Understanding the Identity formation of addiction via Lacan

Extensive research of the lectures of Jacques Lacan has assisted my writing in the discipline of literary criticism in the fragmented representation of addiction in contemporary literature.

Thus far, the most poignant connections between addiction-based lifestyles and Lacan’s psychoanalysis is the idea of identity reformation and recognition coagulating via the unconscious nature that is substance-dependence. A “New Mirror” stage so-to-speak is constructed by the individual’s identity superimposed by the unconscious language of their need for habitual substance abuse.

The “New Mirror” stage (or possibly ‘latent’) allows readers to explore addiction lifestyles as an experience or entity that forces both the addict and the addict’s caregivers to go through identity transformations dictated by the unconscious nature of their relationship.

What is still in need of thorough exploration is how the addict fits into Lacan’s idea of the symbolic order. And how does this relationship to language influence the addict’s desire for wholeness and completion via the impossibility of closure or “recovery.” Scott Heim’s novel We Disappear mobilizes Lacan’s structure of psychoanalysis with the narrator’s relationship to substance abuse and his mother.


Author Scott Heim has written in response to all the questions I asked him and his answers are more than compelling. I am still figuring ways in which to navigate his responses in relation to my research considering I write within the discourse of “death of the author” in which an author releases a text to a public consciousness and therefore is no longer considered whole with the text.

It is even more pressing to figure out how to consider Scott Heim’s responses when he has admitted to me that this novel is infused with autobiographic experience – the addiction.

Blog #2: Developing Thesis and Interview with author Scott Heim.

The past month has been dedicated to constructing a thesis that examines the culture and conventional vocabulary produced by addiction life styles. Close-reading the text We Disappear has transformed my understanding of addiction as a disability. Professor Hsu and I have exercised questions that have probed the relationship between addiction and a normative lifestyle. Ultimately, my thesis is meant to create theory rather than limit readership’s understanding and relationship with addiction. My theory is to destabilize the normative and “able-bodiness” of the caregiver relationships that concern addiction. Care becomes overwhelmingly subjective after close-reading the novel We Disappear. Each character performs the relationship of care giving for Scott, the methadone addict. Care giving becomes complicated once we apply psychoanalysis to addiction-afflicted relationships because each member is relating to their own symbolic death so to speak.

Professor Hsu and I have established three trajectories to understand the care giver and the addict’s proximity to death:

a)Caregiver ——–> Addict

The care giver maintains the addict’s basic functionality and attempts providing them help to enter a sober lifestyle and a life in recovery. The addict is closer to death than the caregiver. The addict is biologically closer to death and the addict is preserving the addict’s quality of life in hopes they can help the addict change their lifestyle and enter recovery.

b) Caregiver ———-> Addict

The caregiver maintains the addict’s basic functionality in light of helping the addict perform functionality. However, in this trajectory the caregiver registers the addict as their own symbolic death and fully invests themselves in preserving their relationship to their distance to death as an “able-bodied” person. This trajectory registers the caregiver’s susceptibility to their own impairment and disability.

c) Caregiver ———–> Addict

The caregiver is assisting the addict’s lethal practices of consuming substances. In this trajectory the caregiver is the source of substance or “dealing.” The care that is provided for the addict is helping the addict maintain their quality of life that makes the proximity to death smaller and smaller. Care becomes ill defined and disabled. Culturally drug dealers depend on the addict to depend on the economic and habitual care they provide that only leads to greater forms of personal destruction.

Thesis: Addiction is a disability that impairs and disables the able-bodied screen that is culturally produced around the notion of care giving. Scott Heim’s We Disappear posits the impossibility of the able body with that of childhood innocence that is undermined by the essential need to be cared for. Care giving is organic to the disabled experience of preserving the life of the addict who is closest to death in care giving relationships. 

I reached out to the author of the novel, Scott Heim, to see if he would be open to answering some questions about disability theory and addiction and he is more than excited to help contribute to my research. This also serves as one of the first academic writings performed for his third and latest novel.

The complicated relationship in reading addiction, a challenging framework. Blog post 1

“Using Resentment: Representations of the Caregiver in the Time of Addiction in Scott Heim’s We Disappear” engages an emerging topic in the field of literary disability studies, the role of the caregiver, from the new angle of drug addiction. This project is meant to extend questions that complicate readership’s interpretation of literature infused with addiction. Most importantly, this research will exercise rhetoric that explores the difference and affect of readership intimately likened to addiction and readership dislocated from a more comprehensive understanding. Scott Heim’s latest novel pits addiction as a focal point that demonstrates a life lived with addiction and the performance of recovery and the struggle for survival within a quality of life where death is an organic consequence.

Research methodology will focus heavily on a close examination of the central text, We Disappear, and will be supported with literary and medical reference material. I will incorporate a strong theoretical framework to construct connective tissue between readers, the disability and the literature. As of now my research is mostly drawn from French Psychologist Jacques Lacan. Theory will help me practice rhetoric within the disability discourse and answer questions that probe the necessary emotions and affect to understand addiction in and out of literature.