Idiot Wind offers a glimpse into the journey of someone who struggled with addiction and ultimately changed the course of his life.

For anyone searching for new books on addiction, Idiot Wind tells a compelling story. With a title inspired by a Bob Dylan song, this new book on addiction and recovery follows the writer, Peter Kaldheim throughout his life. The book chronicles his childhood in Bay Ridge Brooklyn and carries through to the height of Kaldheim’s addiction in the 1980s and into his recovery.

From Catholic Boarding School to Addicted

Among the slew of new books on addiction available now, Idiot Wind stands out. The writer, Peter Kaldheim, was born to a working-class family in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. His father worked to create components for navy helicopters; as for his mother, the author remembers her as someone not like the other neighborhood mothers with her can of beer in her hand while doing afternoon chores. Kaldheim also had two brothers who struggled with substance abuse and impulse control.

As Kaldheim tells his story peppered with the backstory of him becoming addicted to drugs, you find that he went from a student at a Catholic boarding school and a Dartmouth graduate to someone who destroyed his career in publishing.

It’s an important reminder that addiction can and often does affect anyone and at any point in their life.

Separation From Family

Family roles in addiction are covered fairly extensively in Idiot Wind. There are the relationships Kaldheim has with his mother, father, and brothers when he’s younger and then the estrangement from them he faces in adulthood. Kaldheim describes the experience of burning every bridge when you’re in active addiction – and how that ultimately leads you to become an island.

As well as issues with family relationships, Kaldheim faces issues in romantic relationships throughout his life. He had two wives, one of whom passed away and he is plagued with the shame of not attending her funeral.

Ultimately, Kaldheim does work toward repairing some of the relationships in his life following his journey across the country. He is able to work to rebuild his life as he approaches middle age, including reconnecting with his brothers and having a third marriage. It’s not all success, however. For example, he struggles mightily to repair his relationship with his parents.

Separation from family for whatever reason can lead someone to go further into their addiction without that sense of support. 

Rebuilding Relationships in Recovery

It can be valuable to read about rebuilding relationships in recovery because it is such a pertinent issue for people. Many people find their destructive behaviors while they’re in addiction severely impact their relationships, yet having meaningful relationships and social support is so important in recovery. Not only can books like Idiot Wind help you learn more about repairing relationships in recovery, but these kinds of books can also help if you’re in a relationship with someone in recovery since they offer you insight into their experience.

Living Life in Poverty

Idiot Wind doesn’t just discuss relationships in addiction and recovery; it also covers Kaldheim’s experiences with poverty. Kaldhheim describes his poverty as something that turns him into a feral cat, never knowing when his next meal will come. He also finds help in the form of social services and benefits when he arrives in Portland, including food stamps and housing. With these benefits, he is able to find an employment opportunity that allows him to begin his life once again.

A Job, A Book Deal and a Lifetime of Recovery Ahead

Kaldheim’s story, which carries you through the many twists and turns of his life, ultimately finds him at a point where was able to find employment and then eventually share his story with a book deal. As with some of the other best new books on addiction, it offers hope through the lens of hardship.

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By – Ashley Sutphin
Ashley Sutphin Watkins received her degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Psychology and Journalism. Read more
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Editor – Daron Christopher
Daron Christopher is an experienced speechwriter, copywriter and communications consultant based in Washington, DC. Read more

Toll, Martha Anne. “’Idiot Wind’ Tells a Personal Tale o[…]ddiction to Recovery.” NPR, July 30, 2019. Accessed August 23, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.