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"Say what you mean, but don't say it mean." --12-Step aphorism From the author of My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down, a new graphic memoir brimming with black humor, which explores the ultimate irony: the author's addiction to 12-Step programs. David Heatley had an unquestionably troubled and eccentric childhood: father a sexually repressed alcoholic, mother an overworked compu "Say what you mean, but don't say it mean." --12-Step aphorism From the author of My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down, a new graphic memoir brimming with black humor, which explores the ultimate irony: the author's addiction to 12-Step programs. David Heatley had an unquestionably troubled and eccentric childhood: father a sexually repressed alcoholic, mother an overworked compulsive overeater. Then David's parents enter the world of 12-step programs and find a sense of support and community. It seems to help. David, meanwhile, grows up struggling with his own troublesome sexual urges and seeking some way to make sense of it all. Eventually he starts attending meetings too. Alcoholics Anonymous. Overeaters Anonymous. Debtors Anonymous. Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. More and more meetings. Meetings for issues he doesn't have. With stark, sharply drawn art and unflinching honesty, David Heatley explores the strange and touching relationships he develops, and the truths about himself and his family he is forced to confront, while "working" an ever-increasing number of programs. The result is a complicated, unsettling, and hilarious journey--of far more than 12 steps.


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"Say what you mean, but don't say it mean." --12-Step aphorism From the author of My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down, a new graphic memoir brimming with black humor, which explores the ultimate irony: the author's addiction to 12-Step programs. David Heatley had an unquestionably troubled and eccentric childhood: father a sexually repressed alcoholic, mother an overworked compu "Say what you mean, but don't say it mean." --12-Step aphorism From the author of My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down, a new graphic memoir brimming with black humor, which explores the ultimate irony: the author's addiction to 12-Step programs. David Heatley had an unquestionably troubled and eccentric childhood: father a sexually repressed alcoholic, mother an overworked compulsive overeater. Then David's parents enter the world of 12-step programs and find a sense of support and community. It seems to help. David, meanwhile, grows up struggling with his own troublesome sexual urges and seeking some way to make sense of it all. Eventually he starts attending meetings too. Alcoholics Anonymous. Overeaters Anonymous. Debtors Anonymous. Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. More and more meetings. Meetings for issues he doesn't have. With stark, sharply drawn art and unflinching honesty, David Heatley explores the strange and touching relationships he develops, and the truths about himself and his family he is forced to confront, while "working" an ever-increasing number of programs. The result is a complicated, unsettling, and hilarious journey--of far more than 12 steps.

30 review for Qualification: A Graphic Memoir in Twelve Steps

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    This book may heal me of my addictive need to read "healing" graphic memoirs for a good while. David Heatley writes a way, way over-long narcissistic study of his own narcissism through the potentially humorous lens of his own addiction to 12-step programs. Heatley grew up with his mother going to OA (Overeaters Anonymous) who forced her husband to go to DA (Debtors Anonymous); this book catalogues roughly forty years of his experiencing AA programs in various versions. And a goo share of it inv This book may heal me of my addictive need to read "healing" graphic memoirs for a good while. David Heatley writes a way, way over-long narcissistic study of his own narcissism through the potentially humorous lens of his own addiction to 12-step programs. Heatley grew up with his mother going to OA (Overeaters Anonymous) who forced her husband to go to DA (Debtors Anonymous); this book catalogues roughly forty years of his experiencing AA programs in various versions. And a goo share of it involves his torturing/neglecting his poor wife and kids for several years going to OA, DA, Sexual Addicts Anonymous meetings (where in typical Heatley--and Robert Crumb, who blurbs the book--fashion, he must tell you about every moment of lust and sexual and porn fantasy he has ever had. He has NO censor with his memoir comics, none, like Crumb; he will tell you about anything, bar nothing, and expects us to praise him for his "honesty" and courage). A "qualification" is a personal story sharing process of all AA-type organizations where you tell your store to heal, but Heatley hates almost everyone he meets at the meetings and gets angry at everyone all the time for not appreciating him or caring enough for him, including his poor wife and poor innocent neglected kids, and only goes to the meetings so he can make sure get gets the chance to "share" and sob and be cheered and hugged and validated for his narcissism. He takes more than 400 (!!!) pages to say he has finally quit AA and now appreciates his wife, who I would lend money to help her get a divorce at any time. I am serious!!! He writes an apology to his family, whose crazy lives he shares in cringe-worthy detail. He goes out of his way to apologize to his kids, whom he hopes will not read this for many years; when they do, I hope they do not forgive him, that is how upset I am about this book. So this book is one long "qualification" story, haha, good for him, begging us to love him and forgive him for his narcissism!!! Ugh!! I wasted hours on this book, and I do not think he is healed, or whole, or in any other great place he claims he is now in, because he claimed that several times in the book and discovered he was wrong! Argh, enough time spent on this book!! Crumb says it is darkly funny but I don't think Heatley intends it to be. He wants us to weep in relief at his having been healed from his addiction to addiction programs at the end and cheer and hug him. And I see many do validate him here on Goodreads, and good for him. He can hate me as he hates so many of the people he hates in his book. Argh!!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    A narcissist creates a monumentally narcissistic work about his narcissism. The back cover tells me this is hilarious, but all I felt was anger and exhaustion as I read. But then I decided, fuck that asshole, I'm not letting him have that kind of power over me, and let it go. He can try to live with his crap; I don't have to. Seriously, though, his wife could gun him down in the street in front of a hundred people tomorrow, present this as Exhibit A at her trial, and walk out a free woman from an A narcissist creates a monumentally narcissistic work about his narcissism. The back cover tells me this is hilarious, but all I felt was anger and exhaustion as I read. But then I decided, fuck that asshole, I'm not letting him have that kind of power over me, and let it go. He can try to live with his crap; I don't have to. Seriously, though, his wife could gun him down in the street in front of a hundred people tomorrow, present this as Exhibit A at her trial, and walk out a free woman from any court in the land.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mari

    This story is bonkers. I couldn't put it down.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Garden

    I *LOVED* this book, and hope to be able to fight you about it someday.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Peter Landau

    My wife jokes that 12-Step programs are the religion of the United States. People in these programs often balk at that. “It’s not a religion, it’s a spiritual program.” Okay, but one where people meet regularly, chant “scripture” and follow the moral template of a “sacred” text. David Heatley is a religious nut, self-absorbed but with a sense of humor that saves him from being intolerable. His comic Qualifications is a memoir of an abusive upbringing and an addiction to multiple Anonymous meetin My wife jokes that 12-Step programs are the religion of the United States. People in these programs often balk at that. “It’s not a religion, it’s a spiritual program.” Okay, but one where people meet regularly, chant “scripture” and follow the moral template of a “sacred” text. David Heatley is a religious nut, self-absorbed but with a sense of humor that saves him from being intolerable. His comic Qualifications is a memoir of an abusive upbringing and an addiction to multiple Anonymous meetings. It’s hilarious and often borders on a weirdly narcissistic bravado. The parade of honest recall from his life, warts and more worts, is brave and sometimes a bit unnecessary. But the insider’s look at the power and the perverse rites of Alcoholics, Overeaters, Debtors, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous programs offers a much needed ballast to the uncritical embrace from much of the public. His crude lines and fun layouts make the comic pack a powerful punch. Another medium would struggle to find the balance Heatley keeps when telling his story. Thank god he never joined Cartoonist Anonymous.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tao

    "Alcohol is just one 'cure' addicts seek for their disease. And for a while it works! But the core of our disease is 'restlessness, irritability, and discontentment' according to the big book."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    This one was hard to read. I thought it would be a little funnier and not to be totally mean but the guy perceives himself as an entitled jerk who fills a void using support groups. Not my favorite memoir.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Victor The Reader

    While 12-step programs might not help you fix your life completely, Heatley’s memoir about his twisted life could say otherwise. Between 1979 to 2012, we follow Dave from his bizarre childhood to his stressful (and still bizarre) adult life that drives him into madness. It eventually leads him to find help through many 12-step programs and no matter what, he’ll try to find the answers to his problems before he gets wrapped up into them again. Right near the beginning, his memoir is truly bizarre While 12-step programs might not help you fix your life completely, Heatley’s memoir about his twisted life could say otherwise. Between 1979 to 2012, we follow Dave from his bizarre childhood to his stressful (and still bizarre) adult life that drives him into madness. It eventually leads him to find help through many 12-step programs and no matter what, he’ll try to find the answers to his problems before he gets wrapped up into them again. Right near the beginning, his memoir is truly bizarre and hysterical most of the time, but also shows readers how life definitely throws some pretty harsh curveballs. While Dave’s character does come off as a selfish, obnoxious jerk, he’s still a relatable person at as we see him also as someone different up to the last few parts. A- (91%/Excellent)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dakota Morgan

    Qualification is exhausting. David Heatley's unending anxiety, misplaced anger, and various "addictions" are nearly as rough to read about as I'm sure they were to live with. This book is also 400+ pages, loaded with text, and highly repetitive. Obviously, that's part of the addiction process (backsliding, relapsing, trying new addiction programs), but my goodness is it tedious to read about. All that said, Qualification maintains a high level of reader fascination - you can't help but watch, ago Qualification is exhausting. David Heatley's unending anxiety, misplaced anger, and various "addictions" are nearly as rough to read about as I'm sure they were to live with. This book is also 400+ pages, loaded with text, and highly repetitive. Obviously, that's part of the addiction process (backsliding, relapsing, trying new addiction programs), but my goodness is it tedious to read about. All that said, Qualification maintains a high level of reader fascination - you can't help but watch, agog, as Heatley, angry at his wife again, decides to go to yet another AA service. Repeat ad infinitum. Truly, by the end of the book, you'll feel terrible for his wife, Rebecca, the very definition of "long-suffering." You'll also learn just how many addiction programs are out there - Debtor's Anonymous? Who knew! I also couldn't help but notice that Heatley's deepest desire as a member of the various 12 steps programs was to receive a burst of "God energy" by sharing his darkest moments. And this book, despite its "I've learned my lesson" ending, is basically just Heatley sharing his darkest moments. So, the publication of Qualification must have been the biggest burst of God energy possible. I hope it hasn't caused Heatley to backslide into yet another program.

  10. 4 out of 5

    (arc)

    I actually learned a wise lesson from reading this book. The author is relentlessly honest, baring everything, even his terrible traits and behaviors. His narcissism and selfishness illustrated is repetitive and frustrating at times, but he's also a son, a father, a husband. He's human and it shows. His story reminded me of the 'basic goodness' we all share. Reading this graphic novel helped me realize that I get in the way of my own creativity. I thought, 'If THIS guy can make a ton of money doi I actually learned a wise lesson from reading this book. The author is relentlessly honest, baring everything, even his terrible traits and behaviors. His narcissism and selfishness illustrated is repetitive and frustrating at times, but he's also a son, a father, a husband. He's human and it shows. His story reminded me of the 'basic goodness' we all share. Reading this graphic novel helped me realize that I get in the way of my own creativity. I thought, 'If THIS guy can make a ton of money doing what he loves, get published in the New Yorker, pour nearly all of his time into 12 step groups and his art, and still be married with a child, then I can surely stop punishing myself and allow my creativity to flow more than I do now. I thank David Heatley for completing this book. For myself, whether or not I like the guy doesn't affect the impact this honest work.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    Really enjoyable. Resonates well with anyone with lackluster experiences with 12 step programs or parents who engage in those programs. Unfortunately there was an issue with my copy, where about 30 pages were copies of much later pages, so I missed out on about 10% of the story.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Raw, intimate, and graphic in more ways than just being physically drawn, Qualification is utterly compelling. If I'd had the time, I would have read it entirely in one sitting. I have never experienced a 12-step program personally, and I did not even know that some of the ones mentioned here existed until I read this book, but I was exhausted and stressed for him as I followed his journey through so many of the various incarnations from AA to DA and beyond. In truth, given my own overthinking t Raw, intimate, and graphic in more ways than just being physically drawn, Qualification is utterly compelling. If I'd had the time, I would have read it entirely in one sitting. I have never experienced a 12-step program personally, and I did not even know that some of the ones mentioned here existed until I read this book, but I was exhausted and stressed for him as I followed his journey through so many of the various incarnations from AA to DA and beyond. In truth, given my own overthinking tendencies, I completely understood how he got into such a cycle, which added to my empathetic anxiety. Still I could not put it down. There are so many themes in here, from trauma and forgiveness to growth and the struggles of working in the arts. I am thankful that he has chosen to share his story, because I think everyone can get something out of reading it. I know I certainly did, and I wish him a successful, happy, less-stressful future.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    OK, I think this book does a nice job with what the author is trying to do -- detail his experiences with a *bunch* of 12-step programs. It's just ... exhausting to read, even in graphic form. (Oh, and it'd probably get an NC-17 rating.) David Heatley paints himself as a profoundly unlikeable person, so he gets props for his level of honesty. I recognize that lots of people may identify with him and/or enjoy this book, at least on some level, and it has a certain artistic accomplishment. I just OK, I think this book does a nice job with what the author is trying to do -- detail his experiences with a *bunch* of 12-step programs. It's just ... exhausting to read, even in graphic form. (Oh, and it'd probably get an NC-17 rating.) David Heatley paints himself as a profoundly unlikeable person, so he gets props for his level of honesty. I recognize that lots of people may identify with him and/or enjoy this book, at least on some level, and it has a certain artistic accomplishment. I just couldn't get into it. It was almost a DNF.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Blue

    David Heatley's memoir about the 40 years of his life spent in and around various twelve step programs is a great peek into the culture of addiction recovery. There's a twelve step program probably for any kind of addiction you can imagine. The original "bible" established AA, and then came the others, which all use AA principles as a base. Heatley's journey starts with his parents, who are in various A programs, like AL-ANON, AA, and OA. It seems that Heatley just throws himself at these progra David Heatley's memoir about the 40 years of his life spent in and around various twelve step programs is a great peek into the culture of addiction recovery. There's a twelve step program probably for any kind of addiction you can imagine. The original "bible" established AA, and then came the others, which all use AA principles as a base. Heatley's journey starts with his parents, who are in various A programs, like AL-ANON, AA, and OA. It seems that Heatley just throws himself at these programs, just hoping to "fix" himself. Throughout the story, he finds out about new programs, which makes him wonder if he has that particular issue and that maybe that's what's been wrong with him all along. What's strange (or maybe not at all strange) is that Heatley seems to just consider these programs, because that's what he knows. It's in his family's culture. His parents both benefit or claim they benefit from these programs. So when he has low income and resentments about having to work regular jobs instead of making a living with his art and having a family becomes too stressful and he uses porn to avoid his other problems, he always turns to these programs for a solution, a way to save himself from himself. Interestingly, in the end, what seems to work is good old talk therapy. In a way, if his family had therapy in their culture, he would have saved himself a long, meandering journey through the twelve step programs (but he wouldn't have written this book). Also interestingly, the one thing that I thought he really should be working on, namely his issues with god and organized religion (with some interesting related issues about homosexuality), was not ever subjected to a twelve step program (not that I want to give him any new ideas...) The art is very expressive and well suited for the subject matter. Most of the story takes place in rooms where people just talk, but Heatley does a good job of moving the story along and beyond the confines of these conversations. Recommended for those who like retreats, book tours, and glass sculptures.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    A unique memoir, a glimpse of a very cult-like 12-step lifestyle. Packed with emotion, full of shocking surprises.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I personally couldn't relate to this book very much. I think it's great that Heatley seems to have found something that works for him, but at the same time it also seems that he goes through cycles of finding new spiritual breakthroughs that don't last, and that he's trusting too much in systems to fix some vague part of him. Every few years he hears about another program that explains why he's unhappy or why he behaves in certain ways, and he buys all in to it. There's also an aspect of being he I personally couldn't relate to this book very much. I think it's great that Heatley seems to have found something that works for him, but at the same time it also seems that he goes through cycles of finding new spiritual breakthroughs that don't last, and that he's trusting too much in systems to fix some vague part of him. Every few years he hears about another program that explains why he's unhappy or why he behaves in certain ways, and he buys all in to it. There's also an aspect of being heard and understood that is really important for him, but he takes it way further than most people. He mentions this whole society of people that just go to all of these different support meetings, and it shows that he's not the only person like this out there. I'm not going to discount another person's experience. Everything that Heatley went through, and that the other people in the support groups are going through is real for them, and maybe the most helpful thing for them at this specific point in their lives. I just personally do not resonate with any of Heatley's experiences or choices.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lucky

    Oh my god (no pun intended), this book is so awesome. It's funny, has sweet moments and has many layers to unpeel about 12 steps, yes, but also about suffering and turmoil and forgiveness and how sometimes the drive to seek answers can sometimes be unhealthy. Heatley's willingness to be vulnerable and willingness to reveal his many flawed decisions and motivations adds the authentic tone that makes this book such a gem. And the art is excellent and adds a more subtle layer of needed humor. Loved Oh my god (no pun intended), this book is so awesome. It's funny, has sweet moments and has many layers to unpeel about 12 steps, yes, but also about suffering and turmoil and forgiveness and how sometimes the drive to seek answers can sometimes be unhealthy. Heatley's willingness to be vulnerable and willingness to reveal his many flawed decisions and motivations adds the authentic tone that makes this book such a gem. And the art is excellent and adds a more subtle layer of needed humor. Loved it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Lewonczyk

    I first encountered Heatley’s autobio comics in the famous McSweeneys comics issue way back in 2004, and I’ve enjoyed his work every since. This book is a raw memoir about growing up in a family immersed in 12-step programs, and how the author turned to them for help with his own adult problems, which, far from solving them, caused further problems of its own. The brutal honesty of the narrative is rendered especially strange by the wide-open, nearly childlike artwork, as if Heatley were still v I first encountered Heatley’s autobio comics in the famous McSweeneys comics issue way back in 2004, and I’ve enjoyed his work every since. This book is a raw memoir about growing up in a family immersed in 12-step programs, and how the author turned to them for help with his own adult problems, which, far from solving them, caused further problems of its own. The brutal honesty of the narrative is rendered especially strange by the wide-open, nearly childlike artwork, as if Heatley were still vulnerable child who started this particular life’s journey. It's often an emotionally exhausting read, but filled with humor and power.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Broomfield

    As a long-time fan of Heatley's work — both in comics and illustration — I pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it. I tore through it as soon as it arrived, completely captivated by the narrative. Heatley's specialty is brutally honest self-examination and revelation, and his earnest vulnerability is a key to his story. In a narrator we had reason to doubt, it would not work — but he *never* seems like he's going easy on himself. In fact, the opposite is true. He passionately demonstra As a long-time fan of Heatley's work — both in comics and illustration — I pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it. I tore through it as soon as it arrived, completely captivated by the narrative. Heatley's specialty is brutally honest self-examination and revelation, and his earnest vulnerability is a key to his story. In a narrator we had reason to doubt, it would not work — but he *never* seems like he's going easy on himself. In fact, the opposite is true. He passionately demonstrates the twelve-step belief that only through "rigorous honesty" can one find recovery. This book traces his journey through a number of 12-step programs — sometimes in parallel, sometimes in series — in search of that recovery. If you have never heard of some of these programs, you might be surprised how many there are (AA, ACOA, Al-Anon, OA, DA, UA, SLAA —and no, I'm not making any of those up). We meet a variety of characters (with anonymity scrupulously maintained) in a variety of meetings, with an array of different programs and formats and norms and lingo. A deeply human picture is painted of people striving for connection, healing, and help, often against great personal odds and with crippling trauma and baggage. Heatley is honest about both the foundational wounds in his own upbringing, and the myriad ways the trauma manifests in later life — with his biological family, his wife and children, in his work life, and in his creative life. What emerges is a portrait of a person who can make anything into an addiction, including recovery. You might not come away from this book wanting to spend time with him. The level of revelation leaves you feeling like you have x-ray vision, at least into this one person, and it's not always comfortable to look at someone's skeleton. But I found myself feeling a great deal of empathy, compassion, and, yes, love for the man who invited us along on this journey. It is clear he longs to share his journey in order to help — himself, yes, but you too. And me. I won't reveal where the book ends, or any of the horrifying, hilarious, awkward, or transcendent milestones along the way. But the most touching parts of the book, for me, were in his intersections with those closest to him — his parents, his siblings, his wife. It's clear that recovery programs— just like the illnesses it aims to treat — have wide-reaching effects. Whether or not you think them helpful, harmful, or somewhere in between, millions of people are in, or adjacent to recovery. If you know someone in recovery, whether from alcohol or drugs, food issues, sexual or financial misconduct — this book could provide insight into their struggle — though one doesn't get the sense that Heatley's is the most common path. And if you think you *don't* know someone in recovery, you're probably wrong. The 4th step of AA requires a member to perform "a searching and fearless moral inventory" of themselves. If that's not the perfect subtitle for this book, I don't know what is. Heatley has searched, and he fearlessly shares the fruits of that search. I strongly recommend this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    wow. I only picked this up because it was in the new section of the library and I like graphic novels, although I wasn't familiar with the author. I read this in one day, in two sittings. I found it profoundly disturbing and insightful into many groups I'm not very familiar with. Much of the book was so unpleasant to me that I was tempted to stop reading, but I'm glad I reached the ending, which I found to be powerfully redemptive. I still have very mixed feelings about his work and would be inte wow. I only picked this up because it was in the new section of the library and I like graphic novels, although I wasn't familiar with the author. I read this in one day, in two sittings. I found it profoundly disturbing and insightful into many groups I'm not very familiar with. Much of the book was so unpleasant to me that I was tempted to stop reading, but I'm glad I reached the ending, which I found to be powerfully redemptive. I still have very mixed feelings about his work and would be interested to see the story from his wife's perspective.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I found this book through an article on the author's wife ... she was talking about how it felt to have your husband expose your most raw and horrible moments in a graphic novel for all your friends and family to then read. There were passages about how neighbors approached them saying "I had no idea how bad your marriage had gotten!" and so on. Of course, I had to be an awful person and read this expose as well... Ultimately this book was really long, very repetitious and confusing at times but I found this book through an article on the author's wife ... she was talking about how it felt to have your husband expose your most raw and horrible moments in a graphic novel for all your friends and family to then read. There were passages about how neighbors approached them saying "I had no idea how bad your marriage had gotten!" and so on. Of course, I had to be an awful person and read this expose as well... Ultimately this book was really long, very repetitious and confusing at times but I couldn't put it down. I've never been in (or known someone in) a 12 step program (that I know of) and so all this "step work" and god stuff was a bit overwhelming for me. Frankly, the whole 12 steps in ANY of the groups Heatley was in sounded totally cult-like and turned me off completely. But I had to know more! Every page was fascinating, if repetitious, and maybe that was the point? I mean ... his whole journey can't be cleaned up just to make the reader more comfortable, right?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    For me, one of the measures of a good memoir is the author's ability to take their story and make it relevant to the reader by illuminating some element of the human condition. On that measure, David Heatley fails in a spectacular way. Heatley is an honest and open narrator, willing to expose his flaws for the world to see, but doesn't go deeper in examining the true motivations for his behaviours and the impact it had on those around him. As a narrator, he seems unaware of the repetition in his For me, one of the measures of a good memoir is the author's ability to take their story and make it relevant to the reader by illuminating some element of the human condition. On that measure, David Heatley fails in a spectacular way. Heatley is an honest and open narrator, willing to expose his flaws for the world to see, but doesn't go deeper in examining the true motivations for his behaviours and the impact it had on those around him. As a narrator, he seems unaware of the repetition in his actions (find new support group, feel blessed by god, fall out with support group, repeat) and this makes for a long read that often feels like it's going around in circles aimlessly. The worst part was his judgmental comments towards other people he encounters at meetings, utterly oblivious to the fact that he was just like them. There's little to learn here - don't waste your time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Olesh

    This is a graphic memoir about a man who becomes addicted to Twelve Step groups. At the core, it is also a love story about how he and is wife went through this and came out the other side (that is not a spoiler - it’s basically in the dedication). I do take issue with the author’s prejudice against fat people, and some of his depictions of mental illness, but I can also understand some of that as part of his process as he navigates his issues. This is a complex and excellent graphic memoir.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Baggerman

    In the dedication, he writes to his wife, "I can't believe we survived this." Me neither. This book is brutally honest about the author's flaws and attempts at recovery over the years and at times is hard to read. But still gripping nonetheless.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jane Hanser

    I can imagine that there are many reasons why somebody would want to read this unusual graphic memoir with an unusual title; there are probably also many reasons why someone would not be interested in this book. It first glance its 400+ pages of graphic novel might seem onerous. What attracted me to it was the "twelve steps" in the subtitle: I have a close-lipped relative who has been in a 12-steps program for well over a year and I thought that reading this book might help me understand some of I can imagine that there are many reasons why somebody would want to read this unusual graphic memoir with an unusual title; there are probably also many reasons why someone would not be interested in this book. It first glance its 400+ pages of graphic novel might seem onerous. What attracted me to it was the "twelve steps" in the subtitle: I have a close-lipped relative who has been in a 12-steps program for well over a year and I thought that reading this book might help me understand some of the process that he's been going through. I have to say that while everybody's journey out of an addiction is different, this brilliant memoir more than helped me understand him and the rigorous 12-steps tool for healing. Heatley conveys just how many people in America and the world over are going through similar 12-steps programs, whether for alcohol, or drugs, or chronic debt, and so on, before work, after work, finding sponsors, losing sponsors, staying on the program, dropping out, coming back, and then always reevaluating their individual paths and what works for them at that time. I have to say that it totally helped me understand my relative and the challenges he faces in "doing" the steps, which steps one can get stuck in, and that each person does this in his time, when he's ready for the humility and self-honesty required, and it helped me to accept that at this stage in his life he and I are not going to have a relationship, as he has some "steps" he has to work through before we can (again), but that there's a very demanding but high-level system for doing that. I also realized that, for example, when a person is a drug addict, he likely also has issues with money and debt, and that there's a whole network where these various 12-steps programs have crossover in their approaches (e.g. DA, Debtors Anonymous) and their participants. It was really beautiful how Heatley invites you right into his life, into his family and home, into his bedroom, even, to illustrates how these issues play out - choices, self-awareness, reflection, conflict, marriage and parenting - and to cheer him on (and to admire his wife for how she handles balancing her needs, her family's needs, and her husband's needs) when he finally finds resolution and harmony in his life. While this book may not be for everybody, David Heatley has done a huge service for himself, his family, and in writing this book, millions of others.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    *Goodreads Giveaway* Well, this was an interesting read. To begin with, this book deals with some pretty dark issues - so it might not be for everybody. Also, as someone whose life hasn't been touched directly by addiction or 12-step programs, I come to the story from a particular point of view that might not be shared by others. This story follows the author's life from boyhood into his forties. It discusses how and why he becomes addicted to various 12-step programs throughout his life and ho *Goodreads Giveaway* Well, this was an interesting read. To begin with, this book deals with some pretty dark issues - so it might not be for everybody. Also, as someone whose life hasn't been touched directly by addiction or 12-step programs, I come to the story from a particular point of view that might not be shared by others. This story follows the author's life from boyhood into his forties. It discusses how and why he becomes addicted to various 12-step programs throughout his life and how, eventually, he frees himself from that addiction. The characters are well-developed and the story, while bleak, is enthralling - you want to know what happens next. The author tells his story openly, warts and all. Sometimes you really feel for him, and sometimes it's nothing but frustration. The character I most identified with was the author's wife. I could completely understand her confusion, resentment, anger and despair. The author wonders how she managed to stay (and stay in love) with him - I wonder that myself! Other readers, who have been touched by addiction or their programs, might identify with other characters more. I've just begun to dip into the graphic novel format, but I think it serves this story well. The illustrations somehow make the characters and story more "real". You understand what happens on a different, more intimate level.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Frank Stein

    As usual, David Heatley manages to provide a microscopic, almost openly narcissistic, vision pf his own life while exhibiting the most profound self-awareness and honesty. His thoughtful attention to stray moods, thoughts, and minor victories and defeats makes his books compulsively readable, despite the lack of a clear plot or storyline. Heatley does have a plot of sorts in this book, which involves him falling into, and out of, a series of "Anonymous" programs. From his first forays with his mo As usual, David Heatley manages to provide a microscopic, almost openly narcissistic, vision pf his own life while exhibiting the most profound self-awareness and honesty. His thoughtful attention to stray moods, thoughts, and minor victories and defeats makes his books compulsively readable, despite the lack of a clear plot or storyline. Heatley does have a plot of sorts in this book, which involves him falling into, and out of, a series of "Anonymous" programs. From his first forays with his mom into Al-Anon and Debtors Anonymous, to his later obsessions with Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous (despite barely enjoying drink), Heatley shows how the programs offer love, acceptance, and attention, as well as a constant illusion of spiritual ascent. It is only a long way through this journey, after Heatley has "qualified," or achieved integration, into several of these groups, that the reader realizes that this is a compulsive addiction of its own, and one just as dangerous as others. The book offers a window into the surprisingly massive world of the anonymous programs (in almost every town in America or Europe he goes to, they are there, sometimes dozens of them), but also into a frustrating personal and spiritual journey. It's well worth anybody's time.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Liam Strong

    I can't do it. I just can't. The way this entire graphic novel's story is told is tedious, pretentious, and damn near aggravating. I want to believe there's a story worth telling here, but most of it is just in the summary description on the back of the hardcover copy I had. I don't want to disparage this book entirely, because I bet for some people the excessive author narration on practically every panel just works for them. And that's fine. But it just doesn't work for me, and for a 400 page I can't do it. I just can't. The way this entire graphic novel's story is told is tedious, pretentious, and damn near aggravating. I want to believe there's a story worth telling here, but most of it is just in the summary description on the back of the hardcover copy I had. I don't want to disparage this book entirely, because I bet for some people the excessive author narration on practically every panel just works for them. And that's fine. But it just doesn't work for me, and for a 400 page book, I barely made it through the first 100 pages before I got sick of what I was reading. Much of Qualification is incredibly corny. Much of it reads as if it was written as if it was supposed to be written by the author from a position in the future after the events of the novel but he's also trying to sound like a middle schooler as he does so. And a middle school kid isn't exactly the person I want to be narrating the story for 400 pages. This book is painfully juvenile, and I'm bummed that the description on the back cover hooked me at the library so quickly. I feel so gullible and easy to grab with a quirky book description. Anyway, don't waste your time with this. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk has a similar premise in the beginning of the book, and even that is leagues better than Qualification despite my own personal qualms with Palahniuk's novel.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    Just finished this book by my friend David Heatley. Omg. Read it. It’s a fascinating, dark, hilarious memoir about his experience with (and addiction to) 12 step programs. But it’s so much more than that, it’s about trauma, healing, and spiritual searching. About loyalty and love and parenting and marriage. I think at its core it’s about forgiveness, of both self and others. There are some harrowing and brutally honest accounts of mental health challenges. Dave is a true artist and his authentic Just finished this book by my friend David Heatley. Omg. Read it. It’s a fascinating, dark, hilarious memoir about his experience with (and addiction to) 12 step programs. But it’s so much more than that, it’s about trauma, healing, and spiritual searching. About loyalty and love and parenting and marriage. I think at its core it’s about forgiveness, of both self and others. There are some harrowing and brutally honest accounts of mental health challenges. Dave is a true artist and his authentic desire to connect with something greater comes across both through his writing and illustrations but also through his music (something else I recommend you check out). Have to say that his wife Rebecca (also a dear friend of mine) is totally heroic on many levels and that Dave is correct when he says in the book that her goodness runs deep. Bravo, Dave, this is a top notch piece of work. Thanks to you and Rebecca for sharing your life with the world. It’s a very touching book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    One of the key concepts of 12-step programs is "honesty," and this memoir seems to reflect that pretty well - it's candid and at times blunt, leavened with the author's wry observations about himself, the programs, the people he meets, and life itself. I could personally do without some of the R-rated images (there's only a handful, really), but it's a part of his story and he should censor himself for no one. Weirdly, as someone involved with one such program, I'd never heard the term "Qualifyi One of the key concepts of 12-step programs is "honesty," and this memoir seems to reflect that pretty well - it's candid and at times blunt, leavened with the author's wry observations about himself, the programs, the people he meets, and life itself. I could personally do without some of the R-rated images (there's only a handful, really), but it's a part of his story and he should censor himself for no one. Weirdly, as someone involved with one such program, I'd never heard the term "Qualifying" before I read this book, and I wondered if it was a NY thing. But perhaps its just an old-timers thing (i'm new-ish). Overall I enjoyed it and very much found it comparable to sitting at a meeting and hearing someone "tell their story." Qualifying indeed.

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