Addiction and its many treatments has long been a popular subject of films, books and reality television shows. The struggle to identify, confront and overcome one’s personal demons strikes a universal chord with people regardless of their race, class or gender.
Portland based author Bill Alton’s memoir, My Name is Bill deals with mental illness, addiction, homelessness and survival.
Here is what Mr. Alton had to say about the book.
Eliza: What inspired you to write My Name is Bill?
Bill: I wrote My Name is Bill because I had a story to tell. I went through a hellish childhood, but I got sober, raised a family and achieved a graduate degree. I wanted people to know that just because you had a hard childhood, it didn't mean that you were going to grow up to be a criminal or addict or abuser. I wanted people to see that a difficult childhood could lead to a "normal," middle class existence.
Eliza: There are a lot of stories about addiction and recovery; what makes your story unique?
Bill: My story is unique in that I got sober without the benefit of rehab or a 12 step program. I went home and just stopped. Not that it was easy or that I did it alone. My mother was instrumental in my recovery as was an English teacher who helped me switch obsessions from heroin to theater and writing.
Eliza: What was the hardest part about writing your book?
Bill: I didn't want people to think of me as a victim. I wanted people to see that everything that happened to me was either a choice, as in, it was decision to get involved with the drug scene, or that it happened to me but didn't excuse my later behavior.
Eliza: What advice would you give to other people who wish to publish their memoirs?
Bill: Find something unique to say. The misery memoir market is glutted. Find something uplifting to write about. But be careful. Don't write mushy, overwrought prose about your first love. Read what's out there and see what people are saying about their lives.
Eliza: What inspires you about Portland?
Bill: I have been working with disability arts organizations and learning how well Portland meets the needs of people who live on the edges of the mainstream. I have finally found a community in which I fit without having to pretend that I am just like everyone else.
To purchase My Name is Bill, click here.