I softly cried my way through Chapter 25: “Thirty Days in Tuscon.” Maybe I cried because my youngest brother worked through a hidden bottle of Vodka each morning. Maybe I cried because we never knew. Barry’s parents never knew that, as Barry himself puts it, he was “a suicidal alcoholic bent on destruction.” In “Thirty days in Tucson,” at the age of 28, Barry has what seems like a last gasp chance at life: 1) get the drugs and booze out of the system, 2) tell the truth about everything you have taken and done in the past. A lot of bad memories to bring into the light. Shame, disbelief, as well. That, of course, is what Barry’s book does beautifully. It tells the truth of a most harrowing journey through life.
By his late teens, Barry Buss seemed to have the results and physical skills to have a successful career as a professional tennis player. But as drugs and alcohol took hold of his life, those around him began to wonder: Which Barry Buss would they be getting? The one who would win 22 straight matches as a college freshman at UCLA (tying Jimmy Connors’ record), or the one who was addicted to drugs and alcohol, the one who lacked discipline, the one who might quit on you, the one who suddenly might not be there when you needed him most. That’s the central question of the first half of this book: Which Barry Buss will emerge from all this chaos?
While still young, Barry was a lover of life: its music, its words, its people, its laughter. Problem was everything seemed better when high, and he partied harder than anyone else. Partying hard was both a celebration of life and an escape from the numbness and emptiness and lack of support he felt from home. The saddest part of “Thirty Days in Tucson,” for example, is when Family Day comes and Barry is the only one who does not have any family members attend. He has to speak to an empty chair.
What follows “Thirty days in Tucson” is 5 years of sobriety: a slowly growing confidence and its attendant joys. What follows that is a relapse, small and subtle at first, but you can almost guess the direction this is going. What you cannot guess is how far and how often Barry Buss will fall and fall and fall and fall. At 37 years old, Barry has an epiphany of sorts: he is diagnosed for the first time with bipolar disorder. As Barry contemplates his past and its possible signs of bipolar disorder, he begins to weep: “So there was a force driving all my inexplicably dangerous behavior all these years. I was sick and had been self-medicating all these years.” His descent into darkness, however, is far from over. As Patrick McEnroe states in the foreword: Barry Buss “made it out alive, but barely.”
Many of us now know, or should know, that there are countless teenagers like Barry Buss out there who might be helped through increased understanding and support. Understanding the challenges of mental illness and/or alcoholism and drug addiction comes from reading books like this one. Humanizing and normalizing and reducing the stigma of mental illness and addictive behaviors comes from reading books like this one. Writing a book like this one in clear and honest prose is the gift Barry Buss has bestowed on us.
About the Author: Barry Buss lives in Franklin, TN with his wife and two pugs. His compelling story, You Can Get There From Here, is available on Amazon and elsewhere. If you wish to contact him about speaking engagements or writing projects, he can be reached at at Barrybuss1964@yahoo.com.
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