Bookshelf: Sober Stick Figure

Sober Stick Figure By Amber Tozer

Published by Blink Publishing
ISBN: 9781910536636 £9.98
Review by Mark Reid.

Amber Tozer’s stick figures brilliantly follow the recovery idea of ‘keep it simple’. In just a few strokes of her pencil, the childlike pictures are a great way to show addiction for what it is – destructive: drink too much of this and you’ll end up on the deck. It helps that Amber’s commentary alongside her storyboards is by turns hilarious and caustic.

Many drunks do ‘geographicals’, jumping from one place to another trying to find themselves or, more often, to leave themselves behind and shake off the drink. Amber’s geographical takes us on a tour of the USA. It starts in her ‘hometown of Pueblo, a midsize lower-middle-class city in the foothills of Colorado’. Her mother runs the Do Drop Inn where ‘men on stools with their elbows on the bar drink one after another’. Amber always loved the attention they gave her. She then takes her drinking to New York and Los Angeles – a coast-to-coast all-inclusive of high jinks and horror stories.

Amber is spot-on describing untreated alcoholics – low self-esteem but big ego: ‘compliments made me nervous and when I did accept a compliment, I’d let it go to my head. I’d fluctuate between feeling worthless or like I was better than anyone else – nothing in between’.

Then, getting drunk, all that mental discomfort disappears and Amber enjoyed ‘laughing at something I would normally be worried about’. Amber ‘loved the manufactured feeling alcohol gave with bad ideas that I thought were 100 per cent great’.

It is a relief when Amber finally chooses recovery. Stopping is one thing. Staying stopped another. ‘I was still stuck with the reason I drank in the first place. I drank because I had obsessive negative thinking, and without alcohol I still have negative thoughts’.

Like fearing the worst. Sober Amber was dog-sitting ‘a tiny, white, fluffy Bichon poodle named Latte’. A coyote made off with him, ‘dangling from its mouth’. In shock, Amber had two thoughts: ‘a coyote turned Latte into lunch’ and ‘I get to drink over this’. Then suddenly the poodle bounds back into the garden ‘tongue poking through his huge smile’. Amber’s ‘excuse’ to drink is gone. The stick figure drawing for this is my favourite. ‘I kicked that coyote’s ass’ says Latte. Somehow he escaped. So has Amber.

Mark Reid is peer worker at Path To Recovery (P2R), Bedfordshire