If you don’t know Amy Dresner yet, you will come September. That is when her debut memoir, My Fair Junkie, will be published and her story of addiction, redemption, relapse, mental illness, rehab, psychiatric wards, jail, and sober living homes hits bookstores.
The title is taken from the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion which was later adapted into the film My Fair Lady. Dresner is an unlikely Eliza Doolittle yet her transformation is the stuff of Hollywood. From being arrested for pulling a knife on her ex-husband to enjoying success as a stand-up comic and writer, Dresner has lived many lives in her 40 plus years. Her book covers some grim territory but with a sense of humor and hope that allows the reader to understand how someone could not only survive all that Dresner has but actually create a whole new second act.
I had the opportunity to interview Dresner on the eve of her book release and she is charming and charismatic as well as open and vulnerable.
Your first book, My Fair Junkie is being released in September. How does that feel?
It feels exciting and surreal and a little terrifying. I’ve been wanting to write and publish a book for almost 20 years so this feels like a great accomplishment, a dream realized. Of course, I hope that people love the book and feel inspired, less alone, or even just amused by it. But whenever you put yourself out there in the detailed vulnerable way I have in this memoir, there’s always some fear of judgment and criticism.
What made you decide to write a book about your experience with addiction?
Honestly, it came naturally out of my writing pieces for The Fix (https://www.thefix.com/bio/amy-dresner) for over five years. People really responded to my honesty, my humor and my no bullshit take on the program and on myself. Writing a book seemed like the logical next step: a chance to tell the whole story, go into more depth, reach a wider audience, perhaps exorcise some shame and create some closure for myself.
So, how did a nice girl like you……?
One of the great mysteries of my life! Well, I have a lot of addiction in my family and I’m an extraordinarily sensitive person despite all my tough girl bravado so I’m sure those two things played into it. I’ve always been riddled with insecurity and fear (like every addict) and from the first time I tried drugs, they felt right. They felt like a psychic medication that I needed to function comfortably in this world. Fortunately, now I have some tools besides shooting cocaine or smoking meth off of tinfoil.
Do you think your experience has been different as a woman with addiction?
God, I have no idea. I don’t know what a man’s experience with addiction feels like. I do know that there’s much more stigma attached to being a woman with sex addiction. I think everybody’s experience with addiction is different in the details but fundamentally the same: destruction, escapism, shame, compulsion, loneliness and if you’re lucky, recovery.
There are a lot of approaches to treatment and recovery. What works for you?
I do a 12 step program. I’m in AA. I have a sponsor to run all my terrible ideas by and I do the steps to help me not be a total asshole (though I’m not always successful.) Exercise also helps me keep balanced. I eat clean, get a lot of sleep, stay busy and creative. I do a little breathwork now and then. I’ve dabbled in meditation. And I really try to be of service, be the doctor instead of the eternal patient.
How bad was community service?
Well, it was “community labor” which is more strenuous and assigned for more severe punishments than community service. I swept the streets for 8 hours a day in the hot sun and it was incredibly exhausting and quite humbling. However, I had a huge epiphany doing community labor which changed my life. And I’ll tell you what else: I haven’t pulled a knife on anybody since! Now I can sweep like a motherfucker. Just hand me a broom and watch the magic.
Some readers may not know you are a stand up comic. How did that come about?
I’m not a comic anymore. I was for 5 years but I stopped in 2011 when I relapsed and got arrested, divorced and 5150’d among other fun stuff. I took a break to put my life back together and I didn’t really miss it so I didn’t go back. My father is a comedy writer so being funny has always come naturally to me. When I was new in the program and really nuts, I’d share in meetings and people would just fall off their seats laughing. Two comics came up to me two different times and both told me I should give stand up a try. So I did and I enjoyed it. I ended up touring nationally with two other sober comics and got to perform at lots of terrific clubs and shitty depressing bars. When an audience is really laughing it’s a wonderful but fleeting high.
You can follow Amy on Twitter at @amydresner. You can pre order My Fair Junkie here: bit.ly/2o2tRIp
Regina Walker is a writer and psychotherapist in NYC: http://soberworx.com/listing/regina-walker/