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America Anonymous: Eight Addicts in Search of a Life Hardcover – January 6, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 23 million Americans are hooked on drugs or alcohol, representing an annual economic loss of $524 billion. Millions more have become enslaved to other compulsive behaviors: overeating, sex, gambling and shoplifting. In his first book, Denizet-Louis follows eight average Americans—including an athlete and a grandparent— who are struggling with addiction. The author covers three years in the lives of his subjects, portraying them with candor and compassion, giving these compulsions a more human face by telling the story of his own sex and pornography dependence, for which he twice sought inpatient treatment. This book provides an intriguing glimpse into the brain of an addict and the new hit or miss treatments—dopamine blockers and antieuphoria medications. While the excerpted e-mails and taped monologues might test the reader's patience, Denizet-Lewis is a compelling storyteller, and his wide-range of stories of addiction, relapse and recovery far exceeds other books in the genre. (Jan.)
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Review

"I couldn't put this book down. I was blown away by the remarkable cast of characters, who come fully alive in Benoit's gentle hands. He exposes and explodes a million myths about addiction, never succumbing to the temptation to make addiction -- or recovery -- less complex than it is. This unforgettable book is far more than a compilation of irresistible, artfully told stories about addicts. It's about truth, healing, survival, and hope." -- David Sheff, author of Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction

"Benoit Denizet-Lewis writes with an impressive mix of transparency and compassion about the addict's eternal battle between will and action. He sees deep into the sadness of desperate people, and equally deep into the systems that redeem such sadness. This is an intimate, compelling volume." -- Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

"This book reaches into the dark depths of the heart and soul of addiction by telling the stories of people who have struggled to find their way into the light of healing. I t is a collage of potent experiences from ordinary people -- women and men caught in the web of addiction whose fight for recovery will inspire anyone who reads Benoit's book." -- William Cope Moyers, author of Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption

"One of the best books I've read in the last year, and one of the most powerful I've encountered about addiction." -- Rachel Kramer Bussel, The Huffington Post

"A dazzling portrait of eight addicts and their intimate, sometimes heartbreaking struggle... Addicts will read this book; those who want to understand addiction should read it!" -- Susan Cheever, The Daily Beast

"An arresting, personal glimpse into the merciless world of drug and behavioral addiction. All eight of the people (Denizet-Lewis) followed are gripping subjects, and he describes their plights in seasoned, dexterous prose." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A graceful, compelling book focusing directly on people, not on concepts or proscriptive ideas. Denizet-Lewis relates their successes, relapses, and struggles to stay clean with warmth, clarity, and a deeply refreshing, unpuritanical frankness." -- Kate Christensen, ELLE

"I was skeptical about another book about addiction, but Denizet-Lewis finds a fresh, provocative approach to the subject... I often felt like I was right there listening to the conversations. And, boy, was I paying attention." -- Rochelle Olson, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Engrossing... Denizet-Lewis gives readers a sense of the ravaging power of addiction." -- Vikas Turakhia, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"America Anonymous makes for addictive reading." -- Johnny Diaz, Boston Globe
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743277821
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743277822
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,246,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Kramer Bussel VINE VOICE on December 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
America Anonymous is a powerful, important look at addiction in this country, through the lives of eight and a half addicts (author Denizet-Lewis alludes to his own sex addiction) as well as research into modern medical thinking on addiction and recovery. What makes this such a readable book, and one that will surely spark debate, is that Denizet-Lewis chooses to combine various kinds of addictions, from crack to alcohol to sex, food, and shoplifting. He acknowledges that some of these are not yet recognized in the DSM and that doctors and specialists vary on how best to treat people like his chosen subjects, and this additional information highlights the drama that unfolds.

For three years, he follows his subjects into recovery, whether that takes the form of an online support group for shoplifters or into a court-ordered home for addicts. The vibrant personalities all make for compelling reading, even when it's sometimes hard to have sympathy for them (for me, that moment was the $4,900 fee Sean pays for his sex addiction rehab). But if there's any point Denizet-Lewis is desperately trying to make, it's that for people like him, it's not just about willpower. Save for Bobby and perhaps Todd, who both seem torn between getting clean and staying in their chosen lifestyles, the others ardently want to change their behavior and go to great lengths to do so.

At one point, Ellen, who used to weight 300 pounds and is a "food addict," talks to her sponsor about how to cope and what the real issues are, and their conversation was fascinating to me, especially when Marianna, the sponsor, says, "Accepting that happiness comes from the outside rather than the inside is the difference." Her idea is that we have to focus on connecting with other people in order to have a whole life.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Andie on March 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Whether you are on the outside looking in when it comes to addiction, or you are personally going through it, this book is a well-penned look into what addiction truly is. The eight characters in the book were extremely intriguing and I loved the fact they were from a myriad of different lifestyles - moms, grandmothers, college students. I also especially loved that the author was open enough to include tidbits of his own struggle with addiction. I found it to be an excellent portrayal into what life as an addict is like.

My only criticism, if it could be called that, is I would like to have seen a little deeper into these people's lives. I felt like I was truly connecting with the individuals documented in the book, but was missing something. We were never privy to what a situation looked like when someone really relapsed.

Overall, I thought this was one of the most intriguing and well-written books on addiction.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Terrence Shulman on January 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a recovering shoplifting addict since 1990 and as an addictions therapist and author myself, I am immensely impressed and gratified by Mr. Denizet-Lewis's new book "America Anonymous." He shares about his own background as a recovering addict but, more importantly, plumbs the depths of the lives of 8 other American addicts in recovery as well. I'm particularly pleased that he covers some of the lesser-surveyed addictions such as shoplifting.

This book offers something for everyone--addict and non-addict alike. In addition to the in-depth stories, Mr. Denizet-Lewis gives historical perspectives on addiction and treatment as well as more contemporary and future trends. His writing style is engaging and evocative. The book reads in equal parts as novel and treatise. I can't recommend highly enough this offering.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth R. Mabry on January 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
While I'm not an addict, I am fascinated by the experiences of those who are, and "America Anonymous" gives a personal, close-up account of the lives of eight such people. Denizet-Lewis, himself a recovering sex addict, spent three years following this diverse group of eight who struggle with everything from alcohol and drugs to food, sex, and shoplifting. Alternating chapters on each of the subjects gives us a series of successive windows into how these individuals are coping with their own particular manifestation of addiction. These accounts confirm what has been said about addictions--they are cunning, baffling, and powerful. I found myself rooting for all the people in the book while terrified that some would not make it.

In addition to the powerful stories in this volume, Denizet-Lewis supplies readers with useful background information on the nature of addiction. In fact, what behaviors constitute addiction remains controversial. Alcohol and drugs are always included, but many in the field of addiction disagree whether sexual compulsiveness and overeating, for example, constitute addictions. The field of addiction is evolving. This has enormous implications for what treatment may be available and how it is funded.

This book also describes what treatments are used for addicts from the traditional 12-step programs, which originated in Alcoholics Anonymous and are now adapted to almost all forms of addictive behavior, to the latest medications such as suboxone which is used to treat opiate dependency. Even with advances in treatment, it is still impossible to predict which therapies will work and for whom. Addiction treatment often involves much trial and error. Treatment can work, but relapses are common, and many addicts need multiple interventions before they recover.
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