We all know that drugs are bad, however, unless we ourselves have struggled with addiction or have seen what addiction looks like up close, it can be hard to truly understand just how dangerous these temptations really are. I recently finished reading How to Murder Your Life: A Memoir by Cat Marnell and although the story was about struggling with drug addiction, I also very much enjoyed hearing about the author’s life.
Meet Cat Marnell, a white girl from an upper-middle class (rich) Washington DC family. Cat grew up loving magazines, attending concerts, and finding escapes from her dysfunctional family. When Cat was a teenager, she enrolled in boarding school outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Cat’s first experience with drugs wasn’t the ‘you should try this drug because everyone else is doing it’ sort of scenario, rather, Cat popped her first Adderall on campus to help her concentrate on her studies (on which she was doing poorly). While at first stimulants were a welcome performance enhancement, they quickly became necessary for her to function. Further complicating things for Cat, she was diagnosed with ADHD and her psychiatrist father became her unwitting supplier.
Cat had a rough end at her boarding school and an even rougher time during college. However, through hard work, grit, and some luck, Cat eventually made it to her dream jobs at a few different magazine publications. Along this same timeline, Cat’s proclivities to illegal and addictive substances increased and expanded to include drugs like cocaine and ecstasy (along with alcohol and Adderall). In addition, Cat also suffered from insomnia, binge eating, and bulimia. Furthermore, her strong focus on her drug addiction and low self-esteem drove her into social isolation to the point where her life was consumed by either work (which she loved and used as an escape) or taking drugs.
Cat is gifted with creativity, high ambition, and a desire to work hard, however, her drug addiction overpowered her at times. In this book, you will learn more about Cat’s peaks and plummets as a high-functioning substance abuser. This book also takes an interesting perspective, as Cat’s experience is told from the angle of wealthy, white privilege. Even though Cat is a strong and talented worker, it would be misleading to remark that she got to the top of her career on her own. Even though Cat was not close with her family, she certainly benefited from their financial support (paying for her rent, her rehab [a single stint cost them $28,000], and inadvertently, some of her prescriptions).
Even though Cat is sheltered by a high degree of privilege, she still suffered almost bottomlessly from her addiction. We see her in abusive relationships with friends and boyfriends, lose the ability to take care of herself, and live in filthy conditions. While drug addiction does not hit people in a uniform way, it will hit all addicts hard.
I don’t think Cat’s story is inspiring (it’s unclear what her relationship is like with drugs today), but it was certainly insightful. While Cat had many ungraceful moments in her career, to an outsider, she can look like someone who is on top of her game and primed for greatness. This is, perhaps, the curse of the high-functioning addict. Many of these people are in great danger, yet the people around them cannot see the warning signs. Cat was lucky enough to have people in her life who cared enough about her to force her to get help — not everyone has this luxury or the means to secure the help they need.
Cat’s voice as a narrator is what you may expect from a beauty editor — glamourous and playful. Although set in the backdrop of fashionable locations like downtown NYC and Milan, Italy, Cat’s story will also give you a clear and honest depiction of addiction and all of the stress, pain, paranoia, and struggle that comes with it. If any of the above interests you, I highly, highly recommend that you check out How to Murder Your Life.
P.S. Don’t do drugs. Not even once. Not even if all of your friends are doing it and you’re afraid that declining will make you look uncool. They’re uncool. Screw them. Don’t do drugs.