A friend who’s spent some time grappling with alcoholism passes along this quote, from AA’s Big Book, which seems appropriate for the case of James Frey:

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty.

In a similar vein, Seth Mnookin’s Slate piece on Frey is worth a read. This passage, in particular, sums up the case against Frey’s anti-self-help self-help book:

. . . because A Million Little Pieces-one of the best-selling books about drug addiction ever written-has been trumpeted as an unflinching, real-life look into the world of a drug addict, it has helped to shape people’s notions about drug abuse. Ironically, the very abundance of its clichés has likely helped make it a runaway best seller: People, after all, like having their suspicions confirmed. For nonaddicts, Pieces reinforces the still dangerously prevalent notion that it’s easy to spot a drug addict or an alcoholic-they’re the ones bleeding from holes in their cheeks or getting beaten down by the police or doing hard time with killers and rapists. For those struggling with their own substance-abuse issues, Pieces sends the message that unless you’ve reached the depths Frey describes, you don’t have anything to worry about-you’re a Fraud. And if you do have a problem, you don’t need to necessarily get treatment or look to others for support; all you need to do is “hold on.” In building up a false bogeyman-the American recovery movement’s supposed reliance on the notion of “victimhood”-Frey has set himself up as the one, truth-telling savior. In fact, it seems clear that Frey would have been well-served by taking the kind of unflinchingly honest look at his own life that most recovery programs demand.

This makes me want to take back my earlier quasi-praise for Frey’s tough-guy writer act. Poseurs can be harmless; poseurs who cast themselves as experts on how to beat addiction are bad, bad news.

– posted by Ross