Dry (Memoir #2), by Augusten Burroughs

Eight stars

Continuing the memoir trilogy, Augusten Burroughs takes the reader through his struggles with addiction as a young man. Living in New York City, Burroughs is busy with an advertising firm, making six-figures, and having little to rein him in. He recounts how his drinking got in the way of his job, where he would turn up randomly reeking of alcohol. After embarrassing himself and the firm on numerous occasions, Burroughs is offered a choice; go into rehabilitation or lose the job. Struggling to come to terms with his drinking, Burroughs choose rehab, though stands firm that he does not need it. He departs for a facility in Minnesota, where he encounters a number of other addicts as various points in their sobriety journey. In the early stages, Burroughs feels that he can overcome his drinking by choice, the “if I want it, I will do it” attitude. He pushes back against the services offered and program presented, finding them silly and somewhat overbearing. However, he has an epiphany while in treatment and as his thirty days come to an end, he develops a new-found respect for sobriety and its fragility. The true test transpires when he’s released, sent back to New York City armed with a small dose of program and the requirement to attend an outpatient facility for six months. Though not mandatory, Alcoholics Anonymous is also recommended, a lifelong support that could only help him stabilise in the outside world. As the memoir continues, Burroughs explores life back in New York, a special someone he meets in his outpatient group, and a lingering connection from his rehab days that tries not only to vie for his attention, but to keep him from falling off the deep end. Highly humerous throughout with strong passages of heartfelt angst, Burroughs serves up a stellar second volume to his memoirs as he forces the reader to think and feel in ways they may not have thought possible. 

With a better understanding of both his writing style and approach to the memoir mechanism, Burroughs’ second instalment had me captivated from the outset. His use of concrete examples in the narrative combined with flashbacks offers the reader a wonderful combination of fresh material and poignant events that shape the man he became. Burroughs presents a close to seamless story of his struggles and the depths to which he sunk before pulling himself out, only to come crashing back to earth in a moment of weakness. He does offer extensive thanks to those who played a role in his recovery, but does not let the battle facing him go without crediting his own willpower. That he slipped up in numerous ways is not lost on the attentive reader, but this goes more to present Burroughs as a fallible man, rather than portraying an individual who can rise above the fray. Shocking in its honesty and clear in the pathway on which this journey developed, Burroughs provides the reader with insight and hope for a man who came close to losing it all.

Again, a special thank you to Rae Eddy, who recommended the Augusten Burroughs memoirs. She has been a great help as I realise my need to deal with some of the blurry portions of my past to develop stronger and more solid bonds to the present, as I peer into what the future has in store.

Kudos, Mr. Burroughs for this wonderfully raw piece of work. I am curious to see how you tie things off in the final volume of this entertaining memoir.