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Book Review: Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption Book Review: Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption
September 13, 2010

Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption
Penguin: 2006
By William Cope Moyers

When William Cope Moyers spoke at his own confirmation in 1975, he could not have known how true his own words would be for him. He said from the pulpit, “I discovered this year that God is the One who can repair a torn life. God loves and forgives everyone, no matter what they have done.” Almost 20 years later, Moyers’ family finds him on the floor of an Atlanta crack house. In Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption, Moyers gives us a gripping, honest account of his struggle with addiction in which his faith plays a key role in his difficulties and recovery.

Moyers has four relapses, and each time, his mother, father, or wife track him down in a crack house and take him to rehab once more. From the book’s beginning, you know that it will be a long fight to recovery, yet each relapse is as heartbreaking as the last. Throughout his descriptions of rehab programs and AA meetings, redemption becomes a keynote for Moyers. His family keeps helping him despite his own resistance to their aid. Finally, Moyers, who has worked for most of his life as a journalist, achieves a stable life, finding work with the esteemed Hazelden Foundation, a recovery organization.

Moyers’ account offers a window into the pain and difficulties of someone in recovery. In this way, his book offers insights and solace for people struggling with addiction or people who with loved ones in recovery. Moyers makes the recovery experience more understandable and relatable. One of the most effective aspects of the book is Moyers desire for control and how this desire led him deeper into his addiction. He details how his faith played into this. “My faith had become automatic, even mindless, and all too often I’d put words in God’s mouth to justify whatever it was that I wanted to do next.” Moyers writes that his lack of patience and trust were two of his biggest blocks. He wanted things to happen on his time. He effectively shows how his faith and the culture of AA came together to help him in his recovery.

Moyers also includes personal letters from his parents, who were television figures throughout his life. In one, his mother tells how she sometimes neglected her spiritual life, and implores her son to “feed [his] spiritual self.” Moyers then recounts how he finds this letter years later when he was trying “to understand how a life that was so broken apart could be made whole again.” Moyers weaves this theme of brokenness into each part of his narrative. From these intimate letters from his mother to the depths of his despair in driving high down the Long Island Expressway, he points us toward a hopeful end to his struggles.

Yet we know that it doesn’t end as well for all people in recovery. Moyers closes the book with a haunting chapter titled “E-mailing the Dead.” It serves as a kind of All Saints’ Day in which Moyers enumerates each person he’s known who died of recovery. As his e-mails to his dead friends bounce back to him, the full extent of the loss and pain becomes clear. This disease can kill you, yet you must keep on the path toward recovery.

John Shorb is the Editor of

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