*Note: While About Face was on the 2019 shortlist for Non-Fiction and didn’t win, it did result in Breakwater Books being awarded the “Atlantic Canada Virtuous Love Award” for Publishing. See: https://miramichireader.ca/2019/09/2019-very-best-book-awards/
Mental health is a huge topic these days. Overcoming and coping with various addictions, disorders, and their treatments have been the subjects of many books particularly since modern psychology began early in the last century.
Nevertheless, there is a need for an up-to-date, contemporary dialogue about these issues. About Face: Essays on Addictions, Recovery, Therapies, and Controversies (2018, Breakwater Books) is an astounding compilation of essays by writers, doctors and other experts in the field of mental health. Many of the essays are by sufferers themselves, whether it is from an addiction to alcohol, drugs, video games, pornography, PTSD, food-related disorders, they are all written with honesty and are open and revealing. Their struggles (as well as those of their loved ones) is real. While there are many in this 400 + page book, I would like to highlight a couple.
Gareth Mitton’s essay The Weekend Alcoholic looks at what some may not even give much thought too: the “living for the weekend” mentality that in itself is a form of addiction or could lead to one, as in the author’s case. Mr. Mitton states: “I do have days when I wonder if we, as people, are ready for the modern world, with its constant bombardment of media and technology. Our social culture is based around the bottle. Being the non-drinker in the crowd can make others feel awkward. They often want to talk about how they “don’t drink that much” or drinking because “it’s Friday.” I know most of them aren’t like me. They are in control. They can stop at one. Many could go a weekend or several without a drop.”
At the other extreme is William Stromich’s Psuedo World which, with stark realism describes his growing reliance on Ecstasy to escape from his dull 9 to 5 life. “It seems like some modern-day alchemist has succeeded in unlocking the mystery of magical transmutation. It creates a state of mind, unlike anything you experience in the “real” world.” He describes his typical week, “The Crash” as the Ecstasy wears off and the need for – yet again – the weekend to roll around so the party can begin again. It takes the death of a friend from years of substance abuse to bring the author to his senses: “I took all of this as a cue to take a break. Brian’s death made it clear to me where this was heading.”
The last 100 pages of About Face are devoted to essays by people working in the field in the section entitled Contemporary Discussion of Addictions in Canada: Steps Forward. Service Providers looks at several treatment agencies across Canada.
I would like to think that this book would be available in every office, clinic, hospital and other community-accessible locations across the country. It should be read by those living with addiction issues, as well as their loved ones and caregivers. As Editor Douglas Gosse mentioned in his Introduction, About Face “…provides a timely platform for rigorous discussion and improved understanding of the contemporary evolution of addictions across our country.”
About Face is on the 2019 long list for a “The Very Best!” Book Award for Non-fiction.
About Face: Essays on Recovery, Therapies, and Controversies of Addictions in Canada Edited by Douglas Gosse
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