book review: Clean by Amy Reed

Hi everyone.

Last week I finished reading a powerful book called Clean byAmy Reed.

The book is set at a drug and alcohol rehab center for teens. It centers around a group of teenagers who couldn’t be more different. From the bully, to the sheltered homeschooled church going boy with big secdrets of his own, to a girl raised by a nanny in a very rich but neglectful family, to a girl who’s mother died of cancer and who then was responsible for looking after her alcoholic family.

There are Five in total. In alternating points of view they talk about their day to day lives in the center. They all start out still detoxing from substances and absolutely hating being there and picking on each other only seeing their differences. Slowly as time goes on and guided by a confrontational but very caring group therapist, as well as reflective writing assignments,they delve into their individual reasons for falling into drug and alcohol abuse.

As with all unhealthy behaviors, the addiction itself is the way of coping it’s the things under the s surface that need to be dealt with. Which include coming to terms with loss, divorce, sexual abuse, bullying ETC.

Shirley the group therapist is as I said extremely confrontational. Never beating around the bush, talking straight and brutally honest with all members of the group. The other group members are encouraged to do the same. In fact their favorite word, when someone is trying to hide how their feeling/ not being honest is bullshit. Yes and Shirley swears too! For all this you can tell from the beginning that they appreciate her straight talking tough love approach.

For one member illness runs much deeper. She is also dealing with an eating disorder and self injury as well. The other members of the group and Shirley try to reach her but she just slips further into her inner world. In her writings, which are cryptic almost poetic she never speaks of herself in the first person. She says “the girl” meaning her. I always thought if at some point she could use I to claim her own feelings and experiences this would be a step in the right direction.

As time goes by there’s much insight gained by all members through their relationships with each other and they form a strong bond. It seems just as they’re getting on solid ground the program is over. It surprised me that it was only thirty days long then again I’ve heard this is the norm for drug and alcohol programs. You would think it would be longer.

But they leave with the support of one another forever and all seem ready to embark into the outside world knowing at least a foundation of insight about themselves and why they got caught up in what they finally take seriously as a life long disease and struggle. They are tentatively hopeful that they will be on the right path and not end up in rehab again though they know it could always be a possibility.

The book ends with a heartfelt letter from Olivia, the girl who was emeshed in her eating disorder, who ended up moving to a residential proram to meet her own needs. She talked about hafving hope for herself and her future in spite of the crisis she found herself in. And she did really get a lot from their time together even in her own world. Oh and finally she did use I in her writing. It just struck me that it was the first time. Then again it was a letter. And the poetic reflections of the girl were for her therapy assignments. Still the letter seemed more grounded with substance, and not so airy and wrapped up in metaphors to the point you had to think to realize what she was saying as with her therapy assignments.

I recommend this book to anyone dealing with addiction/ mental illness. Whether their struggling with it, have struggled or know someone who is. It describes the variety of experiences that can lead someone down this road and how they can heal. It also interested me as I never read anything about life in rehab. I’m always interested in reading about life in residential treatment. Anyway if you read it/ have reactions please comment.


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