She hid herself in her room during these dark times. Her insides crumbled as she woke in the morning to another cold autumn day. Going to work became a pain, customers would ask her what was wrong. When she was behind the counter she just shrugged them off. Until one day when she was sweeping the cafe and taking out the garbage, one of the regulars threw the question at her one more time. She looked up, tears began to fill her eyes. In a low voice she let it all out. She didn’t know where it was coming from or how she was able to trust this guy (maybe it was because he looked a bit like a druggy, perhaps more likely a dealer given his oddly formal yet rugged attire). As he stirred the sugar in his coffee, she looked up at him to say something, anything. He paused returning the glance and said, “I’ll be right back.” He left his coffee cup steaming as he took large steps out into the parking lot. The next thing she knew he came back with a bottle of pills.

“It’s Adderall,” he said. “I’m prescribed but I don’t really use them, I use other stuff. Try it, it’ll help you come down. You look too young, you can’t get into that stuff.”

Adderall 20mgWas this guy serious? She felt a little piece of him was looking out for her. She didn’t bother wondering what that ‘other’ things was, she was just pleased to have a solution. After cautiously taking the bottle she whispered, “But I don’t have any money on me now and I just can’t pay for something like this.” The truth was that she had spent all her money on clothes but she desperately needed this.

“Don’t worry, consider it a gift, its cheap…ish. Just throw in a free biscotti for me when I come in.” She smiled, he winked and shouted “take care,” as he exited the shop.

She ran into the bathroom and immediately downed two pills of 20mg. Having no idea if that was enough, she raced into the back storage room and threw the bottle in her bag. Within 30min she began to feel it. Her teeth clenched, she couldn’t stop moving—she was back.

 Chicago at Night

Reminiscing of the days before her rock bottom are very strange. Its almost as if she wasn’t there. Like it was a different person and she is watching it all play out from afar. It’s a movie of some girl she used to know but hasn’t talked to in a long time. She left her at home. She didn’t even say goodbye.

Mayan Calender She also never said goodbye to the city. Sometimes she wonders if she should have wandered the streets of Chicago once more before she took off for Florida. The last time she went she was in psychosis: She walked for hours in flash delirium as pictures of the the people bounced off the reflection of the nameless buildings, staring them down believing fully that she could feel their energy and read their minds. The concrete was hard against her feet as she pounded her way through the crowd as though she had a purpose. And when she reached the river she stopped and caught her breath. It was so surreal. Everything had changed. Well, not the city— she had changed. Symbols and sounds were mocking her now. Her thoughts spun an intricate web of destruction, telling her she was the saviour. A Mayan princess. The last one standing. The only one who knows
the secrets of the elements and the power of air.


Now she closes her eyes and imagines she’s there again. She imagines how she would’ve felt if she had gone; she’d probably have been overwhelmed, sick to her stomach, her mind would’ve gone crazy with flashbacks of not only her life pre-India but of all the delusions she had post-India— she’d probably break down and cry.

She was grateful she was no longer in that stuffy suburb, just a train ride away from those memories. She had soiled everything by walking around for miles thinking too much, pushing her mind through the endless brinks of insanity. When she was home she was trapped by those thoughts. Everything reminded her of everything she was trying so hard to escape. The only reason she agreed to go to the psych ward in the first place was because she knew she had to get away. That month that was spent jumping from one facility to the next kept her mind from unfolding. It was all almost heaven-sent. But when she returned it was waiting for her. She can see herself crying and crying throughout the day, just wanting out of her head. Questioning why she couldn’t just be someone else, if only for a day. Death looked inviting. But death was not the answer.

She was lucky to have a family that loved her. She was lucky to be so young. She had another chance at life. She had wasted too much time drowning in her sorrow, disappointing herself, disappointing everyone. She was ready for a change. She wanted to change. Now this is the only thing she has left. This journal keeps her going. Her words like vomit; cleansing her spirit, detoxing her soul. She imagines a day when she will run out of things to say. Right now that seems impossible, but maybe someday. Maybe someday she will look back on all her journals (private and public), all her poems, all her letters and nicknacks she collected on her crazy journey through the wormhole and out. She will spend time reading for hours, laughing at her past. And thats all it will mean to her, nothing but the past. She won’t dwell on it, she won’t worry about it, she won’t find herself in the depths of despair. Instead, she may take it, throw it in a box and hide it away. Or maybe she’ll show it, share it with people who have gone through similar things. Consoling them, giving them strength and courage, letting them know that there’s hope. Letting them know that someday, they too can come down from their cloud. They can still follow their dreams. They can overcome their mind. After all, our minds are a powerful thing… And no one knows that better than someone whose experienced insanity.


One Word at a Time


When I came back from India, where I hit my rock bottom, I wrote some journal entries and some poems. Grant it, I was still in psychosis for a month, so much of my writings are teetering on questionable madness.. but at least I have documentation of my unraveling thoughts. I have spoken to many people who see me in meetings jotting quickly —and mindfully— everything interesting that someone might say. They come to me after, questioning and prodding. “What are you doing? Why do you do this?” Inspiration, I say. For the future. To distract my mind all the while keeping it focused on the purpose of me being here. I reflect on these words somedays, these phrases that are jotted down in a penmanship only I can make out, it lifts my heart.

My journals on the other hand, don’t always do the same. People question me about this too, saying, “I don’t journal. I’ve tried. I just can’t get into it. Where do you start? What do you say?” I simply reply, anything. Everything. Theres no judgement but your own. Its just you and the paper/the keyboard, whatever. You just let your guard down and scream through the only words that come to your mind in that moment. You let it out. You get lost in the present as the words slip out of your hands and manifest themselves in front of you.

I find it healing. I also find it necessary to let go of all the thoughts that collect in the back of your mind. You make them real when you scribble them down. Something tangible that you can reflect on in the future. You start to realize how crazy you are. How human you are. You can map your progress, track your emotions and notice the moments in time that you let yourself fall and the moments you picked yourself up.

Its unlikely that I ever write on a good day. I am far too merry and cheerful and I often think I sound like a idiot. My ambitions are bloated and my head is held too high. I sometimes get scared when I observe this. It makes me think of mania… But its on those good days that I like to spin the clock back and see where I’ve been. Remind myself of the way life was regarded before I woke up with this smile on my face. I can see clearly that all things will pass. There is evidence of my mind when I felt I was stuck. Where time didn’t exist and the idea of life moving on to send me into the unknown was far from my imagination.

Today is one of those days to reflect. Not that I am in the best mood in the world; my thoughts have wandered here and there, sending me on a whirlwind of inspiration and thought provoking questions. After spitting out the ideas that were trapped in my mind (untangling them enough to make sense), I took a break. I shifted my attention to a long lost entry written when I got out of rehab, it read:


“Nothings doing it for me; running, Spongebob, Facebook, reading. Nada. Nope. I still feel like a heavy lump sits in my throat, a thousand butterflies wish to come up from my stomach, my body aches, my head spins, my eyes droop lazily on my clean face. I’m at a loss. I’ve been out of rehab for a few weeks now and plans of moving are becoming more official by the second. Halloween comes closer to reality. I just want to move. I just want a job. I want to go to school again. Some grandiose voice in my head tells me to study philosophy and be a professor. Write a bunch of books. Be a success. Be a success? Why am I always wishing for success? I can hardly handle failure. And I am such a great failure. The essence of depression wreaks from my veins today. Taunting me through every controlled breath. Gently caressing me, telling me things will look brighter. Don’t use. Don’t use, I tell myself. Moments like this, these receding moments that have lasted over 12 hours… they are the ones that make me want to use. Make me want to just pass out and sleep to wake up to a new day that has more purpose, more umph in my step. Where are those days? How do they come to me in my life? How do they even exist? I know that they have before, I can remember the ease of those days. Where did they go? What brought me here? I digress.”


As I sat there and read these lines I saw a glimpse of my past. Grateful to be here in the  future/present. Though I can’t say much has changed. I still get the occasional craving, though I try not to bother my mind when things are working out. I remove myself, not allowing my thoughts to unravel, revealing nothing but increased anxiety. Stop, I say. Don’t go there. You know how you’ll feel when you go there. And surely I do. You do to. You know how it is when your mind gets caught in a single thought. How it spins down, causing you to loose control, throwing you into a black hole. Thats no fun. Certainly counter productive. But its during these times that we have to remember to do only two things. Only these two things (from my experience) seem to work; prayer and journalling.

We need to take a step back from those winding thoughts and give them to our higher power to answer. “This too shall pass,” God most commonly replies. Then we have to let it out. Its no good bringing someone else down by removing them from their busy lives to complain and ramble on comically about nothing at all. At least, thats what we feel in these moments… So, instead of locking it up inside to save it for a rainy day, you got to just write it out and give it to yourself to listen to. Once its all down and you hand hurts from the process, you can read it over. Wow, you’ll think. Thats it. Thats me—right now.

You’ll feel better. Trust me. I know it may seem hard at first. Maybe time consuming. But it really isn’t. Once you lose yourself in the rapid collection of your thoughts, you’ll pull back feeling a weight lifted from your shoulders. You’ll realize that everything that had concerned you in those moments that were just vented seconds ago were actually real. There for you to decode and “digress,” as I say. Its out, your free. Free from those emotions that once felt like they were going to take over and drag you down so low that there would be no way you could get up. The feelings where you felt like you just wanted to give everything up, just to use, now seem like foolish memories. You thank God they’re gone.

I recommend to everyone I meet to journal whenever they are bored, alone or confused. Sometimes I find myself coughing up broken sentences and take those opportunities to write poetry. They don’t always have to rhyme, you know. None of that it matters. You have to keep in mind that these entries are for no one other than yourself. Of course, if your proud of your creation you can always share it, barring in mind that not everyone can or will relate. I certainly keep that in my mind every time I post a blog that is actually written by myself. I have never been trained in the art of English, but I enjoy it. I know that not many people (or no one at all) will actually read the things I put out there. I don’t let that bother me. And you can’t let it bother you. Let any shred of doubt be transformed into emotional release. Because writing is like a form of meditation; you focus your thoughts on present, reflecting on the things you feel and the anxieties that are stressing your mind — then you breath— and let it go; one word at a time.




Must Read: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman


“Ever since I saw the series of Orange is the New Black on Netflix before I went to rehab, I had recommended it to all the girls I had met that had been in jail. After hearing their experiences of being locked up in prison for months or years, I knew this was something they could relate to. I find that when we can relate to something, we feel less alone, less of a need to isolate. Things of our past no longer seem so daunting. Instead they appear as experiences that have only made us stronger. Piper might not have been a heroin addict but in her time spent behind bars, she met many and could sympathize with most every woman she that came into her life during her year sentence. I found this book to be heartbreaking yet hilarious. Opening my eyes to a rock bottom I hope to never hit! Below is a summary and make sure you watch the series too, you won’t be disappointed!” -Love and light, Robyn


In 1998, Piper Kerman was working as a freelance producer in New York City and living a peaceful life with her magazine editor boyfriend, Larry. When two police officers arrived at their door one morning, Kerman assumed it must have something to do with the apartment building. In fact, they were there to arrest her on conspiracy drug charges related to her role in a heroin trafficking ring several years earlier.

At the time of her arrest, Kerman’s family, friends and boyfriend had no idea about her criminal past. Despite their assurances that a “nice blond lady” would never do time, Kerman ultimately served eleven months at the federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a memoir ensued. The result is a perceptive, if imperfect inside look at our criminal justice system and the women who cycle through it.

Kerman begins by describing how, in 1992, she found herself a recent Smith College graduate from a good Boston family “with a thirst for bohemian counterculture and no clear plan.” She stuck around her college town waiting tables and soon began dating an older woman named Nora, who revealed on their first date that she was part of an international heroin trafficking network. While this disclosure may have prompted a “Check, please!” from your average gal, a young Kerman found it “exciting beyond belief.”

She spent the next four months traveling the world on heroin-smuggling missions with Nora and her crew: Hanging out in Bali beach clubs, wandering through Paris, and transporting drug money (but never actual drugs), before realizing that she was getting in too deep and breaking all ties. When Kerman reflects on this time, she seems unwilling or unable to explore her motivations, and more often resorts to describing her lifestyle in list form. A typical recollection: “We worked, we threw parties, we went skinny-dipping or sledding, we fucked, sometimes we fell in love. We got tattoos.”

In contrast, her depiction of arriving at the prison in 2004—saying goodbye to Larry, surrendering all her possessions—is poignant and thoroughly-rendered. If the author seems hard to relate to in her wild-child days, empathy abounds as she skillfully describes her sense of terror upon losing all freedom.

Contrary to her fears, most of her fellow inmates approach her with warmth and concern. Descriptions of their small acts of kindness are remarkably touching. When one woman shares a commissary root beer float that Kerman has not yet been approved to buy for herself, you feel so vicariously grateful that she may as well have given Kerman a kidney.

The author is soon showing newbies the ropes, helping her fellow inmates with schoolwork, and lending them books. (Unlike most women at Danbury, she receives a steady stream of mail and reading material from family and friends.)

She learns that prison life is sometimes brutal (guards sexually abuse inmates with impunity), often humiliating (the women are subject to strip searches at any time), and generally tedious. Still, deep friendships spring up; surrogate mother-daughter relationships are cultivated. The inmates throw birthday parties, complete with inspired microwave creations. (Kerman’s specialty is prison cheesecake. She supplies the recipe, which calls for a whole container of coffee creamer and nearly an entire bottle of lemon juice.)

Kerman excels at chronicling the other women and their struggles, from teenagers doing time for drug-related crimes to a 69-year-old nun in jail for trespassing as part of a peaceful protest at a missile silo. In one haunting scene, inmates are briefly reunited with their children for a field day—the separation afterward is brutal, and Kerman weeps. At another point, Kerman grieves over the fact that some inmates are actually afraid to leave prison because their neighborhoods are “more desperate and dangerous than jails.”

She is less successful at talking about herself. Occasionally, she opens up, and these moments are powerful. But, a public relations executive by trade, Kerman is often frustratingly careful, polite. She paints nearly everyone pretty rosily and without much nuance.

Everyone, that is, except “The Fed.” Interwoven with the women’s stories are facts about the War on Drugs, with which Kerman makes no effort to hide her anger and bafflement. While acknowledging her privileged background, Kerman never fully dispels the reader’s discomfort when she more or less conflates her own case with those of the majority of the women around her. Drug use has wreaked havoc on so many of their lives, a fact that ultimately makes Kerman aware of “the people who suffered because of what people like me had done.”

Though certain aspects of her own story never quite seem resolved, her sympathetic portraits of these people stay with you long after the book is through.

Summary from Chicago Tribune by J. Courtney Sullivan


Must Read: A Million Little Pieces by James Fey


“Although I have heard some of this novel is false, I can’t help think to myself; does that really matter? I think many addicts are lying conniving and down-right selfish people (and I can say that because I am one). Of course there are many good characteristics of an addict that can prove over time, but many of us tell to exaggerate war stories and bend the truth. The point is, James Fey had the balls enough to even admit and do something about his disease. This courageous, this is admirable. Check out the online descriptions and review from Amazon.com below.” -Love, Robyn

Book Description
At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his front teeth knocked out and his nose broken. He had no idea where the plane was headed nor any recollection of the past two weeks. An alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three, he checked into a treatment facility shortly after landing. There he was told he could either stop using or die before he reached age 24. This is Frey’s acclaimed account of his six weeks in rehab.

Amazon Review by Brad Thomas Parsons
The electrifying opening of James Frey’s debut memoir, A Million Little Pieces, smash-cuts to the then 23-year-old author on a Chicago-bound plane “covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood.” Wanted by authorities in three states, without ID or any money, his face mangled and missing four front teeth, Frey is on a steep descent from a dark marathon of drug abuse. His stunned family checks him into a famed Minnesota drug treatment center where a doctor promises “he will be dead within a few days” if he starts to use again, and where Frey spends two agonizing months of detox confronting “The Fury” head on:

I want a drink. I want fifty drinks. I want a bottle of the purest, strongest, most destructive, most poisonous alcohol on Earth. I want fifty bottles of it. I want crack, dirty and yellow and filled with formaldehyde. I want a pile of powder meth, five hundred hits of acid, a garbage bag filled with mushrooms, a tube of glue bigger than a truck, a pool of gas large enough to drown in. I want something anything whatever however as much as I can.

One of the more harrowing sections is when Frey submits to major dental surgery without the benefit of anesthesia or painkillers (he fights the mind-blowing waves of “bayonet” pain by digging his fingers into two old tennis balls until his nails crack). His fellow patients include a damaged crack addict with whom Frey wades into an ill-fated relationship, a federal judge, a former championship boxer, and a mobster (who, upon his release, throws a hilarious surf-and-turf bacchanal, complete with pay-per-view boxing). In the book’s epilogue, when Frey ticks off a terse update on everyone, you can almost hear the Jim Carroll Band’s brutal survivor’s lament “People Who Died” kicking in on the soundtrack of the inevitable film adaptation.

The rage-fueled memoir is kept in check by Frey’s cool, minimalist style. Like his steady mantra, “I am an Alcoholic and I am a drug Addict and I am a Criminal,” Frey’s use of repetition takes on a crisp, lyrical quality which lends itself to the surreal experience. The book could have benefited from being a bit leaner. Nearly 400 pages is a long time to spend under Frey’s influence, and the stylistic acrobatics (no quotation marks, random capitalization, left-aligned text, wild paragraph breaks) may seem too self-conscious for some readers, but beyond the literary fireworks lurks a fierce debut.


Must Read: Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg


“One of my friends from AA has read this book and often suggests it for recovering male addicts. Its a great book for newly recovering addicts that have once built themselves a productive life only to see it crashing down under the peak of their disease. He doesn’t sugar coat anything, many reviews speak of his brutal honesty and graphic descriptions… but something about that is incredibly refreshing in the world of addiction. Tell me for yourself what you thought of this book!” -Love, Robyn


Successfully Surrendering It All to Crack

By Dwight Garner, June 15, 2010

There are two kinds of crack addicts, those who cook their own — a complicated business that involves cocaine, baking soda, water and a flame — and those who grab the stuff to go, in ready-made chunks called rocks. Most people go for the rocks. Even when it comes to killing yourself, slowly and gruesomely, who has time to cook anymore?

In his memoir, “Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man,” Bill Clegg describes the few times he tried to prepare his own crack. “I wasted the coke, burned my hands, and ended up with a wet glob that was barely smokable,” he writes. He’s not quite Woody Allen, sneezing into the cocaine in “Annie Hall.” But he’s not far off.

Whatever black comedy there is in Mr. Clegg’s book dwindles pretty quickly. “Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man” is a mesmerizing bummer; reading it is like letting the needle down on a Nick Drake album. He tells his story in short, atmospheric paragraphs, each separated by white space, each its own strobe-lighted snapshot of decadent poetic memory. It’s an earnest style that mostly works. This is a short book that pulls you in and spits you back out before you have time to tire of it.

Mr. Clegg is a literary agent in New York City, but don’t come to his book sniffing for publishing gossip. There are no party scenes with Sonny Mehta. Ann Godoff does not leap naked into a swimming pool. The discreet Mr. Clegg doesn’t even mention the names of the writers he represents or, frankly, many books at all. If he’s well read, that’s among the few secrets he’s keeping to himself.

What this book does have — grim scenes in a crack house and behind a 7-Eleven in Newark aside — is an elite, stylized Manhattan milieu. There are meals at La Grenouille and drinks at the Bemelmans Bar. Among the boutique hotels Mr. Clegg holes up in to get high or have sex with anonymous men are the SoHo Grand and the Hotel Gansevoort. There are trips to Paris and London. This isn’t flea-bitten Bukowski territory.

Adding to the book’s sexpot glamour is Mr. Clegg himself, who in his dust jacket photograph, and especially in two recent full-page photos in New York magazine, seems as clear-eyed and clean-cut as a J. Crew catalog model. Glancing at a faded pile of recent addiction memoirs, here’s a salient truth: No one wants to read one of these things by a grizzled or potato-shaped or even middle-aged writer. We want our addiction memoirists to nearly die young and definitely stay pretty. Maybe that’s why, in bulk, these books aren’t better.

“Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man” is the story of how Mr. Clegg lost it all — his clients, his apartment, his loyal boyfriend, his sanity — one crack hit at a time. It’s a story that ranges over several years but finds its dramatic center of gravity during one especially dark two-month binge, during which Mr. Clegg manages to fritter away some $70,000 on crack and Ketel One vodka and on the elegant hotel rooms he often shares with greasy characters, including male hookers. He picks up a cabdriver by asking, “Do you party?”

This story is told in the present tense, alongside flashbacks to Mr. Clegg’s childhood in Connecticut. His father was a pilot for TWA, and not a warm and fuzzy guy; his mother wasn’t much more approachable. He doesn’t really blame them for his addiction, however, nor for his dramatic inability, as a boy, to urinate without first spending hours alone in the bathroom performing a desperate kind of rain dance.

What drove Mr. Clegg to crack? Mostly, it seems, it was a common-enough big city and publishing world malady: the towering inferiority complex. This memoir is laced with lines like, “This is a place for a sleeker, smarter, better-educated, and altogether finer grade of person.” And: “I am not nearly as bright or well read or business savvy or connected as I think people imagine me to be.”

Before insecurity could fully take root, however, there were other addict-in-training milestones. Sneaking Scotch, as a teenager, from his dad’s liquor cabinet. Snorting a line of crystal meth at 15 — his first illegal drug — off a box of mozzarella sticks with a grocery store co-worker named Max. Smoking pot daily, bales of it, in college.

Mr. Clegg was introduced to crack by an older married man from his hometown, a respected lawyer who also seduced him sexually. Here is Mr. Clegg on that first taste of crack: “It is the warmest, most tender caress he has ever felt and then, as it recedes, the coldest hand.”

Among the reasons to stick with “Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man” is the lightly narcotized sensorium of Mr. Clegg’s prose. He nails the “weary authority” of the Empire State Building, with its “shoulders of colored light.” He describes swaying in time, while high, with another addict, the pair of them “like two underwater weeds bending to the same current.” He can write.

Stick with it, too, for its second half, which is thick with jittery drug-induced paranoia. (Mr. Clegg begins to think cabs and helicopters are following him, as well as guys in — the horror — cheap off-the-rack suits.) Along the way you’ll learn some things. Who knew that crack use made your contact lenses dry out, so that they pop right off your eyes?

At one point, Mr. Clegg hops into a cab and orders it to race away from his family, who’ve gathered to stage an intervention. As he roars off, he thinks to himself, “Like so many other moments, this one feels lifted from an after-school special or ‘Bright Lights, Big City.’ ”

Actually, his memoir doesn’t read much like either one of those things. But the first sentence of “Bright Lights, Big City” certainly captures the mood Mr. Clegg works to set: “You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time in the morning.”


Must Read: Sane- Mental Illness, Addiction, and the Twelve Steps by Marya Hornbacher


“This is my next ‘must read’ book. I haven’t gotten around to reading this one yet, but I have read Madness and it was one of the most relatable and amazingly written books I have ever read. For those of you suffering with Bipolar disorder, thats the book for you. Those of you suffering with eating disorders, her first book Wasted is one you should look into. This one however, seems like a great novel for all addicts, focusing on co-occurring disorders and working the 12 steps!” – Much Love, Robyn


Marya Hornbacher, author of the international best sellers Madness and Wasted, offers an enlightening examination of the Twelve Steps for those with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders.

In this beautifully written recovery handbook, New York Times best-selling author Marya Hornbacher applies the wisdom earned from her struggle with a severe mental illness and addiction to offer an honest and illuminating examination of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous for those with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders.

Relaying her recovery experiences, and those of the people with whom she has shared her journey, Hornbacher guides readers through the maze of special issues that make working each Step a unique challenge for those with co-occurring disorders.

She addresses the difficulty that many with a mental illness have with finding support in a recovery program that often discourages talk about emotional problems, and the therapy and medication that they require. At the same time, Hornbacher reveals how the Twelve Steps can offer insights, spiritual sustenance, and practical guidance to enhance stability for those who truly have to approach sanity and sobriety one day at a time.

““The difference between now and the years when I lived in chaos is that I now have the knowledge, the tools, and the support to handle any kind of challenge, any kind of change.” Hornbacher (Madness) writes with honesty, empathy, and personal experience as someone with Bipolar Disorder who has struggled with addiction. She explores the meaning of the Twelve Steps in daily life to someone struggling with addiction, mental illness, or both. From perceptions of addicts (“that we can, by force of will, gain control over the substance to which we’re addicted, and that our failure to do that is simply more proof that we are failures as people”) to the “God problem” of the Twelve Steps, Hornbacher reaches out to readers in a clear, surprisingly lyrical voice that seeks to understand, assist, and explain. The Steps, she argues, “help us through the difficult passages, and they teach us to take joy in the discoveries we make as we go. What I am discovering as I work and rework the Steps over time is that there is no end to this journey.” For anyone seeking to understand or conquer addiction, her book will be a valuable guide and pocket mentor.”

— Publisher’s Weekly