Transformative experiences that led to sobriety, chronicled by 44 people in the public eye and compiled by one of their own.
Lawford knows a thing or two about alcoholism, heavy drug use and denial, which he disarmingly chronicled in Symptoms of Withdrawal (2005). His “moment of clarity” is not an unfamiliar one: He tanked and was a step from pulling the trigger when he surrendered to honesty and got help. Such revelatory epiphanies are as mysterious as they are sublime, and here they make for good storytelling. (They also serve as good examples, readers will hope; Lawford points out that more than 22 million people in the United States have problems with alcohol or drugs, and fewer than ten percent seek treatment.) Personal testimonies by celebrities ranging from Alec Baldwin to Buzz Aldrin bespeak the many faces that substance abuse can take and the equal variety of the illuminations that point people toward change. Some have a religious tone, some are dramatic, others subdued but deeply felt. A few will leave you wondering, such as Richard Dreyfuss’s recurring vision of a little girl dressed in pink, an image he couldn’t shake even while he was busy with drugs, booze and orgies. More than a few will leave you cringing, like Martin Sheen’s ugly encounter with his son Charlie and his painful realization that Charlie’s subsequent drug problems were partly his responsibility. “I taught him everything he knew,” the recovering alcoholic admits. An angel in the form of a no-bullshit therapist came to folksinger Judy Collins’s rescue; a mirror in his solitary-confinement cell did the same for musician/federal prisoner Dejuan Verrett. Each story holds the individual fascination of its particular circumstances; all of them get their oomph from punchy compression and plainspoken honesty.
Hard evidence that “no matter how long it’s gone on, no matter how bad it is,” an addict’s life can move to higher ground.