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Asylum

By William Seabrook

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Ryan Holiday (Founder / Brass Check)

In 1934, William Seabrook was one of the most famous journalists in the world. He was also an alcoholic. But there was no treatment for his disease. So he checked himself into an insane asylum. There, from the perspective of a travel writer, he described his own journey through this strange and foreign place. Today, you can’t read a page in the book without seeing him bump, unknowingly, into the basic principles of 12-step groups and then thwarted by well meaning doctors (like the one who decides he’s cured and can start drinking again). On a regular basis, he says things so clear, so self-aware that you’re stunned an addict could have written it–shocked that this book isn’t a classic American text. Yet all his books are out of print and hard to find. Two of my copies are first editions from 1931 and 1942. It breaks your heart to know that just a few years or decades later, his options (and outcome) would have been so very different (he eventually died of an opium overdose).

Amazon description

This dramatic memoir recounts an eight-month stay at a Westchester mental hospital in the early 1930s. William Seabrook, a renowned journalist and explorer, voluntarily committed himself to an asylum for treatment of acute alcoholism. His sincere, self-critical appraisal of his experiences offers a highly interesting look at addiction and treatment in the days before Alcoholics Anonymous and other modern programs.

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