Read American Junkie by Tom Hansen Sean Beaudoin Online


"Takes you to the gristle-chewing tracks of the gnarly Emerald City before the first wave of Sub Pop loving kids arrived.” Chris Estey, KEXP Radio, SeattleIn American Junkie, Tom Hansen takes us non-stop into a land of desperate addicts, failed punk bands, and brushes with sad fame, selling drugs during the Seattle grunge years. It's a story that maps his heroin addiction,"Takes you to the gristle-chewing tracks of the gnarly Emerald City before the first wave of Sub Pop loving kids arrived.” Chris Estey, KEXP Radio, SeattleIn American Junkie, Tom Hansen takes us non-stop into a land of desperate addicts, failed punk bands, and brushes with sad fame, selling drugs during the Seattle grunge years. It's a story that maps his heroin addiction, from the promise of a young life to the prison of a mattress, from budding musician to broken down junkie, drowning in syringes and cigarette butts, shooting heroin into wounds the size of softballs, and ultimately, a ride to a hospital for a six-month stay and a painful self-discovery that cuts down to the bone. Through it all he never really loses his step, never lets go of his smarts, and always projects quintessential American reason, humor, and hope to make a story not only about drugs, but a compelling study of vulnerability and toughness....

Title : American Junkie
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 34740243
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

American Junkie Reviews

  • Leo Robertson
    2019-02-06 12:46

    Since this review is getting more attention (awesome!) here's my interview with the author!This is not so much a book as it is an ordeal, something we should bear witness to. It starts at rock bottom, 1999, and here come the graphic descriptions thick and fast. You better get used to them. Hansen has written this book in such a way that we live his experiences, and they are grim, grim, grim. I am way more acquainted with the rotting holes in his hips than I wanted—and to think, just days ago, I lived in a happy world where I didn't think such things existed!I read this faster than most books because I was so gripped, but it ended up taking me the same amount of time as any other because I had to take breaks. Now that's testament to the writing, which is incredible.As is the structure. The recovery of 1999 is interspersed with the history of Tom, from five years old upwards, such that it acts as a flashforward. At first it's jarring to think of a five-year-old future heroin addict, and harrowing still as the alienated kid grows up in these chapters, and the years get higher: 1967, 1968, 1969, 1973... It's a countdown. You know the book will end when the two timelines collide. You're in a car you know is going to crash; scream all you want, it's happening. It happened, but it's happening to us now as we read its account. It can happen again each and every time this book is picked up—and so, at the very least, that isn't wasted.Why did it happen? Hansen is particularly pained by his attempts to make sense of life, of its suffering. That's both an explanation for the addiction, and a reason why one doesn't exist. He offers none because there is no easy answer. He only asks you to bear witness. If you start this book, you'll be compelled to see it through. (And at least you probably have whisky as a solace afterwards!)This is an unmissable book, the best addict memoir I've ever read, one of the best memoirs and one of the best books I've ever read too.Now if you'll excuse me, I have to prepare to interview its author.

  • Lylah
    2019-02-13 14:42

    This is a compelling book. Descriptions of it can be a bit misleading. It's not a book about being a punk rocker (by the time much of the action is taking place, Hansen hasn't played music in a long time) and it's definitely not a book about being a dealer to grunge superstars (Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley make cameo appearances, but they are phantoms drifting through a haunted landscape, not real players in the story). It's also not yet another addiction memoir, a la "A Million Little Pieces," et al. Much of the narrative centers around Hansen's excruciating physical rehabilitation from very severe abcesses and bone infection, along with serious malnutrition and hepatitis. He has the good fortune to land in a great nursing/hospice facility (Bailey-Boushay House in Seattle) where health care workers help him quite literally resurrect himself. Having multiple loved ones who work in health care, as well as experience watching my grandfather recover from serious illness at a good facility, I believe this is an important story to tell. Hansen has said his motivation for writing the memoir was to give a voice to the nameless street-level junkie who dies unnoticed in a cheap motel room (in contrast to most addiction memoirs, which are written by celebrities or other people who, with their addiction as the exception, lead full and successful lives). When Hansen is discharged from Bailey-Boushay House there is no life to "get back to": no partner, no job or career, no social framework outside of hard drug users and dealers. I also think this is a very important story to tell in our society where homeless addicts or the mentally ill are nearly invisible, and most usually resented.Hansen appears to be more honest and forthright than the average contemporary memoir writer (for example, he includes pages from his medical records that document the seriousness of his condition upon arrival at the ER). Through flashbacks interspersed throughout the main narrative, we see his trajectory from kid who plays in a rock band, to hard drug user, to junkie and dealer, but psychological and emotional introspection are relatively sparse. This has positives and negatives. The big positive is that there's almost none of the hyperbolic navel-gazing the memoir genre is rife with. The negative is that Tom Hansen, human being, still seems to be something of an unknown quantity by story's end. This is perhaps a reflection of his state of mind during the time the memoir is taking place. As a junkie, Hansen seems to have a sense of being a non-entity (and this sense is probably also rooted in earlier issues the book touches on), of existing entirely outside the world of work, family, and society where most of us live. His prose conveys this sense, which in turn helps convey how he ends up very nearly wiping himself out of existence, but a reader who has never lived in the world Hansen inhabits here is left with a number of questions about the physical and emotional aspects of his use and dealing. I would also like to learn more about the person who finally dials 911 and doesn't hang up on that fateful day, and who endures an extremely painful recovery to go on and earn an MFA and become a published writer. I think that is also an important story to tell, and I hope maybe in the future there will be a book that tells it.

  • Patrick O'Neil
    2019-01-19 08:58

    There's nothing glamorous about American Junkie. It starts out an oozing abscess and it just gets darker and darker. Tom Hansen isn't trying to make the reader comfortable. He isn't trying to make people like him, or feel pity, or empathy, or tell a tale that folks will find inspiring. He's mainlining scorching black tar prose and the syringe is clogging and the fucking reader better be ready to help him tie-off while he finds a vein. Don't be squeamish, don't be judgmental, and don't flinch. Read the fucking book, and see where it takes you. You won’t be disappointed. The world is knee deep in recovery memoirs about drug addict rockers finding their higher power and staying clean. Go to any AA/NA meeting and you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting some yahoo that thinks they got a book in them – a book we've already read. American Junkie isn't that book. It takes a different, less understood, less popular route. Hell, I'm no stranger to abscesses, dead strippers, and hotel room floors fulla used rigs and I still got a twist in my stomach every now and then. One of those moments where you see it and remember and it's not pretty, but it's the truth. There's a reason some people grow up disenfranchised. There's a reason some people check out. There's a reason we're not all the same and this book's defining moments make that very clear. There are many ways to suffer, survive, and live. If we all took the same path it'd be crowded and boring and some malcontent hack wannabe James Frey would have tried to write this book and it would have been trite. Hansen's no wannabe and I thank him for his brutal honesty.

  • Alexandra Richland
    2019-01-22 11:55

    As a nurse who has never even taken a puff on a cigarette, let alone tried drugs, (I'm not bragging, just stating a fact) I found this memoir fascinating. It isn't a polished story, written by some scholarly ghostwriter, but an honest, tragic, blunt account of one man's downward spiral into heroin addiction. You can tell every word came from Tom himself. It was shocking to read how much damage his body sustained from the drug. I mean, I know it doesn't do the body good, but a lot of the things mentioned in this book were downright horrifying, far beyond what I have seen in my nursing practice or read in textbooks.To know that Tom sort of had this nonchalant attitude about it is sad, too. It was interesting to get into his mindset during this time and read his rationale for why he did what he did, including his views on society and his upbringing. He makes no excuses for his behavior nor does he displace blame on others. He fully owns up to his choices in life that got him to this point - and even goes as far as to say he doesn't deserve the second, third and fourth, etc, chances he was given. However, by the end it seems he doesn't take them for granted, either.The short section on Layne Staley from Alice in Chains was difficult to read, knowing how he suffered with a heroin addiction for over a decade, unable to pull himself out of it, even with help from his family, friends, and fans; how he became a recluse in the last five years of his life and how he died; how his body rotted in his apartment for two weeks before anyone found him. I imagine Layne going through the same things Tom Hansen did and wonder if he had the same accepting attitude of his demise or if he felt sad and lonely and desperately wanted help but was just too far gone - too physically and emotionally damaged - to know how to get it or think it could do him any good.Tom has given a face to this disease and to the countless men and women who, right now, are going through the same thing. As a nurse, I make an extra effort not to judge people and I don't give up on people just because they have given up on themselves. Still, I know that drug addicts often get a bad rap from healthcare professionals and society in general and are seen as deserving of the consequences of their behavior. It's tragic. We are all human beings and we are all dealt difficult cards in life. Some handle difficult stuff well, others don't. Heck, even people who seem to have it all aren't immune to mental health issues or making poor life choices. Whether it is genetic or circumstantial is a lifelong debate. Ultimately, we are all worthy and deserving of help, and reading about the caregivers in Tom's hospice in this book (Bailey-Boushay House in Seattle) and the effort they put into his recovery, even when he wasn't sure he wanted saving, is an inspiration to me and a great lesson in humanity for us all.This book offered an inside perspective on drug addiction, which I feel I can apply to my medical practice. Not that every addict's story is the same, but still, it gives me additional understanding, and for that, I am grateful to Mr. Hansen.I gave this book four and a half stars because I would have liked a bit more at the end, like what happened to Tom after he left the hospice. I don't need an account of the last thirteen years, but perhaps the year or two after he left, which I can imagine must have been very difficult for him. Sure, I could Google it, (I did find information on him being clean now and a writer) but I would've liked to hear about it from Tom himself. Perhaps if another edition is released, he will include an epilogue or something, just to give us an update. He was in such rough shape in this book that I am curious to know how he changed his life around so drastically.Bottom line: The book is worth the read and I enjoyed it immensely.

  • Stephen Tow
    2019-02-01 16:35

    Damn this site's a pain my ass. Okay, I got that out of the way.Tom Hansen sold heroin to Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley. But that's not why you should read this book. Read it for a brutally honest and unapologetic account of the life of an addict. Hansen tells the story from two perspectives...the present as he lay near death, and the past growing up, eventually merging the two threads. I would take off the judgment glasses before cracking this book, and read it on a rainy day. It will change your life. Well, not really, but it is a great read.

  • Joe
    2019-02-03 09:47

    In the wake of addiction memoirs by everyone from grizzled flat-lining rock and rollers to intellectually-overbearing college girls, lately the genre has felt tired and unoriginal. In fact, it is hard to find a reason to buy one more book about someone's struggle to find physical and spiritual redemption after a prolonged bout with a needle, pipe, or bottle. With "American Junkie," Tom Hansen breathes both life and hope into this genre with his compelling memoir "American Junkie."The book begins with two journeys that run parallel through the book, converging in the final pages. The journeys both belong to Hansen- one beginning in a seedy drug den, where paralysis, malnutrition, and giant gaping holes in his body mark the starting line; the other begins with Hansen's youth, growing up in rural Washington state with his hearty, well-intentioned, and caring parents. Though his narrative points out instances where these qualities are somewhat diminished by his parents' own challenges as hard-laboring immigrants, his relationship with them is ultimately satisfying, as he casts an eye of compassion and love on both of them.People are going to pick this book up because they see the word "Junkie" in the title and will likely expect a string of guns-and-money vignettes, with a deep look into the seedy underbelly of narcotics trafficking. These people will be surprised to read that Hansen's ascent from user to dealer is relatively non-violent, save for the punishing drug abuse he inflicts on his own body. However, his business model for dealing, his opinions of his product, his clients, and the inevitable entanglement with law enforcement makes for gripping reading. Hansen writes in a plain, fast-moving style that is nothing short of captivating. Whether or not you have ever done drugs or struggled with addiction, you cannot help but relate to the emotions that he describes so well, and absent the cliches that have turned other stories so stale.I had set aside a week to read this book at my leisure. I finished it in a day, entirely unable to set it down. Like the subject matter underlying Hansen's story, it is truly an addictive read.Hansen's path through childhood into dealing high grade heroin to famous (and now deceased) rock gods of the Seattle grunge scene is fascinating on its own, but there is considerable consideration of Hansen's physical rehabilitation- an aspect rarely covered on all the rehab shows that are so popular now on television. So devastated was he at the nadir of his addiction that he had lost both the ability to walk and the desire to provide the most minimal care for himself. His style is particularly appealing due to the almost complete absence of self-pity and uber-charged navel gazing that drives so many other biographies into meandering circles of uninteresting narrative. Hansen writes with complete acceptance of his choices and the consequences thereof, such that the stories unfold with a disarming candor.But far from emotionally disconnected, Hansen's journey back into the world of the living is cobbled together by a series of relationships that seem to find him, and that evolve without expectation or judgment. Indeed, Hansen often indicates surprise that certain people not only fail to let him down, but that these people become his support- the daily maintenance that he requires to find a way to live a life that replaces drug abuse with meaning.The book is well-told and though it flows quickly, the details are somehow vivid and Hansen shows a proficiency for describing an event and its meaning to him without obvious or heavy-handed language. You care about Hansen right from the get go, which is a tribute to both his writing style and his spirit. Easily the best book I've read in 2010.

  • Kristi
    2019-01-30 15:50

    Seriously one of the very best books on addiction I have ever read. This man tells it like it is. Even when he's telling his stories of a time when his addiction might have been considered to be the most "glamorous " while being a celebrity heroin dealer he treats it with the same nasty realism as he does in any part of the book. This book pulls no punches, tells no lies and shows drug/ heroin addiction in it's darkest reality. It's not sexy and it's unclean and it's desperate and rooted in deep problems. This is the book to read if you really want to know what a hardcore heroin addict's life really looks like. Brilliant. I can only wish mr Hansen the best but I think he would tell me not to expect much and that's just how truly honest this book is.

  • Antonia Crane
    2019-02-06 12:50

    "There are different shades of gray, the faint outline of a window, a door in the corner. A man on a hospital bed, covered with a blanket, unmoving." Hansen's prose is stark and vital when he's nearly dead, which in the first 150 pages of "American Junkie." The weight of his relentless denial, the madness of heroin addiction ring true in his tight curt sentences like "The midday sun drilled into my back." The scenes in the hospital were disturbing and grotesque, often accompanied by charming grafts and medical records, showing the absolute demise of a body wracked with addiction. Next to "Permanent Midnight," this is the best published junkie memoir I've read to date.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-01-31 11:41

    I thought this was a great read and I love Tom's honesty. I'm a facebook "friend" of his and he's grumpy and funny without trying to be and admits everything is hard we have to go through. No bullshit inspirational quotes. Honest about his fear, honest about what he did to his body and about what you can expect from heroin. Even mentioned my favorite person, Layne Staley. Great read.

  • Fievel
    2019-02-17 12:59

    This book is intense. It takes a lot to make me squirm, and American Junkie definitely made my skin crawl a bit, no pun intended. Reading about the severity of his infections, about parts of his body just melting away, about huge gaping wounds packed with paper towels, about fishing bone fragments out of his body during drug runs, about sneaking out of the hospital to score and then shoot up in his IV line, and finally about his ability to pull himself out of that 20 year haze and recover in ways that no one imagined possible was painful, a great reminder of how lucky most of us are, and of the power of the human body and mind.Say what you want about junkies and drug addicts, but reading this guy's story goes beyond that in my opinion. Yes there were times where I thought, "you're doing this to yourself", but ultimately I feel, one has to get beyond that at a certain point to appreciate his candor and honesty. The other great thing I enjoyed about American Junkie is that it takes place in Seattle. As I've lived in Seattle for about 6 years now, I relished the ability to visualize all the places he discusses in the book including several stories about time in my very own neighborhood. I liked having the context of my own knowledge of those places as well as learning other histories through his stories. I highly recommend this book if you have the empathy and the stomach for it.

  • Moira Russell
    2019-01-24 15:48

    There were over half-a-dozen original documents included in this book, a number of which seemed important to the plot, and yet they were all but unreadable (and resisted magnification) on the Kindle. sigh.

  • Julene
    2019-02-04 14:51

    This is not an easy book to read. I read the reissued edition that came out this year (2017). Tom Hansen lives in Seattle, and his book has been on my to read list, so after hearing him read from his reissued novel I picked up his memoir. At the reading in his pre-amble talk he spoke the difference between writing fiction and writing memoir, to paraphrase, in fiction you make the action keep happening, in a memoir you explain to make the how and why come through. In his memoir he gives a running account of the how and why, not that I came away from the book able to explain why he became a herion addict, but he did explain and it makes total sense. He wound up in the hospital with severe absess wounds where he shot up into the flesh of his buttocks. When visited by a doctor from psych he turns down treatment. Tom explains, "There was a bit of tension in the air now, he was irritated that I wouldn't submit, surrender. I'd hidden it well, the thing that the shrinks and counselors could never understand. I was esentially dead and I just wasn't sure I wanted to live. I'd tried to find happiness, some kind of purpose, some direction, but at some point my life had been taken over by a kind of inertia. It was why I'd chosen the path I had, because any path, even the wrong path, was better than no path. Any story is better than no story. It was better than the abyss. I had caught brief glimpses of life, experienced a few wonderful moments of love on that path. Befor that, there had only been nothingless."He is transferred to Bailey Boushay House, a place I used to work with as an HIV/AIDS case manager, so for me it was an intimate journey back to a skilled nursing home that I know well; where many clients died. He was there in 1999, after the AIDS meds improved and the facility expanded to accept people with other illnesses. He expected to be sent to a horrible state institution, and instead he is sent to a place that is like a luxury hotel, with kind considerate staff. He is surprised when he does not get a no smoking lecture, but a promise to help him get well enough to get outside his room so he can have a smoke.He encapsulates his life as a herion dealer in this quote, "I'd never been able to do anything for very long. But I had made this last, for seven years now, like I had finally found out who I was and what I was supposed to be doing in this life. I had found a level of existence where I could function and thrive. I had found stability in a world where there was none. I didn't feel smug, and I didn't run around flaunting my new wealth, it was simply that for the first time since working on my uncle's farm, I felt useful. I knew what I was doing. The ground was solid, not always shifting. I knew it was against the lawy. But the laws regarding drugs were inconsistent and arbirtrary. I had seen much more mayhem, pain and suffering come from booze, and if they were going to keep saying that drinking was just fine, even encourage it, I was going to make up my own rules. I also knew that I was destroying myself, and that it would probably end badly. But I was willing to pay that price. It was better than being nothing."Though out the book he questions why he survived. I'm glad he did, because he went on to get an MFA and write two books. This book gives an insider view to a herion addict & dealer, and to someone who was in the grunge scene in Seattle.

  • Inez Dias
    2019-02-01 13:58

    This is not the usual "junkie book". Tom Hansen did an extremely good job writing about addiction. There is much more than that to it. He is a writer. A good one.

  • Aaron Dietz
    2019-02-13 13:59

    American Junkie captures what it's like to face the void and it doesn't wimp out.Holes in the body so deep the bone is showing? It's just a fact of life, and the author, Tom Hansen, doesn't bother glorifying it. He doesn't need to dress up the details to make them captivating.You might think that it's a depressing book, but it's not. There is humor, insight, and life. Life in a book about someone that was barely alive? Yes!In Star Wars language, this book is about a world where there is no mysterious "Force" (yet Darth Vader is still around, and just as deadly). Luke is still the main character, and the book chronicles his journey toward facing Vader, without the Force. Or a lightsaber. Also, Luke doesn't whine all the time.

  • Laura
    2019-02-12 13:52

    Decent, if rather graphic, book about the life of a heroin addict. Tom Hansen isn't afraid to make himself look bad -- as in, really bad -- which gives this book an edge over all those dumb noble-addict-triumphs-over-addiction-and-becomes-a-better-person works we all seem to have read several dozen times.

  • Carrie Clevenger
    2019-01-19 08:59

    I've never done heroin or coke but this book was compelling and revealing to me as the horrors of Tom's decisions unfolded. The story starts out with Tom making a call that seems to change the course of his life. His past is filled out by simple and brief flashbacks, some including very recognizable names. None of it is glorified, just stated matter-of-fact. An honest and stark representation.

  • Ross Perchonok
    2019-01-30 10:58

    As a recovering punk rock heroin addict I was intrigued...I was also familiar with some of the music he's done too. Anyhow, I thought I'd had it pretty bad out there....Hey Tom never did a lengthy prison sentence like I did but his story is far far more brutal...just fucking brutal.

  • Katie Meek
    2019-01-26 14:38

    Stories like these always amaze me- how the human body can survive unthinkable self-inflicted abuses. I loved the book and appreciated every dirty detail as it shows the true story and not just the glossed over tragic stuff the movies portray.

  • Patti
    2019-02-10 16:03

    This book is raw; it's tone matching the content. It is a memoir that describes the realities of a heroin addict in Seattle. Not a vacation read.

  • Jess
    2019-01-26 14:40

    I've definitely read better memoirs, but the honesty and lack of ego is a major player in the wonderful aspects of this book.

  • Dj
    2019-02-17 16:35

    At times a deeply intense and disturbing journey into the world of addiction. Honost and blunt Tom Hansen has written a must-read for anyone who wants to know the true experience of addiction.

  • Kylene
    2019-02-10 14:43

    A very interesting look of a life from the prospective of a heroin addict in Seattle during and before the Grunge era. It definitely got me interesting looks on the bus when reading.

  • Danielle
    2019-01-19 12:00

    The most horrific book I've ever read.....yet, I couldn't put it down. An amazing story.

  • Todd Rollins
    2019-02-01 12:35

    One of the best memoirs of any genre, and definitely the best in the addiction category. This is one of those rare books where the only disappointment is the fact that that it's day two and you're already done! I am not saying it's short by any means, you just cannot put it down. Very very few people have been able to sustain an addiction that bad for that long. Fewer can even fathom that a human can take addiction to these lengths, and as far as I know, he is the only one to do so and live to write about it! It's a must read, one of the few books that could help a non-user understand a user's mind and how powerful the substance is over mind and will. By the time Mr. Hanson dialed 911, he had shot up so much for so long that he was basically down to a head, torso, and his reproductive organs. What was left of the rest of him was open wounds that he still used IV drugs in! It's like a horrible wreck, you will not be able to drag your eyes away until you have passed it!

  • Kërry
    2019-01-17 15:58

    This memoir was incredibly evocative for me. Tom Hansen describes a Seattle lost to gentrification, the deep sense of place that is the result of growing up in the pouring rain and the diffused light around Puget Sound. His description of heroin addiction is spot-on; I've read a lot of addiction memoirs and this is the first one that captures the progression in all its nonchalance and ugliness. Hansen traces the story of his life from restless, aimless pursuit of relief from the feeling of disconnection all the way to the prison of total dependence and inability to do anything else. It's an incredibly accurate depiction of a simultaneously mundane and horrifying phenomenon. His honesty about his thoughts and feelings, and those of the people around him, combined with his lack of self-pity make this a really compelling read.

  • Angela Sorby
    2019-01-26 13:38

    This book unfolds in the Seattle I remember: Danceland USA, the Monastery, the Showbox (and the Fartz!), B & O Espresso, Nelly Stallion. Hansen evokes our shared vanished world with elegant precision. That said, I do think the book romanticizes heroin even as it (or especially as it) details various gory drug stunts. Addicts--as William Burroughs famously understood--have a medical condition that makes them compulsive consumers; they are not anti-consumerist rebels.

  • Neko~chan
    2019-01-31 10:37

    I'm not completely certain how I feel about this book. I got it on a whim from a college bookstore and read it all in one glorious four-hour sitting, and I just... hmm. Definitely some pretty heavy stuff, offering a poignant perspective on drugs and life and love. Aside from the minor punctuation issues I think it was a solid read, but I just can't figure out whether or not I enjoyed it.

  • Jim Donovan
    2019-02-09 09:52

    A harrowing account of a junkie that went way past extreme with his addiction. Did an unreal amount of damage to his body. The medical sketches portraying the carnage on his body are disturbing. Amazing he is alive, shouldn't be. A page turner and one of the best I've ever read on addiction.

  • Diana
    2019-01-28 13:35

    I finished this book quite some time ago. It is a brutally honest book and quite graphic in parts, not for the faint of heart. Quite insightful.

  • Joshua Allison
    2019-01-29 12:48

    This is what should've been A Million Little Pieces. Needs to be on Oprah's book club.