Clancy Martin is a philosopher, an author, a recovering alcoholic, and the survivor of more than ten suicide attempts. His new book, How Not to Kill Yourself, is a chronicle of his suicidal mind, and—of particular interest to us here—an investigation of the ways his suicidal thinking functioned like an addiction. We dive into all that and much more in this week’s episode of Flourishing After Addiction.
One of Clancy's central arguments is: "thinking about killing oneself and addictive thinking have a lot more in common than is normally recognized." There is a clear connection to his experience with alcoholism, and beyond that, he describes how he was addicted to a certain idea of himself and his life, including the ways he used luxury, consumption, and sex in similar ways. He argues that addiction is far more insidious and pervasive than usually believed. Also, while Clancy identifies as an alcoholic, he challenges the on/off or binary way of looking at addiction.
During his recovery, Clancy turned to Buddhism and took a leap of faith in an existential sense. He explains how Buddhist practice is the centerpiece of his recovery and compares it to his experience with 12-step recovery, and he discusses the contribution of existentialist philosophy in his recovery.
Speaking more broadly in the philosophical sense, Clancy is interested in the role of practical ethics in recovery. We discuss his changing perspectives on family life, work, and interconnectedness, including lessons from Bertrand Russell on how to be “free and happy,” as well as considerations about ego and self-centeredness. In the end, there’s even a little time to talk a little bit about craft and writing.
Clancy Martin is a philosopher, an author, a recovering alcoholic, and the survivor of more than ten suicide attempts. He is professor of philosophy at the University of Missouri in Kansas City and Ashoka University in New Delhi. His previous books include the novel How to Sell and many books on philosophy, and his writing has appeared in The New Yorker, New York, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, Esquire, The New Republic, Lapham’s Quarterly, The Believer, and The Paris Review.
In this episode:
- LitHub excerpt of Clancy's new book
- The Drunks' Club, Harper's Magazine
- Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Shunryu Suzuki
- Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche
- Ethan Canin, of the Iowa Writers' Workshop
- Bertrand Russell on How to be Free and Happy (a book; here is a fun gloss)
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