I can’t remember being affected more by a book—especially an author’s first—as much as I was by Joe Clifford’s Junkie Love. I have a recovering addict character in mind for the next Penns River book, and, based on what I knew about Joe from seeing him on a Bouchercon panel and reading his blog, I thought it might be both a good read and beneficial research. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first, but once I got into the flow of the writing and non-linear story, I was completely absorbed, carrying my Kindle with me everywhere I went on a business trip until I finished.
More or less a junkie’s memoir, Junkie Love describes Clifford’s addictions, as well as the behaviors that both contributed to, and were caused by, those addictions. He makes no excuses for what is often irresponsible and sometimes reprehensible behavior. Anyone looking for verification of the idea of a “low-life junkie” will find it in Junkie Love, if all they do is skim the surface.
What they’ll also find is a man who is not a drug-manufactured sociopath; there’s a lot more here. Clifford is honest about himself, about those who tried to stick by him, and those who helped to keep him in the addict culture, without blaming them. Everything is told in a matter-of-fact tone, often almost sounding like he’s responding to an interviewer’s question. He gives himself no sympathy, and asks for none. He grants himself no extra credit for getting straight, and expects none; it was time, and he did it. It was hard, and he had doubts all along the way, but he stuck with it.
I’m no addiction counselor, but they could do worse than to make Junkie Love required reading for anyone entering a program. See if they recognize themselves, and let them know what to expect. Not to scare them straight—I doubt any hard-core junkie would respond to such melodrama—but the show them it can get better. But they’re going to have to want to.