Book Review: Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man is a memoir written by Bill Clegg about his struggle with crack addiction. It is Clegg’s first novel and is a short, quick read and immediately engaging.

In flashbacks, Clegg chronicles his childhood struggles and his over-bearing father. He addresses his casual drug use in high school and college, which leads to a full-blown crack addiction in adulthood.

Clegg is a literary agent who lives in New York City. This memoir is about his last crack binge that cost him his savings, his relationship, his apartment, and his job. His family tries to stage an intervention and he runs away, eventually becoming so sick and so weak that he has no choice but to seek treatment.

I loved most of this book. It got repetitive after a while as Clegg checks in and out of endless hotels, smokes crack, drinks vodka, calls his dealers, becomes paranoid, and never eats. During his last crack binge he lost 40 pounds and marks his weight loss by how many more holes he has to put in his belt to hold his pants up. The last few chapters are very tedious, and yet it makes me wonder if that is a tool to show how tedious drug addiction can be.  The final chapter was amazingly brilliant.

This book perfectly illustrates to me just how much drug addiction makes you lose your soul, your values, and your sense of self-preservation. Nothing matters to Clegg except getting high. He doesn’t care what he loses, he only cares about gaining crack. I think this book would help anyone who is dealing with a loved one with an addiction issue and can’t understand how this person is willing to give up everything for the next high.


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