High Times & Rough Rides of a Bipolar Addict
by Kerry L. Barger

"Below are my five recommendations to avoid going insane (like I did) and to avoid insuring that you become some kind of worthless, pathetic, immoral, blubbering idiot in the future."

The cover shows an adorable pre-school cowboy clutching matching six-shooters and grinning at the camera. The Roy Rogers image belies the misery on the pages that follow. What started as a private, therapeutic journal steamrolled into an honest account of a life derailed by grief, drugs, and addictive relationships.

Barger does not apologize, make excuses or ask forgiveness for the way he lived his life. He merely tells it, exposing warts, pimples and pus. He chose to take drugs, have affairs and break the law. If this were a novel, he would not be a sympathetic main character. And he'd be the first to agree, describing himself as "moral scum," and his need for love "pathetic."

Even so, Barger's unapologetic denigration of self renders him vulnerable and strangely likeable. After all, he didn't choose his broken, alcoholic family; he didn't choose institutionalization and ten electro-convulsive therapy (shock) treatments at age seventeen; he didn't choose genetic mental illness and a deep, gnawing emptiness inside. But he did choose to devote his life to working with the handicapped in state mental facilities in Texas and to write this book.

Barger's factual style, callous accounts of womanizing and angry outbursts are sometimes uncomfortable to read. A drifting narrative ignores potentially insightful inroads. And the final nine pages, explaining the purpose of the book, should have come first, although we have learned that it is indeed being reorganized for production. The book is a brave chronicle of how not to live and admonishes readers to follow their bliss, go for their dreams, and never give up.

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