Amber Tozer is 39 years old. She is funny, profane and
drop-dead honest. A recovering alcoholic, Tozer walked
away from drinking eight years ago, and now she has
written a book about it.
picked up "Sober Stick Figure: A Memoir
"(Running Press, $24) because alcoholism has run in
my family, and because of recent news about the
prevalence of binge drinking among young people.
Stick Figure" might be the funniest book about
alcoholism I have ever read, thanks in part to Tozerís
hilarious self-drawn stick figures (for a taste of her
work, go to ambertozer.com). Her book is a worthy
companion to Sarah Hepolaís "Blackout:
Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget" and
Caroline Knappís "Drinking: A Love Story."
to a recent University of Washington study, both heavy
drinking and binge drinking are on the increase
nationally, in large part due to rising rates of
drinking among women. Nationwide, women showed a much
faster escalation in binge drinking than men, with rates
rising 17.5 percent between 2005 and 2012; menís binge
drinking increased 4.9 percent (Binge drinking is
defined as about five drinks for men and four for women
in two hours, according to The National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).
asked Tozer how she came to write her book, and how
quitting drinking in a booze-suffused culture works for
Youíre a comedian; until the book came out you used
your Twitter account (@AmberTozer) to tell your story.
How did that turn into a book?
I think Iím very lucky. I wrote a joke about needing a
job on Twitter and a literary agent responded and asked,
have you ever thought about writing a book? We started
brainstorming ó I said, when I write about sobriety, I
try to keep it funny. He said, could you illustrate it?
I said I could barely draw a stick figure. He said, yes,
you could draw stick figures!
Despite drinking a lot for a long time, you managed to
remember quite a bit of your drinking years. How did
Iíve kept journals most of my life, but the stories I
included in the book were very emotional points in my
life. There were a million things I donít remember. I
did remember the ones that really made me think.
Binge drinking has been around for a long time;
certainly when I was your age. What makes it different
for todayís young women?
I think itís so socially acceptable. Everyone is a
little bit more open-minded and less judgmental. Fifty
years ago, if you were a drunk girl, it would have been
shameful, now, itís, Ďwho cares?í The world isnít
as strict, parents arenít as strict, in a good way,
things are more loose and open. I think thatís great,
but for people who canít help it or donít understand
alcoholism, itíll end up pretty bad.
I was struck with how pivotal alcohol was to your social
Drinking is a lot of fun for a lot of people. Social
drinking is a great thing and brings people together,
but the percentage of people who are alcoholics, nobody
is talking about that. Itís not an open discussion Ö
a lot of quiet shame happening.
Hereís a quote from your book: "When I was sober,
I was sort of serious and cranky. I knew that if I just
had a few drinks in me, Iíd be more likable, or more
importantly Iíd FEEL more likable." Whatís the
connection between heavy drinking and social anxiety?
I think most alcoholics are uncomfortable and have a lot
of negative obsessive thoughts, so drinking calms you
down. The horrible part is that once you are addicted to
the booze, for me, I couldnít even walk into a place
without having a couple of drinks. Youíre so
self-obsessed Ö I think thereís definitely a
connection there. But I also know people who have social
anxiety that are not alcoholic.
What is the essential difference between a person who
can stop after one drink and one who canít?
The difference is alcoholism. Alcoholics have the
phenomenon of craving. Once one drink enters your body,
it takes over. Itís off to the races.
non-alcoholics, I donít know what it feels like. Iím
obsessed with non-alcoholics, I wonder: What do you feel
after two drinks? They say they get tired, or dizzy, or
they hate the way they feel the next day. But they have
I think some people expect that everything will change
when they stop drinking. How did that work for you?
A lot of bad things go away immediately. Bad choices
when youíre drinking, feeling hung over.
for me, the root was warped perception and negative
thinking. That was still there. The booze actually
helped me with that until it turned on me.
very difficult to know that you still feel that way when
you stop drinking. You are feeling looked at, or judged,
or not good enough, or not nice enough. Or just having
this belief that I was a bad person. Obsessing over
simple things. Why arenít they responding to my email,
did I do something wrong, do they hate me?
One of the saddest parts of your story was that you lost
a lot of your friends who still drink. Or as you say in
the book: "Good luck with not drinking! Want to go
to a party with us where all we do is drink?"
That was the most painful part of getting sober. They
werenít upset with me, but it was a mix of wanting to
protect me, and them drinking a lot without my judging
them. It was hard to stop hanging with those friends so
much. Some of my friends, all I did was drink with them.
They quickly went away. Other friends, that I did other
stuff with, they stayed friends.