This is Episode 38. Leslie Jamison is our featured guest. Touring her latest book, The Recovering, I got a chance to talk to her in the lobby of the King Edward Hotel. Se was in Toronto June 2nd, for the In Her Voice Festival hosted by Ben McNally Books. In this show, we’ll listen to that interview I had with Leslie Jamison about The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath[i].
We are focusing on the question, "Is booze the muse? Or, will I find creativity in sobriety?" Americana literature and the drunkard storyteller(s) is our setting which includes Leslie Jamison’s own what it was like - what happened - what it’s like now. Who among us didn’t fear that without our drug of choice we would stand naked to the world, without our mojo?
From Amazon “About the Author” …
Leslie Jamison is the author of the essay collection The Empathy Exams, a New York Times bestseller, and the novel The Gin Closet, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, and the Oxford American, among others, and she is a columnist for the New York Times Book Review. She teaches at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with her family.
We also explore the fear about stage fright and the inspiration for content-creation that entertainers suffer through in early sobriety—indie artists and legacy rockers, fine artists, comedians and, of course writers. We’ll talk to Lucy and Steve from Acid Test. If addiction is a family disease, then it’s a band disease too; this 90s buzz-band was interrupted, in part, by addiction. Acid Test's "Recovering" includes a new record, Just ‘Rite which we’ll share from to finish off the show. We’ll borrow from William White’s recent work and writer Jessica Lamb-Shapiro’s study of self-help America.
My thumbs up for The Recovering is not universally felt. “This much-touted literary love letter to Alcoholics Anonymous is too moral in its argument for the superiority of the sober,” is how Rick Whitaker starts his review in The Guardian. We challenge some of The Guardians seemingly erroneous assumptions on our show. You can read the whole 2018 article HERE[ii]
Maybe the problem for some critics is the blurring of genres. You’ll hear Leslie Jamison sharing about how some readers want more memoir and others want more historical journalism from her book. Some readers protest that one ought not drift into the other lane; it’s distracting. Rebellion Dogs regulars remember how critics butchered, Drunk Mom: A Memoir (2014) by Jowita Bydlowska. You can do a "mumoir"; you can do a crash-and-burn drunkalogue. But don’t be candidly writing about waking from a blackout and not knowing where your panties or baby are. That’s open season for righteous indignation. By the way, the 2014 Drunk Mom still has that new-car smell and is still a Rebellion Dogs top-dog-pick today, if you haven't read it already.
Anhedonia: Loss of the capacity to experience pleasure. The inability to gain pleasure from normally pleasurable experiences. "Anhedonia" is derived from the Greek "a-" (without) "hedone" (pleasure, delight).[iii]
Nikki Sealy in Withdrawal.net writes, “Anhedonia doesn't make addicts throw up, feel achy all over, or break out in a sweat. Instead, the condition makes addicts feel flat and unable to find any joy in life. The unchanging and perpetual feelings of depression can make them feel emotionally empty and somewhat lost in the world. Things that would normally make most people smile don’t have the same effect on people who are struggling with anhedonia – especially during early recovery”[iv]
Graham Isador of Vice.com (2017), “What happens when you finally stop drinking on stage?” Mark Maron (comedian), Drew Thomson of Single Mothers.[v]
“On a recent episode of Marc Maron's WTF Podcast the comedian announced he had celebrated eighteen years sober. I decided to reach out and see what Maron thought was the main difference between when performing sober compared to when he was using. His email response was short and to the point: " I'm not hiding."
Of Drew Thomson, lead singer or the band, Single Mothers, Isador was told, “Most of my accomplishments I've done while in a deep haze of booze. Drunk Drew. Drunk Drew started a band. Drunk Drew is on stage. It's Drunk Drew's band. I never gave sober Drew any credit. I was scared I couldn't do it sober.
When I drank I thought I was filling a prescription …The booze keeps you thinking you need it.” Regarding sobriety, Thomson says, Oddly, I have almost zero stage fright now. I used to think, 'Oh no I haven't had enough to drink I don't want to go on,' but that's when I thought booze gave me some kind of superpower. I was under a spell. Now that the spell has lifted—I know I can play great sober or sick or tired—I don't really give a fuck now, just let me on the stage and I'll do my best. It's a personal choice. I have no problem at all being around people who are drinking, usually it just reminds me why I stopped.”
Alice Cooper talked to Craig Furguson about the stage fright of early sobriety while they were on The Late Late Show in 2005[vi]. Alice was 23 years sober, looking back at his relationship with Whiskey and wondering at the time, “How could Alice be sober?”
Stevie Ray Vaughn - Jim Washburn of the LA Times in 1988 about Eric Clapton’s 12-Step influence. "He'd been sober for a time when we first met, and I was drinking heavy," Vaughan said. "He didn't tell me what to do or not to do, he just looked at me drinking and said, 'Yeah, I guess sometimes you've got to go through that, don't you?' He knew I had to hit bottom myself before I could get up. And some of the things he told me turned out to be principles of the program I use now."[vii]
Emilie Modaff is a songwriter, actor and produces the WBEZ podcast, Pleasure Town. In “Being A Sober Artist” for SoberNation.com. “Who would have thought that refraining from drinking myself into a blackout and snorting coke for breakfast would result in better quality work? Weird.”[viii]
In Promise Land: My Journey Through America’s Self-Help Culture Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup For The Soul, a best-seller that went from book, to brand(series) and then Tony-Robins-esque seminars on how to make a million dollars telling people what they want to hear. “As Americans, self-help reflects our core beliefs: self-reliance, social mobility, an endless ability to overcome obstacles, a fair and equal pursuit of success, and the inimitable proposition that every single human being wants and deserves a sack of cash.”[ix]
The self-help genre yields over $10 Billion in the USA alone each year and the average Amazon indie author makes $100/year.[x]
Lindsay Myers (Brain Blogger) “In addition to high revenues, self-help also has a high recidivism rate, with the most likely purchaser of a self-help book being the same person who purchased one already in the last 18 months.”[xi]
William White (June 1, 2018 William White Papers), “Vague but passionate promises of a new approach always garner more hope than the known limitations of current efforts. And any industry that has attracted substantial financial capital will draw a subset of individuals and organizations who will sacrifice public health and safety for personal and corporate profit… Aware of such risks, most fields develop standards of organizational and professional practice that maximize effectiveness and elevate ethical decision-making.”[xii]
Thanks for being part of Rebellion Dogs Radio. Feel free to re-post, download or email this show as you see fit.