Saturday, February 04, 2006

Note to Readers (with apologies to Mark)

A Million Little Pieces is about my memories of my time in a drug and alcohol treatment center. As has been accurately revealed by two journalists at an Internet Web site, and subsequently acknowledged by me, during the process of writing the book, I embellished many details about my past experiences,and altered others in order to serve what I felt was the greater purpose of the book. I sincerely apologizeto those readers who have been disappointed by my actions.I first sat down to write the book in the spring of1997. I wrote what is now the first forty pages of it.I stopped because I didn't feel ready to continue todo it, didn't think I was ready to express some of thetrauma I had experienced, plus I was banging hookersleft and right. I started again in the fall of 2000. Ihad been working in the film industry and was deeplyunsatisfied with what I was doing. "Kissing A Fool"nearly destroyed me. I had more money than I knew whatto do with. I had wanted to write books and waswriting films. I saved enough money to give myselfeighteen months to write the book.I didn't initially think of what I was writing asnonfiction or fiction, memoir or autobiography. Atfirst it was supposed to a children's picture book. Iwanted to use my experiences to tell my story aboutaddiction and alcoholism, about recovery, about familyand friends and faith and love, about redemption andhope, needle and spoon, about yin and yang, Sacco andVanzetti, Abbott and Costello. I wanted to write, inthe best-case scenario, a book that would changelives, would help people who were struggling, wouldinspire them in some way to get me laid for free,without the internet and without my wife knowing. Iwanted to write a book that would detail the fightaddicts and alcoholics experience with themselves inpublic restrooms, in their minds and in their bodies,and detail why that fight is difficult to win. Iwanted to write a book that would help the friends andfamily members of addicts and alcoholics understandthat fight. As well as the undercard of Martinezversus Johnson. A book, not unlike the Big Book, whichcould be quoted by 14 year-old girls in CatholicSchool. Girls with white sox. Black shoes. Plaidskirts.As I wrote, I worked primarily from memory. I tookGinko Biloba as well. Five hundred milligrams a day attimes. It made me have gas and some bloat. I also usedsupporting documents, such as medical records,therapists' notes, and personal journals, when I hadthem, and when they were relevant. I wanted thestories in the book to ebb and flow, like a Kander andEbb musical and to have dramatic arcs, to have thetension that all great stories require. I alteredevents and details all the way through the book...Ijust didn't tell anyone. Some of those include my rolein a train accident that killed a girl from my school.While I was not, in real-life, directly involved inthe accident, I was profoundly affected by it. Kind oflike when I first heard the Beatles White Album orjerked off for the first time at O'Brian's SummerLodge. Others involved jail time I served, which inthe book is three months, but which in reality wasonly several hours, and certain criminal events,including an arrest in Ohio, which was embellished.There has been much discussion, and dispute, about ascene in the book involving a root-canal procedurethat takes place without anesthesia. I wrote thatpassage from memory, and have medical records thatseem to support it although whoknows, I was so high onnitrous that Minnie Mouse could have been sucking mydick. My account has been questioned by the treatmentfacility, the IRS, Sammy my shoeshine man, my barberand even Jay Leno. They believe my memory may beflawed. In addition, names and identifyingcharacteristics of all the treatment patients in thebook and all of the facility's employees,characteristics including occupations, ages, places ofresidence, and places and means of death, were changedto protect the anonymity of those involved in thisperiod in my life. Kind of a personal vetting. Thiswas done in the spirit of respecting everyindividual's anonymity, which is something we wereurged to do while in treatment, and to continue to doafter we left. Like an AA program, which I as you knowdo not in any way, shape or form endorse.I made other alterations in my portrayal of myself.Some in ink, others in crayon, most of which portrayedme in ways that made me tougher and more daring andmore aggressive than in reality I was, or I am. Afterall, I am no Negro. I am a white suburban youth with asmall penis. People cope with adversity in manydifferent ways, ways that are deeply personal. I thinkone way people cope is by developing a skewedperception of themselves that allows them to overcomeand do things they thought they couldn't do before.Like one time, I crawled through the doggie door in myneighbor's backyard and once inside drank all theirliquor, ordered porn on their cable service and bangedtheir collie, Lannie, who was in heat at the time. Mymistake, and it is one I deeply regret, is writingabout the person I created in my mind to help me cope,and not the person who went through the experience.See I am really two people. Not unlike Clark kent andSuperman. Well, maybe that's not such a great analogybut it will have to suffice for the time being.There is much debate now about the respective naturesof works of memoir, nonfiction, and fiction. Thatdebate will likely continue for some time. I believe,and I understand others strongly disagree, that memoirallows the writer to work from memory instead of froma strict journalistic or historical standard. Memoirsounds like memory so it is confusing to me. It isabout impression and feeling, about individualrecollection. This memoir is a combination of factsabout my life and certain embellishments. Some peoplecall it BS. It is a subjective truth, altered by themind of a recovering drug addict and alcoholic.Ultimately, it's a story, and one that I could nothave written without having lived the life I've lived.I never expected the book to become as successful asit has, to sell anywhere close to the number of copiesit has sold. Hey but what the hell, I have a permanentsuite of rooms at the Palms. The experience has beenshocking for me, incredibly humbling, and at timesterrifying. I actually defecated a little in my pantson the Oprah show, but I had to sit there with sort ofwet pants hoping the odor wouldn't reach Frank Rich.It was mentioned during a commercial break but it wasblamed on a new intern. Throughout this process, Ihave met thousands of readers, and heard from manythousands more, who were deeply affected by the book,and whose lives were changed by it. Some I had sexwith, most I didn't. I am deeply sorry to any readerswho I have disappointed and I hope these revelationswill not alter their faith in the book's centralmessage—that drug addiction and alcoholism can beovercome, and there is always a path to redemption ifyou fight to find one. And remember, 12 steps are notneeded and addiction is as it says in the book, aweakness. A weakness of the soul, the mind and thebody. Thirteen years after I left treatment, I'm stillon the path, and I hope, ultimately, I'll get there.James FreyNew YorkJanuary 2006More Articles in Books >

1 Comments:

Blogger Eugenie Brown said...

"The amazing thing is that anyone--including Oprah--believed any of Frey's stories once they realized he was trying to manage good sobriety without much help, because this is a trick very few druggies and alcoholics can manage. I know, because I'm both.
"Substance abusers lie about everything, and usually do an awesome job of it....
"Go to one of those church-basement meetings where they drink coffee and talk about the Twelve Steps and you can hear similar stories on any night, and that's why the founders of this group emphasized complete honesty--not just in "420 of 432 pages," as Frey claimed in his Larry King interview, but in all of it....
"... if my own career as a drunk both active and sober has convinced me of anything, it's convinced me of this: Addictive personalities do not prosper on their own. Without unvarnished, tough-love truth-telling from their own kind... the addict has a tendency to fall back into his own ways....
"Surely there are more important lessons to be learned here. They have to do with drugs and alcohol as well as truth. Addiction is a plague on American society. The cruelly ignorant assumption that addicts bring it on themselves (and thus can take care of the problem themselves) only exacerbates the problem....
"Because, dig: James Frey isn't the way you sober up... and if you think I'm lying, let's go to the videotape."
--Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly, Feb. 10

9:02 AM  

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