What are you addicted to? Think about it long and hard. Is it coffee? LOST? The Internet? Unless functioning without it — and not just giving up Gchat or getting your daily Starbucks fix – is impossible, you’re not an addict.
Take it from someone who is, though: Benoit Denizet-Lewis knows firsthand that addiction is serious business. This Medill alumnus (’97) is a sex addict. Not only that, he followed eight people with addictions ranging from food to shoplifting to drugs to, of course, sex for several years. What resulted was America Anonymous: Eight Addicts in Search of a Life, a captivating and thought-provoking exploration of the world and mind of America’s addicts.
Over the course of some 300 pages, Denizet-Lewis intertwines the stories of these eight addicts, recounting their conversations, blog posts, stints in treatment centers and visits to support meetings. Using these narratives, he investigates the recovery process that various addicts undertake. For Sean, a college-age sex addict, this meant selling his laptop so he couldn’t look at porn and then checking into a full-time treatment facility. For another, the shoplifting addict Kate, confessing her sins to anonymous online discussion boards helped keep her stealing habits in check.
However, it is important to note that none of the eight addicts were able to quit cold turkey. Some did get completely clean, or at least close to it, but Denizet-Lewis stays true to the nature of addiction by acknowledging nearly every instance of relapse the addicts face. Perhaps he does this because his own bout with addiction is littered with relapses and time spent in and out of treatment facilities.
There’s no doubt that Denizet-Lewis’ personal experience helped him really delve into the minds of his subjects – it’s what takes this book from a mere compilation of stories to a psychological exploration of addiction. Beyond that, Denizet-Lewis fantastically highlights the virtues and deficiencies (and there are many) of the sociological forces that not only affect addiction but actually promote it.
This book will force you to question your perception of addiction. You’ll learn about new kinds of addiction. But furthermore, you’ll discover why Denizet-Lewis’s, Sean’s, Kate’s and the other six subjects’ stories are of addiction, not just habit or obsession. And, probably, you’ll start catching yourself before you say you’re “addicted” to anything.