Monday, July 28, 2008

Julia Cameron details her alcoholism

I was surfing the new Cuil search engine and decided to see if Julia Cameron had any workshops coming up. She is one of my coaches in the writing practice I do, though we've never actually met. I have worked with "The Artist's Way" since 1995 on a pretty regular basis, unless I was taking a timeout to be a stupid drunk. I found the following on a web site called It's an interesting review about her book "Floor Sample" and probably a book I'll read. The site was interesting for another reason. It had a lot of information about addiction that I wasn't happy to read, but have to agree with in some respects, which surprised me. In AA we discuss the disease of alcoholism. This site suggests that it is not possible that it is a disease. I don't mind that. It may not be. However, the sick part of me that doesn't want to take responsibility for my behavior didn't like it. Fortunately, the open-minded part of me won and looked at it as possible. I doubt it will ever be conclusively ruled one way or another. I do know I process alcohol differently than other people and simply need to stay away from it. What was reaffirmed for me, is that we addicts are sick people trying to get well. We may be mentally ill, we may be physically ill. We may have abused alcohol and drugs in our healing attempts and sadly failed, and are attempting another method. I don't think that makes AA a bad thing, as one article on this site suggested. Whatever else it may be considered, AA is a life preserver thrown to anyone who wants to save their life. It is, as one of my friends says, "a very good thing".

At 57, Cameron, famous for her semispiritual approach to healing artist's block (presented in 1992's The Artist's Way) still seeks her creative and emotional center. She now details her creative struggles, framed by her fight to maintain sobriety after years as an alcoholic and drug addict.

Early fame writing for Rolling Stone led her to the most cataclysmic relationship of her life, a youthful marriage to director Martin Scorsese, with whom she had her only child. The relationship lasted less than two years. For 10 years after, Cameron chased similar creative ground to Scorsese's, attending film school, making small films and screenwriting for film and TV.

She seemed unable to settle down, moving between Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Taos, and details a constant, painful struggle to find a creative touchstone. Her one focus remains her art yet that often resembles monomania and leads her to periodic psychotic breaks.

She leaves her daughter adrift to work on her art; relationships crash and burn because she is a workaholic and egomaniac. Cameron is best at revealing the dark side of her privileged life: her descent into alcoholic blackouts and drug-induced paranoia as well as descriptions of her bouts with psychosis. These are disturbingly vivid.

From Booklist:
Creativity guru Cameron presents a page-turning, richly textured, and wrenching memoir that begins with her strict Catholic childhood in a book-filled Illinois house. Brainy and longing to emulate Lillian Hellman and Dorothy Parker, she was "a bad girl waiting to happen." At Georgetown University, she spent her evenings in bars writing, downing doubles, and experiencing memory blackouts.

During her junior year at Fordham, she stayed out drinking until dawn while still maintaining a stellar GPA. She then became a hard-drinking, hot young writer, first at the Washington Post, then at Rolling Stone; then met filmmaker Martin Scorsese and followed him to Los Angeles, where she added cocaine to the mix.

Finally, a postpregnancy return to alcohol and drugs and Martin's romance with Liza Minelli pushed her to the edge. No longer able to write and drink, she foreswore drugs and alcohol, viewed God as her employer, and set the daily writing quotas that would win her fame.

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