As Need­ed for Pain: A Mem­oir of Addiction

  • Review
By – July 13, 2020

Dan Peres always loved mag­ic. As a slight­ly nerdy, Jew­ish kid from an upscale sub­urb just out­side Bal­ti­more, he’d prac­tice tricks end­less­ly in his base­ment. So, the sto­ry of his near­ly mag­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion to edi­tor-in-chief of the award-win­ning men’s mag­a­zine Details has the ingre­di­ents of a trans­fix­ing read. But what real­ly lends this mem­oir its binge-wor­thi­ness is that for his entire career, Peres was a seri­ous drug addict.

The book’s struc­ture is like that of a mag­a­zine arti­cle, jump­ing in at the mid­dle of the sto­ry, and then back­track­ing to the begin­ning, ulti­mate­ly end­ing with a sat­is­fy­ing res­o­lu­tion. Peres writes in short, descrip­tive para­graphs, deft­ly weav­ing in events from the future and the past to round out the moment. The chap­ters are tight­ly con­struct­ed, with an always-engag­ing for­ward dri­ve. There s no allowance for poet­ic digressions.

Again and again, with a sin­gle sen­tence, Peres draws the read­er to the key detail that crys­tal­lizes every­thing else. I even­tu­al­ly fell asleep next to a small pile of coleslaw,” he says of trash­ing a hotel room after los­ing a record­ing of an inter­view with David Cop­per­field. The rock star wore nail pol­ish,” he writes of an oth­er­wise unnamed band mem­ber who aids Peres’s habit as it grows big­ger and more out of con­trol. Can dogs smell pills?” he won­ders while cross­ing the bor­der from Tijua­na with $6,000 of Vicodin in the trunk of his car.

What remains mys­ti­fy­ing is how Peres nav­i­gat­ed the high-stakes world of fash­ion and celebri­ty, even as his drug addic­tion grew sin­gu­lar­ly demand­ing of his time. With a six­ty-pill-a-day habit, he tells of his near­ly-con­stant appoint­ments with doc­tors around New York City, try­ing to con­vince them that an old back injury required new pre­scrip­tions. He writes of nights spent zoned out in front of his tele­vi­sion or fire­place, unable to func­tion. He writes about meet­ings near­ly missed and invi­ta­tions deflected.

But what’s nev­er sac­ri­ficed is Peres’s job. There are no sto­ries of slipped dead­lines or mag­a­zine issues that near­ly didn’t make it. Despite his addic­tion, Peres man­aged a full mag­a­zine staff and trans­formed Details from a bank­rupt enti­ty to one of the most suc­cess­ful fash­ion mag­a­zines in the industry.

As Need­ed for Pain is a glit­ter­ing dive into a world of celebri­ty and self-doubt, of tal­ent and tox­i­c­i­ty. It is the grit­ty, painful, and beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten sto­ry of the unstop­pable dri­ve for a high. But it’s ulti­mate­ly the sto­ry of fig­ur­ing out how to feel the way I’d always want­ed to feel,” as Peres writes of the first time he took Vicodin, with­out destroy­ing his own life in the process.

Juli Berwald Ph.D. is a sci­ence writer liv­ing in Austin, Texas and the author of Spine­less: the Sci­ence of Jel­ly­fish and the Art of Grow­ing a Back­bone. Her book on the future of coral will be pub­lished in 2021.

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