The chapter on drinking may be the most controversial; in it Burroughs challenges long-held beliefs about Alcoholics Anonymous.
“Some people have bristled,” he admits. “I’m not telling people not to go to AA. If you’re in AA and you’re sober, great! No problem. But the truth is AA doesn’t work for a lot of people, and they use that discomfort as an excuse to keep drinking. I also think there needs to be more research. Alcoholism is a disease. But if you walked into the doctor’s office with breast cancer and were told ‘Let go and let God,’ that would not be acceptable. We do not treat disease the way we approach it through AA.”
Burroughs’ own battles with alcohol were chronicled in Dry; he hasn’t relapsed since the late 1990s, he says. He’s wary of the AA mantra that relapse is part of recovery. “Relapse is part of drinking,” he says flatly, adding that he prefers to believe there’s an element of choice involved in sobriety.
“I relapsed over and over again, and there was never any mystery to it,” he says. “I was always the one who did it, and it was always a choice. It’s infuriating to admit we have a choice and that we have power. If we have no power, and we drink, it’s not our fault.”
Burroughs’ troubles are behind him these days. He’s married to Christopher Schelling, and they live in New York City where, if you follow Burroughs or his publisher on Facebook or Twitter, you know he’s got a new dog, too. During a recent book-tour stop at WGN in Chicago, he fell in love with one of the adoptable pets in the studio for a TV spot and texted a photo to Schelling, who immediately contacted the rescue group.
“The puppy is apparently so good, he makes our 2-year-old Italian greyhound look bad,” Burroughs says. “I can’t wait to see him.”
As for achieving happiness or even a little peace of mind, the book has no perfect recipe, he says.
“It’s not a bunch of steps you follow and land on the other side of your problem. This isn’t the kind of book that will win a National Book Award. It’s not going to be a movie. But maybe it will be useful to someone.”