The End of the DOPEFIEND Book Tour is Really the Beginning

The official book tour has come to an end. I visited Portland, Seattle (pictured), Oakland and San Francisco. Public speaking doesn’t always come easy for me. I had to push myself, but I had a good time. I’m even a little sad now—I was just starting to get the hang of presenting the book.

I feel so grateful for what I was able to achieve with the book tour. When I first started to use heroin, I was seventeen and I thought my world had finally opened up. My lack of confidence was no longer a problem. All the anxiety was behind me. But that was all an illusion. Really my world was already beginning to shrink, only I couldn’t see it. I ended up in a Manhattan homeless shelter—in a tight, claustrophobic, little, tiny world.

Recovery has been about doing the real work to make my world big again. Throughout my recovery I have found concrete, real examples of how my world is expanding. In the beginning they came fast and regular. For example, Mom letting me back into her house. Going to Hunter College. Marrying Holly and being welcomed into her wonderful family. In the last ten years, the milestones have slowed, but when one does appear, it’s really something.

These readings have given me an amazing experience of being connected to something bigger than myself. Except for the multi-author events, all my readings have been modestly attended. There has always been at least one person who I knew was going to show up and at least one more person who surprised me by showing up. But this feeling of connectedness isn’t about the size of the audience. There was this one lady about my age in Seattle (who surprised me by showing up). She sidled up to me after the Q&A and whispered that she had been in recovery for a long time. After announcing a pharmaceutical morphine addiction, she said she really didn’t feel like she belonged at the NA meetings with all the young people. And then she said she didn’t feel like she belonged at the AA meetings with all people our age who drank alcohol. I totally understood what she was telling me. I wanted to say, You are COMPLETELY welcome at the Dopefiend readings, Ma’am. I know just how you feel. In Oakland a woman and her husband mentioned that their son had just got out of treatment for his own heroin addiction within the last three months. They were in that uncomfortable place, wondering if it would stick. How long would it last. I know that feeling. I’ve felt that myself about my own recovery. I told them that sometimes recovery really does stick. I said not to give up hope. I mentioned that it took me a couple of tries before I was successful and that kids kick heroin all the time. They looked a little tense, but they smiled. I was so glad they showed up.

And that’s not even counting all the friends and family who have shown up for me. I had friends brave hours of bay area traffic to attend. I had family drive up to Oakland from as far away as the central coast of California. I have friends who I had never met before, but who I know from making a bunch of bad jokes on the Internet, and these friends showed up for me in San Francisco. And then they hijacked me and my wife and took us to a nice place after the event and we celebrated.

My world feels huge.

And, really, it’s just the beginning. Once you put a book out there—especially memoir—you make an implicit commitment to discussing it. So the official book tour is over, but I’m going to keep discussing the book. Later this month I’m guest lecturing at Theo Pauline (HOW TO SLEEP ALONE IN A KING SIZE BED) Nestor’s memoir class at the UW. I’ve got a few more things lined up after the holidays. And, of course, I’ll keep posting here. Stay tuned!


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