The Best Addiction Stories Aren’t about Addiction
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The Best Addiction Stories Aren’t about Addiction

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Animal House addiction

So New York Magazine ran this very long photo essay and interview with a photographer named Graham MacIndoe, the special element of it being that MacIndoe himself took the photos as he chronicled his descent into addiction and his girlfriend, Times reporter Susan Stellin, interviewed him. The photos are interesting and alarming and the interview reasonably engaging as well but I was amazed, really, at the fact that such a wonderful magazine had allotted so much space to this man’s addiction. I don’t know the art world at all so perhaps these photos are far more compelling than I realize—or MacIndoe is considered so important that he merits this sort of attention. But I found myself feeling quite bored by the content and concerned that this a piece that seems to have attracted attention from that those who know little to nothing about addiction. We have the general population’s attention so little of the time that I hate to think it’s being used up on less-than-compelling words about what one addict went through. This isn’t to diminish anyone’s experience; it’s just I think we have a limited amount of time and space to show people enough to make them interested in our cause.

What struck me the most was really how the most fascinating stories about addiction aren’t about addiction but about something else. I’ve read two pieces that had me thoroughly captivated which illustrate this idea perfectly: one, by Vince Beiser for Playboy, about the loving father of an addict who was allegedly murdered by his daughter-in-law; the second a reprint of a 1981 Esquire story on The Daily Beast, about Doug Kenney, who co-created National Lampoon, co-wrote Animal House and walked off a cliff in Hawaii at the age of 33. In both stories, addiction is the backdrop. It’s clear that both John Hatcher’s father and Kenney would be alive were it not for addiction. But rather than circling around the addiction issue ad infinitum, both pieces flesh out everything else, leaving the addiction elements just sitting there, impossible to ignore. I’ve had particular trouble getting Kenney out of mind: an almost otherworldly genius who seemed to always be living in the shadow of a deceased sibling, he seemed to have every worldly success one could imagine but be riddled by the conviction that he didn’t feel he deserved it. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a story that so accurately shows that addiction is a precondition that can either be exacerbated or diminished by formative years experiences and that no worldly success can assuage it. And for my time, I’d much rather read that than every thought and feeling of one guy’s experience; after all, once you’ve one addict’s story, you’ve sort of heard them all.

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About Author

Anna David is the founder and former CEO/Editor-in-Chief of After Party. She hosts the Light Hustler podcast, formerly known as the AfterPartyPod. She's also the New York Times-bestselling author of the novels Party Girl and Bought and the non-fiction books Reality Matters, Falling For Me, By Some Miracle I Made It Out of There and True Tales of Lust and Love. She's written for numerous magazines, including Playboy, Cosmo and Details, and appeared repeatedly on the TV shows Attack of the Show, The Today Show and The Talk, among many others.