In the rollicking, often hilarious, sometimes parodic, yet always searingly straightforward This Is How: Help for the Self: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude and More for the Young and Old Alike., Augusten Burroughs offers smart, sassy, and forthright advice about getting to the bottom of your problems and living a fuller life.
How did this book come about? Why did you decide to write this book now?
I’ve wanted to write this book for about five years. I feel like this is something I’ve always been good at; people’s problems seem quite fixable to me, and I’m good at helping people to cut through excuses and getting them to look at the real issues they’re having. Look, I had no adults in my life helping me to figure out how to get through the problems I faced, so I had to figure out how to deal with challenges myself. The book comes out of my own experiences of trying to figure out how to get to the truth of a problem and to take care of it.
Have there been times when you’ve failed to follow your own advice?
I fail all the time. We all do. Listen, all things happen to you, and you can’t blame your alcoholism, your inability to love, your addictions on your upbringing or your environment. What you have to do is to triage your problems and fix what you can and not waste your time blaming others or looking to the past and living in the past. We’re durable, and facing up to our problems helps us understand how complex we are and how simple solutions won’t suit that complexity.
You talk a great deal about telling the truth. What do you mean by that?
Most people haven’t accepted the truth about their condition—whether it’s obesity, alcoholism, or addiction. Inaccuracy about your condition has existed since you were born because your parents and your family want you to believe one thing about yourself, whether it’s the truth or not. If you’re a fat kid, your family might tell you you’re fat because it’s a family medical condition; so you accept that explanation, keep eating cheeseburgers, and grow more obese. Later in life when you have a hard time breathing as you’re climbing the stairs, you realize that you’ve had it in your power all along to change your behavior. You recognize then that there’s a deeper truth to the lie you’ve been told all your life, and you try to fix it.
What do you hope people will learn from your book?
I hope people will move forward and not focus on the past. I hope everybody will realize that they’re the authors of their own lives, and I want them to take responsibility for their own lives by showing them how to fix stuff in their own lives without wasting their time. Love the book or hate the book—if you’ve got a problem this book will fix it.