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Using Humor and Tragedy When Writing about Addicts

At its best, addict lit satiates our quintessential human yearning for stories that may lead to salvation. We want warm fuzzies. We want sweet, sweet, redemption.

We started each morning of residential treatment with burned muffins, a house meeting, and introductions.

“My name is Tom and I’m a junkie here on vacation. My goal today is to lay in the sun and sample the delicious food in this all-inclusive resort.”

Tom’s sarcasm made orange juice squirt out of my nose. Humor was an elixir for the boredom of early sobriety and monotony of the rehab center’s strict daily schedule.

Our addiction counselor corrected Tom: “You need to take this more seriously. I need you to redo that and tell us your real goal for today.”

The story that society tells about addiction is one of tragedy. When we talk about addicts, we talk about pain, drama, and heartbreak. Of course, addiction is all of these things, but it’s also a rich, multi-faceted story with humor and joy. When we let addiction define the entirety of a human being’s existence, we flatten people to one-dimensional caricatures.

The story that society tells about my favorite tragic hero Kurt Cobain is a prime example; his sense of humor gets buried beneath his pain. The media glosses over parts of his personality, like how he wore pajamas on his wedding day and a puffy-sleeved, yellow dress to a heavy metal show on MTV. “The show is called Head Banger’s Ball, so I thought I’d wear a gown,” Cobain deadpanned. “But nobody got me a corsage.”

Two weeks after Nirvana released Nevermind, they pranked the famous British show Top of the Pops. Wearing sunglasses and a smirk, Cobain infuriated producers and the audience when he dramatically sang “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” in a mopey style that evoked Morrissey from The Smiths.

If you want to write about addiction, remember that two seemingly contradictory things can be true at the same time. Addicts can be both funny and tragic…

Find out how you can mix both humor and tragedy when writing about addiction in the original article So You Want to Write About Addicts at The Fix.

Using Humor and Tragedy When Writing about Addicts

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APA Reference
Guest Author, P. (2018). Using Humor and Tragedy When Writing about Addicts. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 28 Jun 2018 (Originally: 1 Jul 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 28 Jun 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.