"NEW YORK TIMES "BESTSELLER
A renowned authority on the secret world of opium recounts his descent into ruinous obsession with one of the world's oldest and most seductive drugs, in this harrowing memoir of addiction and recovery.
A natural-born collector with a nose for exotic adventure, San Diego-born Steven Martin followed his bliss to Southeast Asia, where he found work as a freelance journalist. While researching an article about the vanishing culture of opium smoking, he was inspired to begin collecting rare nineteenth-century opium-smoking equipment. Over time, he amassed a valuable assortment of exquisite pipes, antique lamps, and other opium-related accessories--and began putting it all to use by smoking an extremely potent form of the drug called "chandu." But what started out as recreational use grew into a thirty-pipe-a-day habit that consumed Martin's every waking hour, left him incapable of work, and exacted a frightful physical and financial toll. In passages that will send a chill up the spine of anyone who has ever lived in the shadow of substance abuse, Martin chronicles his efforts to control and then conquer his addiction--from quitting cold turkey to taking "the cure" at a Buddhist monastery in the Thai countryside.
At once a powerful personal story and a fascinating historical survey, "Opium Fiend" brims with anecdotes and lore surrounding the drug that some have called the methamphetamine of the nineteenth-century. It recalls the heyday of opium smoking in the United States and Europe and takes us inside the befogged opium dens of China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. The drug's beguiling effects are described in vivid detail--as are the excruciating pains of withdrawal--and there are intoxicating tales of pipes shared with an eclectic collection of opium aficionados, from Dutch dilettantes to hard-core addicts to world-weary foreign correspondents.
A compelling tale of one man's transformation from respected scholar to hapless drug slave, "Opium Fiend" puts us under opium's spell alongside its protagonist, allowing contemporary readers to experience anew the insidious allure of a diabolical vice that the world has all but forgotten.
About the Author
Steve Martin served with three Christian ministries from 1987-2010, all having a national and international outreach focus. During that time he made 14 ministry trips to Israel, China, India, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom. On his overseas journeys Steve enjoyed sharing written journal entries with family and friends back home, through Internet media. His light-hearted stories gave an up close and personal touch for those reading along. Many could imagine being there themselves. His extensive collection of photos taken during these trips, of both local scenery and common people on the streets, has touched thousands through their varied images. In 2010, Steve and Laurie began "Love For His People, Inc," a 501(c)3 non-profit humanitarian aid ministry. This work touches the natural and spiritual lives of those around them with needed encouragement and strength. His regular "Ahava Love Letter/Now Think On This," posted both on the Love For His People Blog and Facebook, feature his love letters of spiritual enrichment, plus selected photos and commentary from abroad. Since 1994, Steve and his good wife Laurie have lived in the Charlotte, NC area, after having homes in Illinois, Michigan and Florida. Now married for more than 36 years, they enjoy their four adult children and spouses, along with six additional grandchildren. While continuing to serve organizations with his accounting skills, he enjoys writing and growing the ministry of Love For His People, Inc.
Advance praise for Opium Fiend
“Steven Martin’s fascinating memoir runs so much deeper than the standard literature about drugs. Whereas most writers never move beyond obsessive descriptions of physical effects, Martin’s true interests are cultural and intellectual: He connects the urge of the drug addict with the compulsion of the art collector. By the end of this book you’ll have a new sympathy for both kinds of fiend.”—Peter Hessler, author of River Town and Country Driving
“Steven Martin writes with a wit and style every bit as intoxicating as his subject. Entwining endlessly fascinating exotic detail with soul-searing personal revelation, this remarkable author has produced a driving, powerful autobiography unlike any of the countless narco-memoirs cluttering the shelves today. One warning to potential readers: Opium Fiend is the kind of book that makes the rest of the world disappear. It draws you in from the very first page, until you stagger out, blinking at the sun, not sure you ever wanted it to end. Dim the lights, lock the doors, and prepare to be addicted. The kick’s a bitch, but the high is like nothing else in the world.”—Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight
“Opium Fiend is the most engaging memoir of the year. What begins as Steven Martin's search into the lost history of opium—whose trade was once as consequential to empires as oil is today—becomes a harrowing exploration of the liberating, enlightening, and enslaving ecstasies of a forbidden pipe. It’s a tale not so much of addiction but of self-immolating obsession. While crafting a spellbinding literary read, Martin never loses focus on his original aim. Opium Fiend stands as a fascinating, never-before-told social history of the poppy blossom’s central place in the rise and fall of nations. As addictive as its subject matter, Opium Fiend should come with a warning that it may lead to lost nights and weekends of intensely pleasurable reading.”—Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill and Hella Nation
“This is a beautiful book. Opium Fiend is clear and honest. I don’t know that I have ever been invested in anything with the intellectual and emotional intensity that Martin has for his subject, and there is great romance and literary truth in how the object of his desire is also his undoing.”—Karl Taro Greenfeld, author of Speed Tribes, Boy Alone, and Triburbia