While his wife and two-year-old daughter watched TV in the living room, David Poses was in the kitchen, measuring the distance from his index finger to his armpit. He needed to be sure he could pull the trigger with a shotgun barrel in his mouth. Twenty-six inches. Thirty-two years old. More than a decade in a double life fueled by depression and heroin.
In his groundbreaking memoir, The Weight of Air, David chronicles his struggle to overcome mental illness and addiction. By age nineteen, he’d been through medical detox, inpatient rehab, twelve-step programs, and a halfway house. He saw his drug use as a symptom of depression, but the experts insisted that addiction was the problem. Over the next thirteen years, he went from one relapse to the next, drowning in guilt, shame, and secrets, until he finally found an evidence-based treatment that not only saved his life, but helped him thrive.
With grit, humor, and brutal honesty, David’s story reveals that traditional recovery models actually increase stigma and the risk of overdose, relapse, and death. As depression and addiction rates skyrocket and overdose fatalities surge, The Weight of Air is a scathing indictment of our failed response to the opioid crisis—and proof that success is possible.
After hiding his struggle with depression and opioids for twenty years, David started opening up and challenging conventional addiction wisdom. He has been published by the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and New York Daily News and has appeared on national TV programs, including The Doctors Show, and numerous radio shows and podcasts. With candor, humor, and a unique perspective informed by science and experience, he advocated for evidence-based approaches to drug policy, prevention, and treatment. David lived in New York with his wife and two kids and entirely too many guitars for such a mediocre player.
Twenty-five years ago, when I railed against faith and abstinence-based treatment and insisted my addiction was a symptom, my views were dismissed as outlier opinion by “experts” with no medical credentials. Today, faith and abstinence treatment is proven to increase stigma and risk of overdose, death, and relapse, and 95% of opioid addicts are known to have a co-occurring mental health disorder, but 97% in rehab are treated for addiction only.
While it’s nice to be able to say my opinions are now irrevocable facts, antiquated models and mentalities continue to obfuscate our ability to see opioid addiction for what it is—and effectively treat it.
More than 200 people will die today because every lifesaving, harm-reducing resource is stigmatized, criminalized, or restricted. Accidental overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, and addiction and depression rates are surging.
I started writing this book when I realized that by remaining silent, I was actively working against every change I wanted to see in the world. But change won’t happen on its own. I’m grateful beyond words for all your support.
This is an incredibly moving book, and a timely one. (Say "opioid crisis" three times fast.)
David Poses isn't playing out the familiar story of an addict finding their higher power and "getting clean." He's exploding that entire paradigm. His basic formulation is that depression is pain, and that heroin is a painkiller. We wouldn't stigmatize a heart-disease patient for taking beta blockers; so why do we stigmatize those with serious depression (or other mental health disorders) for taking the opiates that are killing their pain and, arguably, making it possible for them to live a little longer?
Poses is suggesting that there are countless addicts like himself for whom abstinence is simply not possible. But there are alternatives, including the drug Buprenorphine, which can be taken indefinitely without like, killing you and stuff.
But this makes it sound as if the book is a graduate thesis on the politics and mores of addiction. In fact, it is an intimate story told at a thriller's pace. Poses makes himself vulnerable on every page, and he stares into his own past deceits with painstaking candor and, miraculously, a good deal of (dark) humor. Best of all, the book (and its author) never give up on the possibility of transcendence. It might sound a little cheesy, but the book believes in love. A little light seems to shine at the end of its narrowing tunnel, and Poses (and his readers) race for it. An extraordinary debut from a writer with enormous gifts, and a reason to use them.
This is a very brave book from an extraordinary man, who probably could have died a hundred times over. Thankfully, not only did he not die, he has lived to tell a powerful and compelling story about depression, addiction, family struggles, and how he managed to not only survive but thrive.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I read it in one sitting because the pages simply turned themselves until the last page. I was so grateful to find David happily married, with two beautiful children, working as a writer and advocate for those who suffer from addiction.
In addition to being very readable, this book has lots to say about how society treats alcohol, versus prescription drugs, and heroin. He also focuses on many drugs that one can get easily by prescription that are far more harmful than drugs on the street. David hones in on the many misconceptions, and frankly wrong treatments addicts receive. Hopefully he will write a new 12 step program that goes beyond sobriety into the reasons people self-medicate in the first place. He has lots to say and health professionals and law enforcement agencies should listen.
This is a beautifully written story that is well told. It breaks the readers heart to feel what David has experienced from a horrific father, to people who took advantage of him, his many stops and starts, and his final recovery.
This is the best memoir I have read in a long time and the lessons David has shared will stay with me.
Whether you have addiction issues, or know someone who has, or you simply want to understand the painful journey of an addict who has fully recovered, this book has something for everyone.
I have a hard time rating this. This was not at all what I was expecting - this book is more of a memoir than a critical look at how faulty drug policy and abstinence-based recovery models fails most people who use drugs. That's probably my fault. To be honest, I found it hard to relate to. And I found it somewhat grating the way he writes about women (too many weird comments about breasts?). A lot of name dropping artists.
I am an Indigenous women who works with and loves people who live in Vancouver's "notorious" Downtown Eastside, during an overdose epidemic that's not getting better. I found it hard to relate to someone who was a pen-pal with Woody Allen. I know addiction affects everyone - that's one of the major takeaways. I'm not saying this books isn't important. I'm saying it really didn't do much for me, but maybe people who are just learning about harm reduction and buprenorphine, it can be more meaningful.
The most important line in this book IMO is: "Illegal drugs are involved in more overdose fatalities because potency is unknown. If those drugs were legal and regulated, potency would be measured and printed on labels - and heroin overdose would be be as easy to prevent as alcohol overdose.
Alcohol isn't legal because it's safer. It's safer because it's legal. (p. 190)
If you want to learn more about the way shitty drug policy and stigma kills people, I highly recommend the podcast "Crackdown".
The opioid epidemic has been going on for over 20 years, and it nearly killed me until I was able to get clean back in 2012. Since then, it’s killed countless others, but there’s still not nearly enough awareness and a massive stigma around addiction. Fortunately, people like David Poses took the time to share his personal story of addiction and recovery in this book, and it was extremely relatable. The book recounts David’s struggles with depression, addiction, and suicidal ideation, and I can’t recommend this book enough to loved ones who know someone struggling with an addiction. This book is extremely important because David is extremely raw and honest about his experience, and it’ll help people better understand what addicts like us go through and how difficult it can be to get clean, even though we want to.
David is an awesome writer, and he’s also an activist who spreads awareness about harm reduction. Although this was a fantastic book, I really enjoyed the epilogue where David talks about his experience with how buprenorphine saved his life. If he ever gets a chance, I think he’d write an incredible book about harm reduction and how we can tackle the addiction crisis in the United States as well as in other parts of the world.
This is definitely one of the most honest and real accounts of what it is like to live life after going through an in patient rehabilitation center and what life is like after. I should know, because I lived through it! I believe this book is so important because it will help people who don’t struggle with addiction every day understand our challenges. I know it will help the people like us to not feel so alone in the world and the comfort it will bring them to know that others walk in their shoes. I hope that this can save more families from being torn apart by the loss of a loved one from addiction. This is a MUST read!!!
The Weight of Air is a debut memoir about depression and drug addiction that reads like a fast-paced novel. The autobiography arrives in bookstores at a critical time in the U.S. as depression, drug addiction, and opioid use in America are rampant and offers readers a personal view of this landscape.
Author David Poses not only shares his personal story but offers experienced insight, suggestions (and alternatives) to how addiction can be treated beyond the "just say no" types of abstinence programs.
Poses lays bare intimate details about his heroin addiction, his depression, and his friends, lovers, and family connections with honesty, grace, and humor. This is a timely memoir by an author whose keen observation skills (and willingness to share gritty and brutal details about his life) take the readers on a compelling, terrifying, and ultimately hope-infused journey. He is a damn good writer, and I look forward to reading his future books.
I will start by saying I avoid memoirs & non- fiction. I much prefer a fun little story with a neat bow at the end. That being said , I enjoyed this book immensely! The writing is straightforward and easy to follow while remaining interesting. David brings an undercurrent of humor through his story, which made the hard parts of the book easier for me to read. He also mixed in other parts of himself, like his love for music, consistently through the story. I am listening to OK computer while I write this. It is an excellent album. On a more serious note , the points made in the book regarding addiction & recovery are spot on. We need more conversation about how we think about drugs our society has deemed illegal, as well as a seismic shift in how we approach recovery.
As a person in recovery and a harm reduction nurse and advocate I loved this book. The way that the feelings and processes of using and stopping are described are so accurate.- The deep deep sadness that so many of us experience and the elation and connection that we feel when we use. Using drugs was a way to stop feeling those horrific moments of darkness. It was a way to avoid actually ending my life. I wish that more people could understand and explore these stories. They are important. This is a must read for anyone who wants to learn about drug use and addiction. Its also a great story of how harm reduction tools and philosophy can work to help people live incredible lives.
Thank you David for your heartbreakingly honest and well told tale of the pain, complexity and ultimately personal triumph through your life long struggles with depression and substance use.
Closing the book on this poignant story filled me with emotion and themes reflected back to me, as a mother of four, who has lost two beautiful young sons, six years apart (at ages 27 and 22 respectively) from unintentional overdose stemming from their debilitating anxiety and depression. The title of the book totally drew me in because I realized too late that the boys’ opioid use was like “air for them to breath.” They were only trying to feel okay in their world. I acknowledge their valiant efforts to achieve recovery from substance use disorder and our family is profoundly altered by the void left by the tragic loss of these precious children in our lives. I am certain that (1) they did not want to be dependent on any substance and (2) they certainly did not want to die before they had a chance to truly live.
Medicine assisted treatment was not available to them in their treatment and recovery, but ridicule and stigma would be served up to them by their recovery community should they entertain the idea of choosing that method of harm reduction- which we now know could have saved their lives!
People use for a reason and by sharing stories from our lived experiences we can change the way society views mental health and substance use. We must pivot away from hurtful, reinforcing and demeaning language that perpetuates use and leads to harmful and often deadly drug use.
The impact of David’s captivating read will surely change hearts that don’t yet understand; and will offer hope to countless souls, still in the fight of their lives, searching to find air in which they can also breathe.
David Poses' story is one that completely did away with my impressions (or prejudice) of what depression and substance use can be. Read this book. It's important. It is a heartbreakingly honest insight into the suffering of someone who felt they had to hide both a deep depression and heroin use to deal with that depression from everyone in their life for 20+ years.
I got an advance copy in exchange for a review and I finished reading it last night (I would have finished the book in one sitting if my two young children would have let me). Despite the difficult situations described, it was beautifully written. I am still trying to process just how I will incorporate all I have learned in the span of the last couple of days into my everyday life and work. As a public health student, studying substance use and the opioid crisis through the lens of a true expert (someone who has been through it) is imperative if we want to truly make a difference through our work. It is a testament to Recovery and Harm Reduction practices and policies we should be aiming for.
On a personal level, I am humbled that David wrote his story for us to read. While it must have been the hardest thing to finally come clean (in the sense of being honest), I am also relieved for him that this weight has been lifted.
The Weight of Air exposes the stigma and general lack of understanding around addiction and mental health. Struggling with both alone for decades, the author is finally able to get the proper medical care and treatment based on science.
Throughout his story, you can feel the pain and shame felt after being forced through the 'one size fits all' traditional treatment model. It's no wonder we can't fix the national opioid crisis when evidence-based treatment options and harm reduction efforts continue to be stigmatized and restricted - even criminalized in many cases.
The sharing of his journey to recovery is done in hopes it encourages and empowers others to find their way as well.
As someone who has struggled with depression for most of my life, this book was an uncomfortable example of how just wanting to feel like a 'normal' person in the world - and inside your own head - can quickly cause you to spiral out of control. A few people and/or actions mentioned were seriously disturbing, but the message behind this book is an important one about how society views addicts, and how they should be treated in order to be able to recover. What the author said in his epilogue speaks to more than just addiction-based treatments ... "Change doesn't happen until those who aren't affected are as outraged as those who are."
“Pain doesn’t end when you stop taking painkillers. It gets worse.”
A memoir on addiction isn’t new, but the story of someone who has found an answer apart from the twelve-step and rehab programs is a point of view we don’t hear as often. The Weight of Air is a scathing indictment of our failed response to the opioid crisis, a story that exposes the danger of traditional recovery models.
“When addiction is equated with moral failure and opioids are lumped in with recreational drugs, we invalidate the real cause of our national health emergency.”
I highly recommend this gritty, raw, thought-provoking memoir.
The Weight of Air is a soul-wrenching journey. It is also impossible to put down. Trapped in a peripatetic dance of death and duplicity, David Poses is tethered to his heroin addiction. His family and friends, however, all believe he is now clean and sober. Written with startling and often comical candor, Poses realizes he can no longer survive in the world he has created. For many addicts, death is the ultimate escape. Fortunately, modern medicine has provided another alternative: Suboxone. It offers both controversy and a “cure.” Poses courageously embraces both.
This book was assigned for my class on addictions in my Masters of Social Work program, and I’m really glad that my professor chose to assign it. The book was very well-written. It’s pretty uncommon for me to get so immersed in a book that I can’t put it down, so it says something that I finished this book in less than a week during midterms time. I loved David’s writing style and truly appreciated so much how open he was about his struggles. I felt like I was with him on his entire journey through his late teens and twenties, and I was dying to know what would happen next and how the book would end (even though he’s speaking in my class next week so obviously it had to end well, lol). As someone who has told my story about my mental health journey for volunteering that I’ve done, I know how hard it is to be fully open with strangers about what you’ve been through when there is so much stigma. I related to this book a lot even though I personally have not struggled with addiction. David did such a great job writing about what it’s like to struggle with depression, particularly how it often can hold back artistic people from using their full abilities and truly being themselves. I’m so glad that David got through that because now we all have the gift of his writing! Anyway, loved the book, looking forward to David speaking in my class next week and to reading more of his work in the future.
This is a book about depression, addiction, and recovery at long last – thanks to suboxone. But it is also a book about deep shame, honesty, and living a dual life, until you can’t anymore. David Poses blows up the stigma of addiction and depression and lays bare his truth about some darks times in his life. I read The Weight of Air in one day and was captivated. I finished this book amazed by David’s journey and hope it can inspire others.
A lifelong journey of addiction ,dark places where the lies are conceiveed.
David Poses is a gifted writer, brutally honest from the dark pit of addiction. I can appreciate his pain , understand the struggle & cheered after he broke up the love affair with heroin. EXCELLENT READ
David Poses writes that change will not happen until those who are not affected care as much as those who are affected. Depression and opioid addiction are real. We need to care and we need to understand. This memoir is compelling, painful and beautiful.
Read this after listening to an interview with the author on the Mayim Bialik Breakdown podcast. A fascinating look at one person's experience of opioid addiction and what it tells us about the opioid crisis in America, as well as the failure of 12 step programs to help with opioid addiction.
This is an interesting and raw reading of the path of addiction, denial, and hope. I appreciate the struggle and the authenticity in sharing it. This provides insight into addiction and hope for the addict. Good read!
David Poses’s memoir, The Weight of Air, captured my emotions from the very first page. His atmospheric storytelling made me feel as if I was fully immersed in his life and right beside him from the very beginning as he tried to get clean. My heart ached for him as he battled his depression and heroine use, and the way he described his feelings and processes of using and stopping are beyond words.
This was a book I could not put down. Even though David was telling a dark, difficult, and brutally honest story, his way with words and the heart behind them was so beautiful. After I turned the last page, I felt truly humbled and impacted by what I read. My eyes have been opened to so much more in the opioid pandemic and given me greater understanding.
I know there are so many out there dealing with their own battle, and I really believe that David’s story will offer hope to those still battling and fighting for their lives. Thank you David for sharing your story and giving others hope.
“When addiction is equated with moral failure and opioids are lumped in with recreational drugs, we invalidate the real cause of our national health emergency.”
One of the most honest and raw stories of addiction and recovery I've read. I'm so grateful to the author for sharing his journey with the world. "Opioid addiction had become a national health emergency, and our response was driven by stereotypes, misinformation, and a pervasive disregard of science and evidence-in policy, treatment, and prevention." This is one more step in squashing the stigma behind addiction and looking more deeply into the lives of those who suffer. To the author, I say, thank you for your courage and bravery in sharing your story with us.
As someone whose brother died of an illicit fentanyl overdose 18 months ago, David, through his posts and now his book, has helped me find my voice in advocating for harm reduction and ending the drug war. If I knew then, what I know now, I’d have been so much better equipped to help my brother instead of stigmatizing his addiction. Please, David, continue to vocalize your story. It WILL save lives.
I work with people in recovery- seeking healing from pain- loss- trauma and the substances used to deal with their pain. This book caught me - held my attention - and helped me understand opioid use on a deeper level. As a person in long term recovery from meth I thought I understood substance use but this taught me more and I will use this knowledge to guide how I coach my peers. Thank you!!
This was EXCELLENT. I absolutely loved this one, which feels terrible to say about a book that deals with addiction, but truly, David Poses did a great job putting this together. It's a serious topic, with serious struggles and topics covered, but his at times darker humor, balanced it out perfectly.