Overcoming Addiction: Interview with Susan Shapiro
What inspired you to write your book?
“I was having a midlife catastrophe made worse by 9/11, which is about 2 kilometers from my residence,” Shapiro said. “Many citizens of my age died and I felt my own immortality. Then I felt that, ‘I possibly will die tomorrow and by no means have got anything I wanted.’ In some way knew that my frustrations were related to my not being able to give up my cigarette addiction, but wasn't certain how.”
“I began considering an addiction specialist. He was so eccentric, intelligent and fascinating, and the trip to recovery was so strong, that I started keeping an academic journal about it. As a self-employed journalist who had reviewed plenty of nonfiction books, I soon realized it was publishable.”
“After a section was written in the New York Times and a further in the New York Observer that William Safire picked up in his column, my spokesperson called and we realized I had an attractive innovative memoir on my hands. The whole other addiction journals were about to quit drinking or drugs with AA, cold turkey or departing to a Hazelton-like rehab place to recuperate. Nobody had printed anything funny or interesting about quitting smoking, or about quitting addictions through one-on-one therapy before.”
What do you think your book says about the romantic stereotype of a writer whose brilliance relies on his/her addictions?
“The idealistic stereotype that artists can only generate while smoking, drinking, or taking drugs is a lie,” Shapiro said. “It's the precisely opposite. Often the precise thing stopping or blocking you from being unbeaten and profound is an addiction. Since I became smoke free and sober five years ago, I have signed approximately five book deals and a movie deal and all of my mentors and critics say it's the greatest work I've ever done. I've also been a much better teacher, much closer to my husband and fascinatingly his career has really excited up too--which I think is related to my clear-headedness.”
Why did you decide to quit smoking and drinking? Was there one particular incident in your life that made you realize you needed to address these issues?
“As I account in LIGHTING UP, my habit specialist Dr. Winters on the whole told me I wasn't writing and publishing good books since I was going about effort the way an addict does--cutting corners, being irritated, not following rules, going away too quickly, being a control freak,” Shapiro said. “If I quit smoking, saw him weekly and did the lot he said for a year I'd get wind up smoke free, sober, and have my book in print. He moved me and he was right!”
What was the hardest part of overcoming your addictions?
“The hardest part of the recuperation was that every time I'd quit something I'd find myself keen to something else,” Shapiro said. “When I quit smoking cigarettes, I wound up smoking dope additional and I had to stop that. Then I used food as a replacement. Dr. Winters calls it ‘the material shuffle’ and says, ‘All enthusiasm is suspect.’ So now I realized that I have a very addictive character and have to be watchful. I am now captivated to email, book procedures, and book deals.”
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