Book Review: ADDICT: Out of the Dark and Into the Light, By Christopher Keeley,
Beaux Arts, 365 pages. Limited printing. (The Charleston Gazette) – The Recovery Revolution – Chronicling 51 heroes that conquered themselves. By James A. Haught
Gazette Editor, July 11, 1994
There’s something heroic about people who win victories over themselves. It takes courage and character to defeat your own worst qualities.
This book has 51 such heroes drug-heads who sickened of life in a stupor, and pulled themselves up to sobriety. They may be battered and scarred, but they deserve respect.
The publisher, Bo Sewell, says the book is about “the recovery revolution that is going on…in the underground culture of drug addiction.” He says, correctly, that most Americans see addicts “as non-persons rather than human beings who have a disease over which they have no control.”
The author, a Washington photographer and drug counselor, makes the subjects human in two ways: through intensely personal photos, some in the nude, and by letting the ex-addicts tell their own stories in a stream-of-consciousness flow.
Typical is Trayceous Klein, a lovely young brunette who was an abandoned child and grew up with drunken foster parents. She’s so intelligent she skipped two grades in school, yet plunged into alcohol and pills, then hard narcotics. Although she was an honor student with scholarships waiting, she dropped out of school and lived in the chaotic, nomadic twilight of the stoned. “I completely prostituted myself to have a constant supply of drugs.”
Finally, feeling utterly worthless, she attempted suicide, but was revived in a hospital and forced into treatment. “All of a sudden one day, something just clicked in my head and I said, Geez, you know what? You’ve like wasted your entire life and maybe it’s time to do something, change something, have a future.’”
She did it. She lived clean, gained self-respect, and got a good job with an insurance firm. She celebrates her “birthday” on the anniversary of the day she quit.
Other biographies in the book are different, yet they’re all tales of doomed people mustering enough strength to take control of themselves. Most of the recoverees are white. America’s new wave of young black “crack” addicts isn’t represented yet the book implies that they, too, can salvage their lives.
The book shuns the Narcotics Anonymous approach of confidentiality. Author-photographer Keeley says he asked the subjects to reveal themselves publicly. “When I explained why I was so enthusiastic about the book, that I wanted to get the message out that any addict could stay clean in this non-anonymous fashion, they expressed spontaneous gratitude.”
Publisher Sewell adds:
“Addicts began getting the message in large numbers a brief 14 years ago. A significant population of clean addicts living free from active addiction has grown up largely unnoticed and unannounced.”
That’s heartening. Despite its dismal topic, the book is uplifting.
Keeley grew up all over the world in a foreign service family. After graduating from the Corcoran School of Art, he hatched the concept of the book. His father, Robert Keeley, retired ambassador to Greece who now heads the Mid-East Institute, edited it from his son’s handwritten transcripts. The photos in the book have been exhibited at the Pierides Gallery in Greece and have appeared in the International Herald Tribune published in Paris.