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America Anonymous: Eight Addicts in Search of a Life

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  417 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
America Anonymous is the unforgettable story of eight men and women from around the country—including a grandmother, a college student, a bodybuilder, and a housewife—who are struggling with addictions. For nearly three years, acclaimed journalist Benoit Denizet-Lewis immersed himself in their lives as they battled drug and alcohol abuse, overeating, and compulsive gamblin ...more
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Published February 9th 2009 by Tantor Media (first published 2009)
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Oct 19, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-of-friends
America Anonymous is riveting. No wonder even Kirkus gave it a starred review. i couldn't put it down. Benoit Denizet-Lewis, who often writes cover stories about sexuality, identity, pop culture for the NY Times magazine, has not only written a page-turner, he's written a powerful, lucid and important book. Benoit comes out as a sex addict, which frames his journey with eight other addicts whom he follows over a one-two-year period. These addicts range widely, from a former crackhead grandma to ...more
Jan 31, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Benoit Denizet-Lewis, himself an addict, follows the lives of eight addicts who are in different stages of recovery from various addictions -- the usual ones like alcohol, meth, and food, and some more unusual and controversial ones, like shoplifting and sex (Denizet-Lewis himself is addicted to the last one).

Denizet-Lewis strikes a good balance between journalistic distance on the one hand and sympathy for his subjects on the other. He has a nice touch, managing to portray his subjects as auth
Mar 06, 2014 Marsha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although interesting to see the different faces of addiction I think 8.5 characters (I'm semi-counting the author) was hard to follow. Or the format of the book, the jumping from one character to another without a seemingly transition, made it hard for me to really get what was going on with each person. I would have liked it if the author had given himself and his experiences a section in the book too. I kind of think its a cop out when he plugs in revealing information about himself here and t ...more
Jan 03, 2009 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best things I have ever read on the addicted life--by one of my favorite young journalists. He picked 12 very interesting addicts to follow for a couple years--and he includes just enough about his own sex addiction to show you his bias, without it feeling self-indulgent and weird. The book also taught me how clueless I was about the ideology and effectiveness of 12 step programs.
America Anonymous: Eight Addicts in Search of a Life by journalist Benoit Denizet-Lewis delves into the lives of eight people struggling with addiction and recovery in the United States. These diverse individuals face both substance abuse and process addictions through various levels of treatment, most of it based around the 12-steps originating in Alcoholics Anonymous. As a thorough account of addiction, the book has some uses in a social work context even though its focus on the treatment wor ...more
May 19, 2017 Lmcelebre rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book surprised me; it was so much better than I thought it would be. I love the historical perspective of addiction and the many forays into treatment, which is seamlessly woven into the stories of the addicts this book follows. I love that the author is in recovery. I love that he asks difficult questions and doesn't purport to know the answers. I enjoy the author's nonjudgmental, yet wise and insightful voice. And I really love the note of hope this books ends on.
I'll add more to this review but here's my quick first impressions. First, full disclosure, I've been reading Benoit since his 'XY' magazine days -- 14 years ago. So, if you're expecting a purely objective, dispassionate nod, move on. I like Benoit. I like how he writes. Most of all I like that he digs deep into his huamnity -- which causes him great discomfort and pain, that too he shares unabashedly -- and connects to people so they opne up and share themselves openly in ways they probably wou ...more
Jul 16, 2011 Jordan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In other men we faults can spy, and blame the moat that blinds their eye
each tiny peck and blemish find
to our own greater errors blind (Ben Franklin)

After profiling many different addicts the author uses the last chapter to confess to his own issues. He even confesses to writing about these addicts while actively perusing his own addiction. This very fact really speaks to the power & insanity of addiction. He follows 8 different addicts who suffer from addictions including: food, alcohol, he
This is one of the most unusual depictions of addiction that I have ever come across. These eight stories are not memoirs -- they are the collected observations of the author, Benoit Denizet-Lewis,an addict himself. He chose eight people of different ages and different socioeconomic backgrounds with different addictions (crack, alcohol, heroin, sex, food, steroids, meth, and shoplifting), and followed their lives for three years, documenting their histories, their daily lives, their struggles to ...more
Jul 03, 2011 Mindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nursing-school
This author, a recovering sex addict, documents his extensive interactions with eight different addicts. Among the more "traditional" addicts such as alcoholics and drug addicts are gambling, food, shoplifting, and sex addicts. The stories are extremely detailed but not to the point of being so unbearable that one can't get through the material. In no way are the addictions glamorized. But one comes away understanding more deeply how addiction is a disease, and an incredibly tragic one that in n ...more
Angie Fehl
It reads kind of like an episode of True Life or World of Jenks. Benoit, a sex addict himself, follows eight other addicts for nearly three years (all of them having different types of addiction but similar struggles to get clean), letting them tell their stories from their perspective and showing how their stories turn out.

This book is also an education in the history and statistical side -- successes and failures -- of addiction and rehab in general. I had no idea rehab centers dated back to t
Blake Donley
Feb 08, 2016 Blake Donley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An objective yet personal look into the lives of eight addicts in America. I am fairly certain that anyone who ever thought they were addicted to anything from bourbon to boobs to books will see aspects of their behavior and themselves in many of the individuals that come to life within the pages.

As the child of an alcoholic, there is a lot of drab nostalgia to soak up here; there is valuable insight as well. I grew up with a house full of my mother's AA cohorts. They were family to me and my b
Mar 17, 2010 Joseph rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i thought that this was a great book that examined several aspects of addiction i rarely think of. these eight people were chronicled by the author (a self-proclaimed sex addict in recovery) and included some factoids about addiction spattered throughout the book. i still have a hard time wrapping my head around the behavioral addictions. maybe it's because my definition of addiction is archaic . . . i mean, does one get physically ill when in withdrawal from sex? or shoplifting? further, i wond ...more
Joseph Caputo
Mar 30, 2011 Joseph Caputo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Benoit Denizet-Lewis knows how to talk to strangers, especially if they're the type of strangers who make for good family gossip. BDL doesn't just tell addicts' stories in his book, he warmly asks them the difficult questions that they turn to their addictions to avoid. For three-hundred pages, BDL forces the reader to put the moral judgment on the nightstand and try to see the world from an addict's eyes. Over time you find yourself empathizing with the steroid user, shoplifter and sex addict, ...more
Rachel Loux
This is a good book to read if you like getting in the minds of addicts. It was interesting and engaging, but in the end, it lost my interest. At first I found the stay-at-home-mom shoplifter interesting, but after a while she got boring. It is interesting to hear about people who are addicted to things other than drugs and narcotics. Shoplifting, sex, and food were just a few that I had never heard of before. But, just like other addictions, they can get boring too. This book was very realistic ...more
Mar 15, 2013 Morgan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
Unfortunately, America Anonymous failed to meet my expectations. I love the premise of demonstrating cases of several types of addiction to show the similarities between addiction in its various forms. However, this book had two major issues. First, it was really slow at some points. I understand the author's desire to take us into the addict's world, but page after page of discussions transcribed verbatim just gets boring; this book would be better if it were 50-100 pages shorter. Second, I bel ...more
Nadine Jones
Not so much a memoir (although this author will someday write a wonderful memoir, I'm sure) as a profile of eight addicts in various stages of recovery. There are alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts, overeating addicts, and even a shoplifting addict. The introduction points out that the majority of Americans, even those who have addiction in their family, view addiction as a lack of willpower, not a disease.


It took me a long time, but I finally finished this!! Although well-written and engro
Neil Crocker
Mar 29, 2014 Neil Crocker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author, an addict himself, follows 8 other "recovering" addicts over the course of several years. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Shop lifting. Eating. Gambling. I'm no expert on addiction and found it pretty interesting. What with the internet, fast foodoutlets, casinos, lotteries, department stores, etc. America is like a buffet line for these various addicts! The author, and everyone he follows, pretty much believes the only way out is a lifelong commitment to the 12-step process. I'm not sure if th ...more
Okay for starters: If you think you have an addiction, read this book.


Do not come out of this book thinking you have an addiction. See what I'm saying?

Benoit Denizet-Lewis follows several individuals with various addictions (drugs, alcohol, sex, food, shop lifting, etc). Personally, I suffer from a food addiction like one of the people profiled. This book is frustrating, inspiring and eye opening. Addiction is everywhere, and it's not just drugs and alcohol. I really feel like I learned I nee
George Ilsley
Interesting but unfocussed. The author's own addiction, discussed at the beginning and the end, could have been more a part of this work. For example, at the end he says some of the addicts expressed concern about him; but we do not see this in the chapters. He is there, asking questions, but otherwise seemingly uninvolved. Some parts of this book I really enjoyed (shoplifting, and the discussions around sexual addiction -- an almost taboo topic in the gay community) but others parts (primarily ...more
Mar 06, 2009 Nette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written and moving. The author did a really good job of combining the eight personal stories (nine if you count his own) with a lot of recent research on addiction. I was especially fascinated with the discussion of what constitutes a true addiction (does sex count? food? petty theft?) It was sort of like watching back-to-back episodes of "Intervention" but getting the full backgrounds of the people and the accompanying science instead of just those riveting scenes of people huffing keyboar ...more
Mar 04, 2009 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Benoit Denizet-Lewis' fascinating book is one of the most interesting books on addiction I have read. The author himself is a sex addict and he takes three years outo f his life to follow eight addicts in their search of recovery. They range from a heroin addict in Southie to a crack addled grandmother in Harlem and they are some of the most poignant and interesting individuals. Denizet-Lewis perfectly nails the concept of addiction and instead of blaming moral failings, he perfectly makes the c ...more
A great book if you're interested in stories of addiction and recovery. Denizet-Lewis does an excellent job of balancing the stories of the addicts he follows, his own story of addiction, and his research. Another plus is that the book doesn't just concentrate on drug and alcohol addiction but also covers sex addiction, food addiction, and shoplifting. It's a nice overview, and doesn't quite get into the gawk-inspiring nitty-gritty of shows like Intervention for those of you who find that show a ...more
Gives a look into the minds and lives of 8 different addicts. While we can all relate on a smaller level of wanting to be a better person, it is difficult listening to these people describe knowing what is right for them but not being able to do it or stick to it.

Some are doing better by the end of the book but all will be battling their addictions it seems in one way or the other for their entire lives.
Feb 04, 2011 Pamela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is pretty rare for me, but I didn't even end up finishing this book. I usually will see it through all the way to the end but this just didn't grab me. I couldn't relate to the life the drug addicts lead; it was a bit disturbing to me but I had wanted to try something that's out of the "norm" for what I typically read. This definitely reminded me what a bubble I live in, and I'm quite happy to stay there!!
Dec 29, 2011 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A profile of eight addicts in various stages of recovery. There are alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts, overeating addicts, and even a shoplifting addict. Being that I was married to an addict I found it strange that the book never explored the idea that all these people are emotionally damaged. If you have no exposure to addiction this is a good book to give a quick look into the basics of recovery. But don't expect any brilliant insights into the 2% of addict who actually do change.
I enjoyed this book in the beginning, but I felt it faltered and lost steam in the last half. I think taking a look at a wide variety of different addicts instead of just eight would have helped the book, which began to feel repetitive and lost. While I do think it presents some interesting points, and is definitely a useful read for anyone interested in or affected by addiction, it needed something more.
Shawney Wellmann
Oct 31, 2010 Shawney Wellmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in addiction, someone who is or knows an addict
Recommended to Shawney by: Danny Gruber
I really enjoyed reading America Anonymous. I made me realize a lot about what addicts go through to stay clean and sober. It also made me realize that there are so many things one can become addicted to and how easy it would be to go from one addiction to another if a person has an addictive personality. I thought this was a great book and would recommend it to my fellow readers :)
Patrick Santana
Aug 09, 2011 Patrick Santana rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Would have preferred if the author had just focused on sex addicts. The panoply of addicts covered seemed to mask and dilute the insight that one would hope from getting inside the world of these characters. What they share didn't seem as interesting as how they differed. Felt cursory and blowsy. A young author, so maybe next books...
Very interesting historical information on addiction. It was a little confusing the way he alternated by chapter which of the 8 addicts he was talking about. It was also a little uneven - some of the people were covered at a much deeper level than others. If you are interested in recovery and addiction, worth the read!
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Benoit Denizet-Lewis is a writer for The New York Times Magazine, where he has penned cover stories and features about identity, addiction, youth culture, sex and sexuality, sports, dogs, and music. His work has also appeared in Sports Illustrated, The New Republic, Details, Slate, Out, and The Daily Beast, among others. He is an assistant professor of Writing, Literature & Publishing at Emers ...more
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