Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir by Bill Clegg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.
- Friedrich Nietzsche
Many things came to me while reading this book and I had to stop reading several times to just sit and think. The main one is reflected in the quote above, how did he go through this again? How was he able to get past the shame and guilt of this time in his life to be able to write it down and then to be able to share it with others? I spent a lot of the book marvelling at that.
"Nothing but death can keep me from it" Clegg says in the book, and who among us hasn't felt that feeling, in some way. I related to the thrill of going out and getting high with friends and of being a rebel and doing something grown up and being in control of something at a time when you feel you have no control of anything. But there is that time when the music stops and you look around and you're the only one left dancing. At some point it becomes about you, your addiction, your life, your goals and hopes and the other, the absence of those things, which was perfectly chronicled in this book.
He talks about shame. The scene with the partner in the bed broke my heart into pieces. How can you stand to go back there, to actually acknowledge that happened, and ever be able to look yourself in the mirror again? But Clegg mentions these emotions evolving as he worked through them "into something less self-concerned" which I had another A HA! moment at that. To be able to see the past and process it and learn from it, not as a victim, not as all about you, but that there is what was, and also there is what will be. Mind blown.
Another passage that stuck with me was where Clegg attempts to forgive the actions of his father by putting himself in his place. Did he think through his actions, or "did he simply believe that whatever was broken could be fixed by force, that something bent could be hammered straight?" And again we move on the bigger picture, that whatever the motivation of his father was, there is what was and what will be.
There is no prize, once you get to the realization that you have been through things, that people may have been trying their best but that you were done wrong, there is no medal at that point, no easy fix to say "This is the cause of my problems!" Because what comes next?
And eventually, hopefully, you get to the realization that I did, after many tears, though this book. That Bill Clegg did. That there is what was, there is what will be, and that that is okay.