Record Spending In Wisconsin Senate Race, The Latest In Science News, Leslie Jamison On Writers And Drinking

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In her new book, author Leslie Jamison recounts her personal experience with alcoholism and explores the narratives we tell about creative people and drinking. We speak to Jamison about her book. We also talk with a science writer at Discover Magazine about the latest in science news and discuss a top news story.

Featured in this Show

  • Record Levels Of Spending From Outside Groups In Wisconsin Senate Race

    Wisconsin’s Senate race is seeing a flood of outside spending, with The Center for Responsive Politics showing the total from super PACs and nonprofits totaling nearly $10 million so far. With election day still seven months out, we’ll talk to an analyst about why all of this money is coming to Wisconsin’s election and which donors are behind it.

  • Science News: Opioids, Birth Control, Splitting Continents

    America is dealing with an opioid crisis. More than 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose each day. But scientists are working on a better painkiller to replace opioids… without the addictive side effects. We’ll look at what’s in the work, plus new developments in male birth control, with science writer Gemma Tarlach.

  • In Recovery, Storytelling As Healing

    The poet John Berryman spent much of the end of his life writing a book about his recovery from addiction.

    He scrawled possible endings on postcards.

    “It was as if he couldn’t quite bring himself to imagine how the book ended,” said Leslie Jamison, an author and essayist. “And in his own life, he really struggled to stay sober.”

    Berryman never finished writing the book. He died by suicide in 1972; the book, “Recovery,” was published posthumously.

    Addiction is a recurrent theme in literature. And in writing about her own recovery, Jamison looked to other writers and artists, like Berryman, Denis Johnson and Billie Holiday, who had made art out of their struggle and continued to find creativity in sobriety.

    She takes a hard look at those stories in a new book, “The Recovering.” It’s part memoir, part examination of the way addiction manifests in art and popular culture.

    Coming from the literary world, Jamison once believed the best stories were only the most beautiful, the most original, that hadn’t been told before.

    Her experience in recovery flipped that idea on its head. In recovery, you were supposed to tell a story that had already been told. Your story was a shared story.

    “Telling your own story can be an offering to other people in the room,” she said. “And showing up and listening to other people’s stories can be this deliverance from this kind of claustrophobic storage room of the self.”

    For Jamison, that idea was healing.

    She says her own drinking story is less dramatic than some, falling into the addiction in her 20s as a way to deal with shyness and crippling self-consciousness.

    Soon, each day revolved around her first drink. Her life began to deteriorate.

    “I started to see the ways that not only was it affecting my health,” she said. “But it was affecting my relationship with a wonderful man that I lived with, these kind of toxic fights that we would have.”

    Jamison woke up one day to find a stack of apology notes she had left for him after several fights. Something about seeing those notes physically piled up struck her.

    She got sober in her late-20s.

    But even now, Jamison doesn’t view recovery as a straight line, with a simple beginning and a neat ending. Sometimes it’s cyclical, includes relapses, and takes years to stick. That can be frustrating, but it’s the reality, she said.

    Though her recovery started years ago, she still considers herself to be on that journey.

    “Many people live by the adage of one day at a time,” she said. “And it’s quite useful in that sense of sort of not making guarantees about the long-term future, but we wake up and we show up to sobriety on a daily basis.”

    Sobriety, sometimes, doesn’t have an ending at all.

  • The Compelling Story Of Recovering From Addiction

    Widely known for her essay collection “The Empathy Exams”, Leslie Jamison is back with a new book that is part personal narrative, part cultural criticism, and part journalism. Jamison, now 7 years sober, tells the story of her own spiral into alcohol addiction while taking a look at the stories we tell about addiction and recovering. We talk with Jamison about her new book “The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath”.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Rachael Vasquez Producer
  • Gretchen Brown Producer
  • Natalie Guyette Producer
  • Lilly Goren Guest
  • Gemma Tarlach Guest
  • Leslie Jamison Guest

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