A Million Little Pieces: A grand slam

Published 5:49 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2005

By By Michele Gerlach
There are a million reasons I'm glad I just read "A Million Little Pieces."
In addition to being an Oprah pick, it was the book our reading group chose for this month. When we started the group earlier this year, we wanted to read books we might not read if left to our own choices and to have interesting discussions about books we read. This month's choice was a grand slam.
If you have ever known anyone who had a drug or alcohol problem or wondered why people did and why they didn't quit, this painfully honest book will answer many of your questions.
There is double entendre in that phrase "painfully honest." The author, James Frey, shares his experiences in the world's oldest treatment center and they were painful. He arrived addicted to both drugs and alcohol and with a hole in his face. But he writes of his experiences in such simple language that the reader, too, feels his pain. There were parts, we all agreed, that were difficult to read because it hurt to do so.
In an essay he wrote about the book, Frey said, "I tried to be as honest as I could be, I tried to write the truth, every word came straight from my heart. I have never read it from beginning to end. I can only read small sections of it. It hurts me to even look at it. It is exactly what I wanted it to be, the pain is real, I hope you feel it. I felt it, and I tried to share it, I hope you feel it."
Almost every week, we write on these pages about people being arrested for possessing or selling illegal drugs. From time to time, we interview people who have overcome a problem with drugs or alcohol. Our jails and prisons breaking open at the seams: Sheriff Grover Smith recently estimated that 70 percent of the county jail's occupancy was related to drugs or alcohol. Obviously, it is a problem that surrounds us.
But I never really understood before that addicts were in pain.
"The urge to use is so strong," someone once told me in an interview, "that even when I've been through treatment and am clean, I can wake up from a sound sleep on a cold, rainy night and want it so badly that I will get up and go across town to find it."
That statement always stuck with me. Yet, before reading this book, the closest I could come to relating to the experience – even after interviewing people who had been through it – was to compare it to being on a diet, or attempting to give up chocolate or cutting back on caffeine. This author does make you feel his struggle.
"Addicts are misunderstood and Alcoholics are misunderstood," Frey wrote in his essay. "Our families and friends see us and wonder why we are the way we are they do not understand why we fall apart. If I write from my heart, if what I say is true and comes from a place of truth, it may help others understand what lives in the mind of the addicted and alcoholic. "
This book is not for the faint of heart, nor for those who can't stomach strong language. But it is a great read for those who want to understand addiction.
Michele Gerlach is publisher of the Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 251-867-4876.

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