Tag Archives: written

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

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FallToPieces

Synopsis:

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

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Must Read: Junky by William Burroughs

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“This is an incredible book, no matter how ‘outdated’ it may be. Written about a man, Burroughs, in the 1950’s who is struggling with a growing addiction to junk (aka heroin). Its fascinating to read about how addiction was in an era way past our own; to see the differences, the similarities and the history of the never endearing struggle with substance abuse. The review below from TheDailyBeast.com sums it all rather well, enjoy!” -Robyn

Junky by William S Burroughs

In 1953, while Joseph McCarthy was hunting for communists in the highest ranks of the federal government, an Arkansan congressman named Ezekiel C. Gathings was conducting his own witch hunt. His target was the paperback-book industry. He argued that pulp fiction had “largely degenerated into media for the dissemination of appeals to sensuality, immorality, filth, perversion, and degeneracy.” Of particular interest to Gathings were novels about drug abusers, a class of American society nearly as reviled as communists. At the time, as Allen Ginsberg later wrote, there was a sense “that if you talked about ‘tea’ (much less Junk) on the bus or subway, you might be arrested—even if you were only discussing a change in the law.” The publication of a pulp novel named Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict, by the pseudonymous William Lee, was therefore a welcome surprise. It sold 100,000 copies in its first six months. American readers wanted what “Lee” was pushing.

Lee was William S. Burroughs, Harvard graduate and heir to the Burroughs Adding Machine fortune. Burroughs’s inheritance left the young scion free to pursue education and drugs at his leisure. He first took up anthropology, at both Harvard and later Mexico City College; then medicine, in Vienna; and finally heroin. Heroin stuck. Junky—as his novel is now known—combines all these interests. Unlike Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (also published in 1953), Junky eschews allegory for scrupulous realism. The approach is journalistic, pedagogical, often clinical, bearing little resemblance to novels for which Burroughs is now better remembered, like Naked Lunch and Nova Express. Although Bill, Junky’s narrator, mentions reading Oscar Wilde, Anatole France, Baudelaire, and Gide as a young boy, the tone owes more to Franz Boas and Margaret Mead. Junky is Bill’s life story, but only in a sense, for he discusses only the parts of his life that relate to junk. The story follows the development of his addiction, his attempts to quit, and his travels in search of cheaper, better drugs. Along the way we meet a largely interchangeable cast of dealers, users, thieves, and con artists. More than anything else, Junky reads like a field guide to the American underworld.

“Junk,” we learn, refers to opium and its derivatives: morphine, heroin, pantopon, Dilaudid, codeine. But it is much more than that. Junk, he says, “is a way of life.” And it’s an expensive one at that. A heroin addiction in 1953 cost about $15 a day, or the equivalent of $125 in today’s dollars. Junkies have their own look (emaciated, haunted, sallow) and their own junk names: Doolie, Cash, and Dupré. Junk has its own dialect. A user who robs drunks on the subway to support his habit is a “lush-worker”; a junkie’s eyedropper, spoon, and hypodermic needle constitute his “works”; doctors are “croakers.” The easiest way to convince a croaker to write a “script” for morphine is to fake gallstones or kidney stones. If those excuses fail, try facial neuralgia.

Heroin addiction takes patience and dedication. Burroughs estimates that you need a year and several hundred injections to develop a habit. An addict does not use heroin to get a thrill—never does Bill experience joy from heroin. A junkie uses only to avoid junk sickness, otherwise known as withdrawal. Junk sickness is like a hangover mixed with burning alive and a parasitic infestation: “I felt a cold burn over the whole surface of my body as though the skin was one solid hive. It seemed like ants were crawling under the skin.” There is also vomiting, diarrhea, violent sneezing fits, loss of breath, lowering of blood pressure, and extreme weakness. Bill feels a sensation like “subsiding into a pile of bones.” This condition might conceivably be manageable were it to last for 12 or 24 hours. But junk sickness tends to last 8 days.

There are cures for addiction, but they tend not to last. Not because the cures are ineffective; they are effective, particularly the incremental “Chinese cure,” which Bill uses, a gradual weaning that involves replacing the drug with increasing doses of Wampole’s Tonic. Bill stays sober for many months at a time. But he always returns to the junk—out of boredom.

Here lies the novel’s core perversity. The main reason the junkie does heroin, despite its horrors and despair, is because it’s better than the alternative: not doing heroin. It is better to be a junkie than to end up what Burroughs might have been, had he followed in his family’s line. The life of an “American business man,” he writes, “is a one-way process. When his organism reaches maturity it can only start dying.”

A junkie, on the other hand, exists in a state of constant physical emergency. With every hit, a junkie dies; as the drug’s effects dissipate, he is reborn. “Junk,” writes Burroughs at last, in the cleanest expression of the novel’s thesis, “is an inoculation of death.” It is total negation. “Perhaps the intense discomfort of withdrawal is the transition … from a painless, sexless, timeless state back to sex and pain and time, from death back to life.” The junkie knows life because he has an intimate knowledge of death. That is another way of saying that the junkie, unlike our “American business man,” knows himself.

But Burroughs is after something more than self-realization. Junky is not, after all, a memoir, a fact underscored by his cursory treatment of even the most basic biographical information. Bill’s wife, oddly, is introduced for the first time—and even then only in passing, by another character—more than halfway through the novel. His children are mentioned once, 50 pages later, in a single mysterious sentence: “My wife was in Acapulco with the children.” Junk leaves no room for family, jobs, or relationships other than those organized around the procurement and enjoyment of junk.

Near the end of the novel Bill moves to Mexico. He has plans to flee even farther away, deep into South America. The expat junkies he meets during his travels confirm his worst fears about his native country. McCarthy’s paranoia has infected America, which has entered “a state of complete chaos where you never know who is who or where you stand.” The junkie is grateful for his junk. At least he will always know exactly where he stands—even if he doesn’t know where he’ll end up.

Saying Goodbye to Your Drug

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“While I was in rehab, I cried, and cried, and cried. The first few days were nothing special, I was trying to get the lay of the land and understand where the hell I was. I had no expectations whatsoever and never gave any thought to what rehab might be like. But after I began to settle in, something happened. Something clicked inside and I just couldn’t pinpoint what I was feeling. Then one girl came up to me, consoling me and said ‘Your mourning…’ I looked up, confusion clearly painted on my face. ‘For your drugs of choice. Your starting to realize you are here to learn how to let them go. You will never be with them again.’ I stared at her, jaw dropped. Was she right? Is this why I was so depressed? ‘You should write a letter… to your drug… to say goodbye.’

It took me two months to gain the courage to say goodbye to my top two drugs of choice (I didn’t have one, so you could just write one letter. Or you could write a letter to every drug you’ve ever had if you feel up for it!). But once I did, an incredible sense of relief was lifted from my heart. My drugs were my lovers, my obsessions. I didn’t need anyone but them. When I realized that our relationship was toxic, I had to let them go.

Below is an article written by an addict named Kelli Athas. She does an amazing job outlining this therapeutic writing technique which is commonly used in treatment centers as a  coping skill. She also offers her own personal letter that she wrote which is not only relatable but incredibly moving.” – Enjoy, Robyn

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Many treatment facilities have clients write a “Dear John” letter to their DOC (drug of choice). A counselor will use this tactic of theraputic journaling in order for the addict to direct their anger at the real culprit, the drugs. Like relationships, many addicts have a love-hate relationship with their drugs. Moments of clarity will come about & the mind races on with the shame & control their addiction holds over them, They realize it is a miserable existence but the pull is so strong that they retreat to using to cover up those feelings & thoughts. Most addicts stay high 24/7 in order to keep the thoughts of remorse & guilt at bay. When they aren’t using they occupy their minds by thinking of ways & means to get more. These are the times that can be the most dangerous for an addict. Depending on what phase of addiction they are in they will do almost anything to get the drugs that literally controls their minds. That’s why an exercise such as this can be a freeing experience for an addict. And sometimes they realize some resentments & guilt they were harboring should’ve been aimed at the addiction itself.

I’m including an excerpt from an addict’s “Dear John” letter.  I’m fortunate  to share this with you…….because the letter is mine.

Dear Junk,

We’ve been together a long, long time. It started out casual & fun. Nothing serious. I thought I’d move on after high school or college….that maybe we’d even stay casual friends. BUT you led me on…showing me the fun, spontaneous side….showing the euphoria you could bring….Like many relationships everything changed, you even let my boyfriend throw me out in the rain (he was with you too & you wouldn’t let go) I was denying all you were doing: the weight loss, missing school, my disappearances, & lying. I was compromising all my standards. The euphoria you gave, it never would last & you never said what I’d do for it to last….I lost my child & my friends. My mom was the only 1 who fought, but you said she’d never understand so I couldn’t get caught…I was different before you came. I laughed & loved & cared about others. But I had to isolate so know one would see us & I now I had to have you just to feel right. I was sick of your control but too tired to fight. You had me roaming the streets, hardly having a thing to eat…..sometimes scared to sleep. You reminded daily of the shame I carried, so many times I thought it would be best if I was buried. I lost respect for myself & couldn’t look in the mirror. The devastation you’ve created can NEVER be forgiven…

I cringe to think of you now…waiting on your next victim. What ruse will you use to reel in this one?

BUT you didn’t kill me, as hard as you tried. God intervened, I faced my family & I survived. I’ve been given the strength & willingness I needed to tell you all I’ve been thinking…First get out of my life, STAY OUT OF MY MIND! You’re not welcome anymore…I’m learning about your kind! God saw it fit for me survive this addiction and NOW I KNOW I HAVE PURPOSE & MEANING!

Goodbye Forever,

Kelli

Those were the main parts, I edited very little. This was written about 7 years ago & I still get a freeing feeling just from typing it out again & I actually wasn’t intending on it rhyming like that…but I remember it poured out. There’s no format for something like this. It may be theraputic for many of you to write letters to a loved ones addiction or anything you’re struggling with. If anyone feels like sharing their own letter or  sending us a letter for feedback please submit a reply. Let me know if you want it published on our blog or want it kept private.

If you have any other comments, questions, or concerns submit them here or call us…night or day! And always remember to take care of you!

Sincerely,

Kelli Athas

Take Six

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Here, she feels stable. Here, she has a fresh start. The scene is familiar but only from the years spent visiting her grandparents and wandering the streets that surrounded her with shopping centers full of chain supermarkets and restaurants. She remembers the only store that was remotely unique was called Twist Treat in the shape of a large swirl of pink ice cream in a giant kiddy cone. They always armed her with extra sprinkles on the side and she would dip her chocolate ice cream in the bowl to replenish the sweetness. She reminisces and digresses. She can’t escape the fact that she left behind her home three days ago. Twenty years of the same people, places and things made her feel nauseous. She had to leave, it was her only choice for sanity.

She walked around for miles, up and down the same streets. She drove around uptown, glancing at the little shops and old nooks she used to hang around. Tears rolled down her face but she couldn’t help but smile. This was depressing to think about– leaving her home– but she was so excited. This meant she was one step closer to independence. She had a plan. A master plan to get her long overdue “proper” education that could really take her places.

Since she first heard her father tell her, “if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ, at least believe in something,” she was determined to find the answers to life and death. She studied all the great texts in high school, only to find the same patterns disheveled in creative tales and sonnets. All this information only made her more confused. So she busied her mind with something else; art and music. It wasn’t long until the expression and lack of answers led her to experimenting with her reality through drugs. Soon enough she only became concerned with consciousness and lost all desire to pursue her hobbies. When she ran away from philosophy, she made a mistake. The search kept her going at the time, art was just a distraction. When her addiction took over to later reveal her disorders, she morphed into an egocentric, hopeless disaster. But now that she realizes this, she is able to recognize her passion that has followed her all along.

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She had always been afraid to pursue a philosophy major because she thought the only thing you could to with that is become a writer or a teacher. At this point, she just didn’t care. Those two options didn’t seem so bad anymore. She daydreamed that one day she might be able to conjure up a novel outlining her two months of insanity. She was inspired by all the books she has read while she is in recovery; books about addiction, bipolar disorder and the psychotic mind. She was so intrigued with the memoirs that completely related to her, she felt like she was no longer alone. These people had been best selling authors, brave and admirable for they’re ability to tell their truths so vividly to the world. She knew she would need a lot of strength to dig out those memories she tried so hard to suppress but she thought it was worth it to explore herself enough to help another struggling addict/bipolar. She would need to do extensive interviews with the people that went through it with her. That would require another trip to India… As scary as that thought was, it made her feel warm. She fell in love with India and all the people who helped her along the way. She would want to write down every single experience– even the most embarrassing and shameful. She cringes at the idea of any of her loved ones reading her stories but she had been open up until this point, publishing her journal in front of the whole world. While maybe the whole world wasn’t reading it, they most certainly could. And maybe someday they would. She has big ambitions. Maybe even “grandiose.” But she didn’t care anymore. This is what drove her. This is what kept her clean. This is what kept her sane. This is what kept her alive.