Arrested for a DUI on his twenty-first birthday. Passed out behind the wheel of his car, at a stoplight, at 3:00 a.m.
I wish I could say this was the turning point for a character from a book to clean up his act, make those big changes that represent growth and result in a happy ending, or at least a happily-for-now ending. But this was real life. My life. More accurately, my brother’s life. The life of an addict. He is one of the many New Adults who have struggled with addiction.
The post-high school years are a time ripe for experimentation. Often living on their own, or at least away from home, for the first time, these new adults will often try drugs or alcohol. For many, it’s recreational. A few beers on the weekend, the occasional hit of weed. For some, however, recreation turns to vocation. The addiction takes over and dictates every other action in a person’s life.
In a study by the National Institutes of Health, 35.0 percent of college students reported incidents of binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row in the prior two weeks.) According to alcoholismstatistics.net, approximately 6.0 percent of college students are considered alcohol-dependent. The U.S Department of Education reports there were approximately 20.6 million college students in 2013.
The math tells us that over 1.5 million college students could be alcoholics. Some seek treatment, while many continue to struggle with addiction throughout their lives. Author Jules Dixon has written about the struggle, drawing on her decade of volunteer experience at a drug rehab facility/homeless shelter to bring the often-painful realities of addiction to her stories. Admitting addiction is especially hard for the New Adult population, with Dixon believing one of the biggest obstacles in treatment is the addict feeling like a disappointment to their parents, or feeling guilty because their parents believed the child they raised was “stronger than that.”
However, one of the most important components of recovery is the support of family and friends. Dixon says, “Surrounding a person with genuine hope and a clean atmosphere is only part of the path. The rest is listening to why it happened without judgment.” Having been there myself as one of those family members, the judgment zone is difficult to avoid, and is a constant source of conflict.
This conflict, as well as other consequences of addiction—depression, HIV, STDs, unintended pregnancy, isolation, acts of crime, and even death— can make, and already have made, for some riveting New Adult reads.
Here are some recommended New Adult books that have covered different aspects of addiction. If you’ve read any books that address substance abuse, please leave a comment and let us know. I’m always searching for authors who can tackle the subject with a sensitive but realistic touch.
Oh, and as for my brother's story? How did it end? I'm happy to report that his addiction is in check. Twenty-five years later, it's a daily battle, but he perseveres, and considers himself one of the lucky ones.