I first read Johann Hari’s book Chasing the Scream, in September 2016. I was 18 months sober and working with my orchestra on a cruise ship. While my colleagues were all enthusiastically enjoying the all-you-can-drink hospitality I found refuge in the ship’s library. I had read a lot of what is often called “quit lit” in my first months sober and wasn’t really interested in reading more books on addiction and recovery. Quite unexpectedly though, Chasing the Scream found its way into my hands, and Johann Hari’s vivid storytelling and meticulous research into the war on drugs found their way into my head and heart.
The “war on drugs” had always seemed necessary to me. I understood how deadly alcohol prohibition had been in the United States but I didn’t connect THAT prohibition to the war on drugs that I grew up with. In my mind, it was absolutely essential and understandable that drugs like heroin, crack, and meth were illegal.
Alcohol and nicotine were the addictions that I had to beat. I had never been drawn to the drugs that we consider to be hard drugs, or even drawn to marijuana. In 2016 the talk of legalizing marijuana was just heating up and even legalizing that relatively “soft” drug made little sense to me. I had spent years wishing that someone would make cigarettes go away so that I COULDN’T smoke anymore. Why add another legal and highly addictive product to our shopping carts?
After reading Johann Hari’s book Chasing the Scream in 2016, I was left with an overwhelming sense of frustration at the waste of human life that the drug war has caused, and the dehumanization of people that has resulted from decades of criminalizing drug addiction and harshly punishing addicts. I kept thinking … if only all of that money and all of those resources had gone into research and functional solutions to this problem that is as old as humanity. If only we had funded compassion instead of funding fear. If only. If only …
If only we all understood the significance of the afterward to Johann Hari’s book
The Opposite of Addiction is Connection
Even though I had already read Gabor Mate’s In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts and the introduction and first chapter of Bruce Alexander’s The Globalization of Addiction ( well worth the price of the book) – both of which are mentioned in Hari’s book and also outline Hari’s point that “The Opposite of Addiction is Connection”, Chasing the Scream drove this home again and with lasting intensity. In the 7 years since I first read Johann Hari’s book I have been immersed in the work of creating and maintaining a space online where people encourage each other to focus on compassion, connection, and hope while we fight alcohol addiction together, one precious person at a time. I am reading Chasing the Scream again now from the perspective of this experience and look forward to diving deep into everything the book has to offer this month.
Join us in discussing Johann Hari’s Chasing the Scream. Our Book Club is inside our community at www.BoomRethinktheDrink.com.
Follow these links to the discussion posts in our BOOM Book Club
Resources that you may find interesting while discussing Johann Hari’s Chasing the Scream
Even if you do not have time to read the book in full there are many interviews and Ted Talks with Hari about his research as well as several documentaries that follow his topics.
The Fix – available on the Roku channel
The United States vs. Billie Holiday –
The movie preview is here
and NPR’s Michel Martin speaks to Johann Hari about the movie which he produced here
this is a Netflix documentary that follows the explosion of incarcerations in the United States of men of color that Johann Hari discusses at length in Chasing the Scream
Prohibition by Ken Burns – There are excerpts of this three part Documentary by Ken Burns on Youtube. It is availble to stream or buy on different platforms and is well worth a watch to fully understand the origins of Prohibition as well as the outcome