Julie Evans’ Joy Road: My Journey from Addiction to Recovery is an entry in the growing library of memoirs covering an individual’s path through the hell of substance abuse and out again, but limiting the text to such a narrow slot is a disservice. More than anything else, Joy Road is a book about self-discovery and coming to terms with one’s self. We could excise any mention of mind-altering substances from the author’s life and still be left with a gripping account of what it means to survive the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Evans did not find peace in easy answers or on some Tibetan mountaintop; gurus and spiritual experiences are part of her story but, ultimately, I believe Evans discovered inner peace by, at last, coming to terms with herself, her past, and discovering the true freedom that forgiveness and selflessness provide.
Make no mistake, however – drugs do play an enormous role in this book. Evans deals in forthright language with her childhood and the pain losing both parents early in life dealt her, but her story first digs in and gains traction in the early 1970’s, the twilight of Vietnam, post Altamont when the promise of the hippie generation openly crumbled unraveled from LSD and marijuana powered expansion of consciousness into narcotics, violence, and wrecked lives.
The contrast of the idyllic and base could not be more stark; she flees a IV drug using boyfriend for the seemingly bucolic hippie utopia of the Florida Keys only to have it ends in murder and dissolution, jettisons her life there hoping to find something in New Orleans, a Big Easy far removed from the phantasmagorical acid trips of Easy Rider, returns back to Minnesota in an attempt to regain her bearings, and so on. She packs more life experience into a decade than many pack into five and shares it with readers through lean prose that eschews sideshows or self-indulgent reveries.
Her experiences turn grim with the introduction of cocaine into her life. It is that time in American history; the white powder that began flooding into American life during the 1970’s turned into a virtual tsunami of snow with the dawning of the 1980’s and, like many others, Evans lost herself for a time in the same blizzard. Her emergence from those years can be ascribed to many factors; Evans never hesitates to credit the care and she experienced from many along the way but the narrative, intentionally or not, makes clear that her inner resolve to persevere is what pulled her through above all else.
JULIE EVANS: www.wordsbyjulieevans.com/
There is a life force within her glowing through the book’s passages that’s impossible to deny or ignore. This is a book that many will find valuable and inspiring; you don’t need to be an addict or a recovering addict to glean something from these pages. Julie Evans’ Joy Road: My Journey from Addiction to Recovery is an exquisite work testifying to the enduring power of what it means to be human and only the hardest of hearts will fail to be moved by her experiences.