Elissa Washuta Interview With Points: Blog on Her Struggles With Substance Abuse and Bipolar Disorder

Points: The Blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society has an interview up with Cowlitz tribal member Elissa Washuta, a faculty member in the Institute of American Indian Arts MFA program in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the author of two works of non-fiction, My Body is a Book of Rules and Starvation Mode: A Memoir of Food Consumption and Control. Washuta is also a humorous and idiosyncratic presence on Twitter.

This interview showcases a bit of her history with substance abuse, bipolar disorder, and sexual abuse and offers glimpses into how she uses writing to help her process these struggles. An excerpt of the interview is below:

What do you personally find most interesting about how drugs work in your writing, and where do you see that interest leading you in future projects?

I’m interested in creating narrative situations in which my narrator-self confronts problems, tries to find solutions, and in doing so makes the problems worse. Using alcohol and medications as solutions to psychic pain always resulted in a worsening of the problems—my moods suffered and my body began to break. Some of my ancestors who worked in the mines used alcohol to cope with conditions that seem to me to be too horrific to endure. I began drinking after running out of other ways to cope with the memory of sexual trauma. Sometimes, self-destruction using intoxicating substances seems to be the only way to alleviate pain. That can be an interesting problem for a character to work through.