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Publication Date

Spring 2016

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Comparative Literature


Cathleen Miller

Subject Areas

Creative writing


From A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, to Lit by Mary Karr, and Wild by Cheryl Strayed, the harrowing, but ultimately redemptive addiction and recovery memoir has become one of the most popular genres in present-day nonfiction. Entitled Fire Water Blues, my graduate thesis is a poignant and funny coming-of-age story, about my own painful, confused, hilariously delayed transition into adulthood and sobriety. The book is a collection of five autobiographical essays, which are presented in chronological order, giving the reader a candid look into five stages during the course of my life. While not intended to be a complete autobiography or memoir, the collected pieces are written and arranged to be read together, and together they have a distinct narrative arc. The overreaching theme of the book is a rejection of the commonly held belief that great wisdom is the natural and automatic outcome of addiction recovery. Fire Water Blues is a counterpoint to all of the self-congratulatory recovery memoirs by addicts turned self-help gurus and sages, who think that getting clean is a reason, in and of itself, to write a memoir. Fire Water Blues is a document of change and survival, and, hopefully, a statement of affirmation for all of the other survivors who feel as confused in sobriety as they were in addiction.