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Dealing With Demons: Great Books on Addiction
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Dealing With Demons: Great Books on Addiction

By kileyturner
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There is nothing new about addiction: people have relied on unhealthy habits and substances from time immemorial to ease the pain of life. But it does seem that more of us – in the hyper-charged work, cultural, and media environments we live in today – are dealing with addictions, and looking for a way out of them. Here is a series of excellent books about addiction, the why, how, and hell of them - as well as what it takes to break free.
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Close Encounters with Addiction
edition:Paperback

In this timely and profoundly original book, writer and physician Gabor Maté looks at the epidemic of various addictions in our society, tells us why we are so prone to them and outlines what is needed to liberate ourselves from their hold. Starting with a dramatically close view of Maté's drug addicted patients, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts weaves in stories of real people while providing a bold synthesis of clinical experience, insight and cutting-edge scientific findings. A haunting, compa …

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Excerpt

The mandala, the Buddhist Wheel of Life, revolves through six realms. Each realm is populated by characters representing aspects of human ­existence–­our various ways of being. In the Beast Realm we are driven by basic survival instincts and appetites such as physical hunger and sexuality, what Freud called the id. The denizens of the Hell Realm are trapped in states of unbearable rage and anxiety. In the God Realm we transcend our troubles and our egos through sensual, aesthetic or religious experience, but only temporarily and in ignorance of spiritual truth. Even this enviable state is tinged with loss and ­suffering.

The inhabitants of the Hungry Ghost Realm are depicted as creatures with scrawny necks, small mouths, emaciated limbs and large, bloated, empty bellies. This is the domain of addiction, where we constantly seek something outside ourselves to curb an insatiable yearning for relief or fulfillment. The aching emptiness is perpetual because the substances, objects or pursuits we hope will soothe it are not what we really need. We don’t know what we need, and so long as we stay in the hungry ghost mode, we’ll never know. We haunt our lives without being fully ­present.

Some people dwell much of their lives in one realm or another. Many of us move back and forth between them, perhaps through all of them in the course of a single ­day.

My medical work with drug addicts in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has given me a unique opportunity to know human beings who spend almost all their time as hungry ghosts. It’s their attempt, I believe, to escape the Hell Realm of overwhelming fear, rage and despair. The painful longing in their hearts reflects something of the emptiness that may also be experienced by people with apparently happier lives. Those whom we dismiss as “junkies” are not creatures from a different world, only men and women mired at the extreme end of a continuum on which, here or there, all of us might well locate ourselves. I can personally attest to that. “You slink around your life with a hungry look,” someone close once said to me. Facing the harmful compulsions of my patients, I have had to encounter my ­own.

No society can understand itself without looking at its shadow side. I believe there is one addiction process, whether it is manifested in the lethal substance dependencies of my Downtown Eastside patients; the frantic ­self-­soothing of overeaters or shopaholics; the obsessions of gamblers, sexaholics and compulsive Internet users; or the socially acceptable and even admired behaviours of the workaholic. Drug addicts are often dismissed and discounted as unworthy of empathy and respect. In telling their stories my intent is twofold: to help their voices to be heard and to shed light on the origins and nature of their ­ill-­fated struggle to overcome suffering through substance abuse. They have much in common with the society that ostracizes them. If they seem to have chosen a path to nowhere, they still have much to teach the rest of us. In the dark mirror of their lives, we can trace outlines of our ­own.

There is a host of questions to be considered. Among ­them:

• What are the causes of ­addictions?
• What is the nature of the ­addiction-­prone ­personality?
• What happens physiologically in the brains of addicted ­people?
• How much choice does the addict really ­have?
• Why is the “War on Drugs” a failure and what might be a humane, ­evidence-­based approach to the treatment of severe drug ­addiction?
• What are some of the paths for redeeming addicted minds not dependent on powerful ­substances–­that is, how do we approach the healing of the many behaviour addictions fostered by our ­culture?

The narrative passages in this book are based on my experience as a medical doctor in Vancouver’s drug ghetto and on extensive interviews with my ­patients–­more than I could cite. Many of them volunteered in the generous hope that their life histories might be of assistance to others who struggle with addiction problems or that they could help enlighten society regarding the experience of addiction. I also present information, reflections and insights distilled from many other sources, including my own addictive patterns. And finally, I provide a synthesis of what we can learn from the research literature on addiction and the development of the human brain and ­personality.

Although the closing chapters offer thoughts and suggestions concerning the healing of the addicted mind, this book is not a prescription. I can say only what I have learned as a person and describe what I have seen and understood as a physician. Not every story has a happy ending, as the reader will find out, but the discoveries of science, the teachings of the heart and the revelations of the soul all assure us that no human being is ever beyond redemption. The possibility of renewal exists so long as life exists. How to support that possibility in others and in ourselves is the ultimate ­question.

I dedicate this work to all my fellow hungry ghosts, be they ­inner-­city street dwellers with HIV, inmates of prisons or their more fortunate counterparts with homes, families, jobs and successful careers. May we all find ­peace.

 

As I pass through the grated metal door into the sunshine, a setting from a Fellini film reveals itself. It is a scene both familiar and outlandish, dreamlike and ­authentic.

On the Hastings Street sidewalk Eva, in her thirties but still ­waif-­like, with dark hair and olive complexion, taps out a bizarre cocaine flamenco. Jutting her hips, torso and pelvis this way and that, bending now at the waist and thrusting one or both arms in the air, she shifts her feet about in a clumsy but concerted pirouette. All the while she tracks me with her large, black ­eyes.

In the Downtown Eastside this piece of ­crack-­driven improvisational ballet is known as “the Hastings shuffle,” and it’s a familiar sight. During my medical rounds in the neighbourhood one day, I saw a young woman perform it high above the Hastings traffic. She was balanced on the narrow edge of a neon sign two storeys up. A crowd had gathered to watch, the users among them more amused than horrified. The ballerina would turn about, her arms horizontal like a tightrope walker’s, or do deep knee ­bends–­an aerial Cossack dancer, one leg kicked in front. Before the top of the firemen’s ladder could reach her cruising altitude, the stoned acrobat had ducked back inside her ­window.

Eva weaves her way among her companions, who crowd around me. Sometimes she disappears behind ­Randall–­a ­wheelchair-­bound, ­heavy-­set, ­serious-­looking fellow, whose unorthodox thought patterns do not mask a profound intelligence. He recites an ode of autistic praise to his indispensable motorized chariot. “Isn’t it amazing, Doc, isn’t it, that Napoleon’s cannon was pulled by horses and oxen in the Russian mud and snow. And now I have this!” With an innocent smile and earnest expression, Randall pours out a recursive stream of facts, historical data, memories, interpretations, loose associations, imaginings, and paranoia that almost sound ­sane–­almost. “That’s the Napoleonic Code, Doc, which altered the transportational mediums of the lower rank and file, you know, in those days when such pleasant smorgasboredom was still well fathomed.” Poking her head above Randall’s left shoulder, Eva plays ­peek-­a-­boo.

Beside Randall stands Arlene, her hands on her hips and a reproachful look on her face, clad in skimpy jean shorts and ­blouse–­a sign, down here, of a mode of earning drug money and, more often than not, of having been sexually exploited early in life by male predators. Over the steady murmur of Randall’s oration comes her complaint: “You shouldn’t have reduced my pills.” Arlene’s arms bear dozens of horizontal scars, parallel, like railway ties. The older ones white, the more recent red, each mark a souvenir of a razor slash she has inflicted on herself. The pain of ­self-­laceration obliterates, if only momentarily, the pain of a larger hurt deep in the psyche. One of Arlene’s medications controls this compulsive ­self-­wounding, and she’s always afraid I’m reducing her dose. I never ­do.

Close to us, in the shadow of the Portland Hotel, two cops have Jenkins in handcuffs. Jenkins, a lanky Native man with black, scraggly hair falling to below his shoulders, is quiet and compliant as one of the officers empties his pockets. He arches his back against the wall, not a hint of protest on his face. “They should leave him alone,” Arlene opines loudly. “That guy doesn’t deal. They keep grabbing him and never find a thing.” At least in the broad daylight of Hastings Street, the cops go about their search with exemplary ­politeness–­not, according to my patients, a consistent police attitude. After a minute or two Jenkins is set free and lopes silently into the hotel with his long ­stride.

Meanwhile, within the span of a few minutes, the resident poet laureate of absurdity has reviewed European history from the Hundred Years’ War to Bosnia and has pronounced on religion from Moses to Mohammed. “Doc,” Randall goes on, “the First World War was supposed to end all wars. If that was true, how come we have the war on cancer or the war on drugs? The Germans had this gun Big Bertha that spoke to the Allies but not in a language the French or the Brits liked. Guns get a bad rap, a bad ­reputation–­a bad raputation, ­Doc–­but they move history forward, if we can speak of history moving forward or moving at all. Do you think history moves, Doc?”

Leaning on his crutches, paunchy, ­one-­legged, smiling ­Matthew–­bald, and irrepressibly ­jovial–­interrupts Randall’s discourse. “Poor Dr. Maté is trying to get home,” he says in his characteristic tone: at once sarcastic and sweetly genuine. Matthew grins at us as if the joke is on everyone but himself. The chain of rings piercing his left ear glimmers in the bronzed gold of the late afternoon ­sun.

Eva prances out from behind Randall’s back. I turn away. I’ve had enough street theatre and now I want to escape. The good doctor no longer wants to be ­good.

We congregate, these Fellini figures and ­I–­or I should say we, this cast of Fellini ­characters–­outside the Portland Hotel, where they live and I work. My clinic is on the first floor of this cement-and-glass building designed by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, a spacious, modern, utilitarian structure. It’s an impressive facility that serves its residents well, replacing the formerly luxurious ­turn-­of-­the-­century establishment around the corner that was the first Portland Hotel. The old place, with its wooden balustrades, wide and winding staircases, musty landings and bay windows, had a character and history the new fortress lacks. Although I miss its Old World aura, the atmosphere of faded wealth and decay, the dark and blistered windowsills varnished with memories of elegance, I doubt the residents have any nostalgia for the cramped rooms, the corroded plumbing or the armies of cockroaches. In 1994 there was a fire on the roof of the old hotel. A local newspaper ran a story and a photograph featuring a female resident and her cat. The headline proclaimed, “Hero Cop Saves Fluffy.” Someone phoned the Portland to complain that animals should not be allowed to live in such ­conditions.

The nonprofit Portland Hotel Society, for whom I am the staff physician, turned the building into housing for the nonhousable. My patients are mostly addicts, although some, like Randall, have enough derangement of their brain chemicals to put them out of touch with reality even without the use of drugs. Many, like Arlene, suffer from both mental illness and addiction. The PHS administers several similar facilities within a radius of a few blocks: the Stanley, Washington, Regal and Sunrise hotels. I am the house doctor for them ­all.

The new Portland faces the Army and Navy department store across the street, where my parents, as new immigrants in the late 1950s, bought most of our clothing. Back then, the Army and Navy was a popular shopping destination for working ­people–­and for ­middle-­class kids looking for funky military coats or sailor jackets. On the sidewalks outside, university students seeking some slumming fun mixed with alcoholics, pickpockets, shoppers and Friday night Bible ­preachers.

No longer. The crowds stopped coming many years ago. Now these streets and their back alleys serve as the centre of Canada’s drug capital. One block away stood the abandoned Woodward’s department store, its giant, lighted “W” sign on the roof a ­long-­time Vancouver landmark. For a while squatters and antipoverty activists occupied the building, but it has recently been demolished; the site is to be converted into a mix of chic apartments and social housing. The Winter Olympics are coming to Vancouver in 2010 and with it the likelihood of gentrification in this neighbourhood. The process has already begun. There’s a fear that the politicians, eager to impress the world, will try to displace the addict ­population.

Eva intertwines her arms, stretches them behind her back and leans forward to examine her shadow on the sidewalk. Matthew chuckles at her crackhead yoga routine. Randall rambles on. I glance out eagerly at the ­rush-­hour traffic flowing by. Finally, rescue arrives. My son Daniel drives up and opens the car door. “Sometimes I don’t believe my life,” I tell him, easing into the passenger’s seat. “Sometimes I don’t believe your life either,” he nods. “It can get pretty intense down here.” We pull away. In the rearview mirror the receding figure of Eva gesticulates, legs splayed, head tilted to the ­side.

The Portland and the other buildings of the Portland Hotel Society represent a pioneering social model. The purpose of the PHS is to provide a system of safety and caring to marginalized and stigmatized ­people–­the ones who are “the insulted and the injured,” to borrow from Dostoevsky. The PHS attempts to rescue such people from what a local poet has called the “streets of displacement and the buildings of exclusion.”

“People just need a space to be,” says Liz Evans, a former community nurse, whose ­upper-­tier social background might seem incongruous with her present role as a founder and director of the PHS. “They need a space where they can exist without being judged and hounded and harassed. These are people who are frequently viewed as liabilities, blamed for crime and social ills, and . . . seen as a waste of time and energy. They are regarded harshly even by people who make compassion their careers.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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Drink

Drink

The Intimate Relationship Between Women And Alcohol
tagged :

What is behind the rise in alcohol consumption and abuse among women in recent years?

While the feminist revolution has allowed women to close the gender gap professionally and educationally, it has also witnessed a disturbing rise in equality in more troubling areas of life. In most of the developed world, the rates of binge drinking among women have skyrocketed in the past decade. DUIs, “drunkorexia” and health conditions connected to alcohol abuse are all on the rise, especially among youn …

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Drunk Mom

Drunk Mom

A Memoir
edition:Paperback
tagged : alcoholism

Three years after giving up drink, Jowita Bydlowska found herself throwing back a glass of champagne like it was ginger ale. "It's a special occasion," she said to her boyfriend. And indeed it was. It was a party celebrating the birth of their first child. It also marked Jowita's immediate, full-blown return to alcoholism and all that entails for a new mother who is at first determined to keep her problem a secret. 

Her trips to liquor stores are in-and-out missions. Perhaps she's being paranoid, …

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Superdad

Superdad

A Memoir of Rebellion, Drugs and Fatherhood
edition:Hardcover

Chris Shulgan seemed like an average young urban father: a house in Toronto’s hip Queen West neighbourhood, a loving marriage, afternoons at the park with his infant son. But this enviable life concealed a shocking secret: nights of hard drinking that would push him, inevitably, to the city’s underbelly, where he bought and smoked crack. At first Shulgan managed to justify his behaviour: the occasional drug binge allowed him to blow off steam, ultimately making him a better, more att …

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Hooked

Hooked

When Addiction Hits Home
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover Paperback

This collection of ten true stories is based on interviews with people who, in their youth, lived with an addicted parent or sibling. The subjects speak honestly about what it was like to grow up with a family member addicted to alcohol, drugs, food, pills, or gambling.

While describing how they managed to cope, interviewees explore the full range of situations and emotions they experienced —from denial, anger, and confusion to acceptance and forgiveness.

Their maturity, sensitivity, and even th …

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Memoirs of an Addicted Brain

Memoirs of an Addicted Brain

A Neuroscientist Examines his Former Life on Drugs
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

Our minds are governed by a cycle of craving what we don't have, finding it, using it up or losing it, and then being driven by loss, need, desire, or insecurity to crave it all the more. This cycle is at the root of all addictions: addictions to drugs, drink, cigarettes, sex, love, soap operas, wealth, and wisdom itself. But why should this be so? Why are we so driven, often at great cost to ourselves? No one is better qualified to answer these questions than Dr. Marc Lewis. He is a distinguish …

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Excerpt

The first time I got drunk was with Whitney Talcott. It was a March night and freezing cold. I had been at Tabor less than six months, and depression was now a palpable daily companion, a disease to be managed. There were good days and bad days, but the good days were just tolerable and the bad days nearly did me in. I hated this school. It was bigger than me, it was stronger than me, and it seemed as natural a part of the New England landscape as the rocky coves and stands of maple. I didn’t belong here. I had got here by mistake. My first two years of high school had been at a nice, normal suburban Toronto school a few blocks from my home. I might not have been the most popular kid in class, but nobody seemed to actively dislike me. I had a few friends. I got invited to a few parties. I had a girlfriend for a couple of months. And I could go home at night. That was the main thing. Here at Tabor, there was no home to return to at the end of the day—except the dorm. And I hated the dorm. I hated every whitewashed board, every hissing radiator, every creak in the polished hardwood floors. I hated my room, I hated my roommate. I hated the guy next door. And I hated my proctors, the senior boys whose job it was to supervise us and care for us while helping induct us into this bizarre paramilitary culture.
 
Para-naval, actually. Tabor was a para-naval academy, but that didn’t mean much to me at the time. The naval terminology seemed a bad joke, an effort to reenact the Hollywood heroism of World War II. We would sometimes see men who looked like admirals strolling the pathways with the headmaster. Gold stripes on dark blue cuffs. There were special prayers at vespers, navy uniforms to be ironed and worn a few weeks a year, drill sessions with guns and a marching band. And yes, we were located on a body of water and there were a lot of boats: sailboats, rowboats, crew boats, a schooner out in the harbour. It was the boats that had attracted me in the first place, the previous spring in Toronto.
 
“Marc, we’d like to talk to you about your options for next year,” my mother had said in her frank, slightly invasive tone.
 
“What options?” I was beckoned to the kitchen table, where I sat down with both parents. The table was covered with pamphlets from different private schools, most of them in New England. “You seem a little bored with school,” Mom continued. “And maybe a bit discontent overall?” Those penetrating eyes—hazel and clear with mildly arched brows—scanned me for an accuracy reading. They gazed at me steadily from her pretty, mid-thirtyish face—a face surrounded by sprayed-in-place hair that became increasingly blonde as the sixties wore on. My mother seemed to wield her own sixth sense. She could look into me and find things. As usual, I soon felt I must be hiding whatever it was she was looking for.
 
“I’m fine, Mom. Everything’s okay.” My dad sat beside her, hunched over and uncomfortable. His pleasant features, thin black hair, and solemn brown eyes would have been more at home at a meeting of the family-run leather business. Dad didn’t usually get involved in family discussions with an emotional theme, if that’s what this was. Maybe he was in the dark as much as I was. His half-smile tried to make light of things. But this was sounding ominous.
 
“I know everything’s fine,” she said. “But remember we talked about boarding schools? And you said you might be interested?
 
Remember, we’ll be moving to San Francisco in two years’ time. Going to an American school would save you a year of high school. You’d be able to go straight to college the year we arrive. So . . .” she smiled encouragingly, “I’ve done my homework and gotten these pamphlets from some very fine schools. And we thought,” with a glance at my dad, “that you might want to look at them.”
 
It all seemed exciting, though too far off to think about. So I looked at the pamphlets piled up in front of me. We looked together, and my parents pointed out this and that feature of this and that school. I tried to pay attention, but my thoughts wandered like stray cats. I was preoccupied—some sort of creeping disorientation at the very prospect of leaving home. And beneath that, intangible but potent, a sense of dread. Were they trying to get rid of me? Had I done something wrong?
 
Now Tabor was my world: there was nothing left to decide. Every morning I joined four hundred other teenage boys tramping along a wooden walkway between brick buildings in a cold mist, breakfast settling, the assembly hall looming, thinking about ways to avoid attention. Our headmaster, Mr. Witherstein, looked as though he’d stepped out of an old movie. He parted his hair almost dead centre, and he was grey and crusty like a venerable admiral himself. He waited for us at the lectern, beaming with unnatural enthusiasm. He delighted in the series of routine announcements that he would soon recite with such gravity. I took my assigned seat. Each seat back held a short wire rack containing a hymnal. I reached toward mine automatically, on cue. We opened our hymnals together, the rustle of pages filling the hall, and we began to sing.
 
A mighty fortress is our God! A bulwark never failing. God had never appeared to me as a fort or a bulwark. Maybe that was because I was Jewish. Yet I didn’t mind the singing. It numbed me. There was a comforting anonymity in being a part of this mass, this sea of boys packed row after row in a heated auditorium. I was safe for now. Back at my dorm, it was survival of the fittest, and I wasn’t all that fit. A pecking order had consolidated in the early months, and I was pretty close to the bottom. At first my roommate, Todd, was the victim of some pretty vicious teasing by just about everyone, but especially Bill Reed, the handsome giant who lived in the room next door. Reed was a front-line football player, though still a junior, and for that alone he was universally admired. Todd put some sort of lotion on his face at night, giving it an awful vampiric whiteness, all the more disturbing with his black stubble poking through. He was soon known to one and all as Madame Butterfly. I was sympathetic at first, but I didn’t like him much. He was caustic, whiny, and sour. I tried to like him. I tried to be nice to him. But I secretly hoped that his victimization would keep me safe, give me some breathing space.
 
Meanwhile, Reed had risen rapidly to power. His own roommate, Randy, was an absurd-looking, gangly outcast, with protruding ears, perfectly designed by nature for the role of village idiot. And he was Reed’s roommate! I felt sorry for Randy. What torments must he suffer? But I was relieved that Reed was surrounded by victim material. Although I knew that was selfish, I needed it to be so. I needed the playing field tilted in my favour.
 
And then, to my horror, it tilted the other way. The dominance hierarchy heaved a final time and Randy and Todd ended up Reed’s lieutenants, his slaves. Randy brought him anything he asked for. He literally stood around, waiting for orders. Todd found his niche fawning over Reed from the sidelines, grinning at his savage jokes and heaping ridicule on his victims.
 
I was next in line.
 
“Hey Lewis!” Reed smiled at me almost warmly from the doorway connecting our rooms. His broad, manly features beamed with good humour.
 
“Yes?”
 
“Come on in. Join the party.”
 
“Okay.” I couldn’t refuse.
 
“Did you see what happened to my dresser?”
 
“No . . .”
 
“Take a look.”
 
“I don’t see anything.”
 
“Come closer.” He seemed so inviting. I wanted to believe that I was really being included. But I didn’t see anything unusual.
 
“Closer!”
 
“I don’t see . . .”
 
“Bring your head right up to the edge here, ya dummy. You have to look at it from just the right angle.” I did as I was told, moving my face to within inches of the dresser surface. There seemed to be a pool of water there.
 
“I see some water. How did that happen?”
 
Then smash! His palm came down hard on the little puddle; my face was soaked. And whatever was running down my cheeks stung my eyes, which started instantly to tear. Aftershave? Hydrochloric acid? Liquid shame? My tears were the worst part.
 
“How did that happen?” Reed echoed in mincing tones. “How did that happen?” His voice rose with incredulity while he danced around the room. “Did it make you cry, Lewis? Poor baby, we’d better call your Mama,” and they all erupted into laughter, Reed, Randy, Todd, and another guy. I looked through tears at Reed’s grinning hyena mask, curling now with contempt, and I wanted to slip through the floor. What was wrong with me?!
 
I began to avoid my dorm whenever I could, to synchronize my comings and goings with those of the other boys, so Reed couldn’t get me alone. I made a couple of friends and that helped. There were other misfits who had no interest—and generally no place—in the jock-dominated hierarchy. By Christmas I spent a lot of time with Schwartz and Burton. Joe Schwartz was a junior like me, but he was leather-tough in some unique way. Self-sufficient and really smart. Burton was just a big teddy bear, gruff and mischievous, whom nobody could dislike. I got to know their friends, Gelsthorpe, Perry, and Norris, all seniors. These were the guys who would graduate at the end of the year, and they all lived in another dorm, Pond House. I spent a lot of time at Pond House, and I wished I could switch. But at night I had to return to my own dorm, with its sixteen boys, often creeping up the back stairs to avoid notice. Sometimes, before going to my room and facing Todd, I’d drop in on Lawrence Carr, one of the two black kids at Tabor. That’s two out of four hundred. The other one, Lavalle, was despised by all: he wore his bitterness like an armband. But Carr stayed above the fray and was left alone. In my eyes he was magnificent.
 
“How do you handle it?” I wanted to know.
 
“I take it all for granted,” he replied. His smile was gentle, chiding.
 
“What did you expect, man? Tabor is no temple of brotherhood. It is exactly what it appears to be.”
 
“Yes, but . . .”
 
“Just wait it out. Keep your own council.”
 
It seemed easy for him.
 
When I finally learned how to avoid Reed’s displays of goodwill, trouble came from a guy named Roche who lived across the hall. Passing his door became an agony of nerves.
 
“A Jew! A Jew! Excuse me! I mean ah-choo! Bless me! Hey Lewis, did you hear someone sneeze?” His voice rang with feigned bafflement.
 
Roche was rotund and greasy, with small eyes and a blistering tongue. He sat chinless, unmoving, on a chair well inside his room, opposite the door, waiting for fresh bait to pass within range without his having to move from his lair. I was bait. Defenceless bait.
 
“Don’t let them know they’re getting you down,” my mother advised on the phone. “If they don’t get a reaction, they’ll stop.”
 
That was probably the worst advice I’d ever got from anyone. Or maybe I just didn’t know how to implement it. I couldn’t imagine how I might pretend that it wasn’t getting me down. It crushed me! Roche could see my face as I hurried by or see me looking down, avoiding his gaze.
 
But I soon got more potent advice from an unlikely source, a boy named Miles. He was a loner like Carr, and confident like Carr—in fact contemptuous of the scurrying cruelty around him. I sat at the foot of his bed one night, looking at unfathomable pictures of his enormous home in the Deep South.
 
“Lewis,” he asked, leaning regally against the headboard, “why do you let Roche pick on you?” He studied me carefully, trying to discern the peculiar defect that must be there.
 
“I don’t . . . mean to. What choice do I have?”
 
“What choice?” He snorted with mild disgust. “Lewis, your problem is that you have no common sense. You’re an intelligent kid, but you don’t know how to use it.”
 
“What should I do?” If there was some workable trick, I wanted badly to know it.
 
“Look at Roche. Does he have any weaknesses?”
 
“Well, no. He’s got lots of friends in fact.”
 
“Yeah, but is there anything about him that’s . . . that he’s not proud of? That he doesn’t want his friends to see?”
 
“Just that he’s fat, I guess.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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Losing Mariposa

Losing Mariposa

The Memoir of a Compulsive Gambler
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged :

A blow-by-blow account of ecstasy and despair, this narrative exposes one man's battle with compulsive gambling. It is the harrowing memoir of Doug Little's two-year binge as a compulsive gambler?a fall from grace that made national headlines, destroyed h

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Nice Recovery

Nice Recovery

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged :

From the author of Alice, I Think comes a riveting memoir of addiction and recovery. Susan Juby started out as a bright and creative student with an innate ability to write incredible stories. At the age of thirteen her life began to unravel, and like many teens, she turned to alcohol to get her through the awkward stages of trying to find her own unique identity and fit in with her peers at school. In this revealing memoir, she details the painful and sometimes funny experiences of trying to be …

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