Sacha Scoblic lived to drink, until the morning she stumbled out of a bar with only vague memories of the night before. She gave up alcohol that day, sick of the person she had become. But without alcohol, who was she? In Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety, she discovers that sobriety has its own strange trips.

Memoirs about recovery travel a well-trodden path, but not many of them manage to be this piercing and ribald. Scoblic’s memoir uncovers the everyday frustrations recovering alcoholics face as they negotiate a world saturated with their drug of choice. It’s a hilarious, honest and heart-breaking glimpse into the routine torments of addiction.

Terribly insecure and already addicted to booze, 30-something Scoblic feels intimidated by her sophisticated new colleagues at the New Republic. “At the time, I assumed either cosmic intervention or a gas leak in the building had led to me getting hired at the New Republic magazine,” she writes. “Still, I was completely ready to emulate Hunter S. Thompson: I’d drink all night and write colorful scene-scapes about American zeitgeist by day.” She relies on drinking to transform herself into a snarky party girl willing to try anything once, even if it also makes her cruel, self-centered and prone to property damage.

But after years of hangovers, panic attacks and relationships as empty as last night’s beer bottles, Scoblic finally gives it up. She struggles to stay clean, fantasizing about wacky scenarios that would require her to drink again, such as celebrating a successful nuclear arms treaty with Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev and a bottle of Russian vodka.

Fearful of becoming banal without the stimulation of alcohol, Scoblic realizes that a sober life has its own richness. In the end, she finds that sobriety is a life of unmissed opportunities, authentic love and forgotten dreams waiting to be rediscovered.

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