May 2, The Tennessean, Brad Schmitt
About a decade ago, Augusten Burroughs hit the New York Times best-seller list twice with the hilarious memoirs “Running With Scissors” and “Dry,” though his struggles with family, upbringing and sobriety were often dark.
Now, Burroughs is out with a direct, at-times harsh self-help guide, “This Is How” ($24.99, St. Martin’s Press), that has occasional moments of humor.
Your first books on your family and getting sober were hilarious! Well, and painful and brutally honest. I’m wondering how you go from there to writing a self-help book.
People over the years have thanked me for writing “Dry” because it has been helpful for them and their recovery. And “Running With Scissors” too. “It was helpful.” Oh, OK, well, I’m glad it was helpful, but I wasn’t trying to be helpful.
The one question I get asked over and over is, “How did you survive — blank?” And I just realized I wanted to write a book, this is how. Here’s how to fix your own head.
I’ve always been a do-it-yourselfer. When I make a mess, I make my own mess of my own life and I put it back together. And I guess I realized that there’s useful stuff in that. The fact that I’ve always been a fix-it-myself kind of guy could be really useful for other people who aren’t necessarily that way.
If I had never gone on a book tour, if I had never met the people who read me, I don’t think I would’ve written the book. If I didn’t have people coming up to me all the time and telling me their own stories and what they struggle with.
I don’t want people to waste time … trying to fix themselves when I can think of some really direct methods to accomplish it.
Sometimes the tone of the book is super direct.
There’s too much hand-holding. I don’t like a nurturing, hand-holding feel-good kind of book. It’s a book for the way that I see people really are.
One of the chapters in there is about suicide. And that was something that, you know, we have way too many kids kill themselves. And one thing I have not written about in my memoirs was the fact that I was going to kill myself. I was like, I had a plan and I knew how I was going to do it.
It was only when I actually thought it through doing all the steps — I really imagined it like a movie — and I saw, this thing is not gonna freakin’ work!
I’m not gonna be alive to enjoy the peace and freedom. I’m not actually gonna be aware of any of that. The last thing that I’m going to be aware of is bleeding out in a bathtub of water. And I’m going to freak out when I see that. And then, I’m gonna die.
So I’m gonna be as miserable as I am now, with an extra layer of, oh, what did I do? And that’s gonna be it. There’s not going to be that peace and release.
So it’s not that I actually want to kill myself. What I wanted to do is end my life. And that I can do. … I can actually step out of my life. I didn’t have to kill myself. I just had to end my life, so I did.
I moved to a place where I didn’t know anybody and I changed my first, middle and last names. … What I do know is that I stepped outside my universe into another one. And it’s a huge, huge world.
Let’s talk about specifics. In how to find love, you say you’re in favor of online dating.
I’m all in favor of online dating. I’m all in favor of anything that exposes you to people you’re not going to run into on your very narrow path.
Most people, they go to the office, see the same people, go to the same places for lunch. You can’t do that and then moan about being single. Because what are the chances that the person you’re meant to be with also goes to the same dry cleaners? That’s asking too much.
Page 39 — “There is no shame in deciding to be fat.”
There’s not. There are people who are fat that want to be thin. And there are people who are fat who wish they wanted to be thin.
If you’re fat, thin is theoretical. It seems like you’d be happier thin. I live in New York City, and I used to feel like, I wanna have a really cool apartment. But I didn’t want it. I just wanted to want it.
Being thin is not what the scale says to you — it’s about popularity, it’s about how many followers you have on Facebook and Twitter. You can’t lie to yourself about why you want the thing you want.
Have you been to Nashville before?
I went once, to Vanderbilt, for a speaking engagement. I love Nashville and I love the South.
It’s funny, when I first started, my publisher would send me out on book tours — it’d be sending me to New York, Chicago, L.A., San Francisco. I was like, yeah, I like the South, Alabama, Atlanta. And they were like, no, that’s not the kind of book that’ll play there. And I was like, yeah, it is.
My family’s from the South. … I spent summers down there. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I disapprove of everything about you, but my God, I relate to every word.”