Downtown Manhattan in the early 2000’s was a time when Indie Rock bands and a new breed of 20-something hipsters all converged in sweaty basement bars in the Lower East Side, drinking $1 beers until the sun came up. There was no Instagram and no digital cameras. No documentation aside from the fuzzy memories of after-parties.
Cat Marnell’s book, How to Murder Your Life explores the promise of the author as she lived this beguiling lifestyle while diving into the darkest side of addiction. A privileged childhood that takes her through private schools and leads her to an early discovery of Adderall (prescribed to her for A.D.H.D.). After making her way to NYC, she works to get her dream job as a beauty editor of glossy magazines while privately spiraling head first into the world of hard drugs.
It’s a story of addiction, not recovery. Meaning, the ending is not tied up with a pretty bow and a 12-step mantra. Marnell even admits that a relapse is entirely possible, stating, “Things could– and probably will– get bad again. Real talk!”
The book will, at times, leave you feeling frustrated for young Marnell, wanting to shake her and say, “You are enough!” Parts are painful to imagine, like when Marnell is on day three of a full on bender and becomes paranoid that there are rats climbing up both the walls in her apartment and the outside walls of her building. She becomes obsessed and irrational, eventually leaving her glamorous job while admitting, “Addiction had won.”
Marnell briefly hit peak online celebrity status while writing for both xoJane and Vice, blogging while high and penning posts with titles like “Coke Sex for Teen Sluts” and “Dawn of the Dustheads.” In a twisted way, she had achieved professional success as a writer, all while commodifying her own story of addiction and struggle.
Prescription drug use in our culture is more pervasive than ever. It’s hard to say, and impossible to be the judge, about whether Cat Marnell would have become an addict if her father had not prescribed those Adderall pills all those years ago. The lesson we can take away from How to Murder Your Life is that anyone can get catapulted into the darkness quickly if they don’t have enough loving support and tools in their life to pull themselves out. But, the question is, did Marnell even want to be saved from the very life she fetishized as a young woman? Read the book and decide for yourself!