Author Joe Clifford visited his alma mater, Berlin High School, on Oct. 19 to speak to students about his writing and life’s journey.
The author of Junkie Love, a book about his heroin addiction and recovery, Clifford spoke to students mainly about his battle with drugs and how he overcame them.
“I know what’s going on in town, with the struggles with pills and such … I’m not a particularly good guy, but if I can do something to make the world a less horrible place then I’ll try to do it,” Clifford said.
After graduating from BHS, Clifford attended Central Connecticut State University for a spell before dropping out and moving to San Francisco with dreams of becoming a rock star.
This is when his drug problems began.
“I didn’t even drink until I was 21,” he said. “My grandmother was an alcoholic and I was terrified of the stuff … In a way that may have been worse because I went from 0 to 60 so quick.”
Clifford is candid in his writing, and was so during his talk at BHS.
“I want to tell people what drugs are actually like. Pop culture and movies don’t do justice to what drugs are like,” he said. “It’s insidious, it creeps up on you and in the beginning people just do it because it makes them feel better. But then it doesn’t go away.”
During a Q&A session, Clifford was asked by a student when he knew he wanted to quit drugs.
The writer recalled being ready to commit suicide when he realized death wasn’t the answer.
“I’m on this tall building looking down, and as I’m looking down, I realize every problem in my life is because of drugs,” he said.
“My deal with drugs was simple; I’m going to stop doing heroin … It’s not my place to judge or say who can do what. I can’t use drugs because I can’t stop after one. But I have no judgment.”
After overcoming his addiction in 2001, Clifford returned to college and earned a degree.
His first book,Choice Cuts, was released in 2012.
Clifford returns to town every once in a while, doing book tours for new releases at Berlin Peck-Memorial Library.
“Every time I do a book tour, I always come back to Berlin,” he said. “It’s always the highlight of any tour, selfishly because so many people come out to see me.”
Clifford’s next book is set to be released in December.
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