Rolling Away: My Agony with Ecstasy

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Overview

This all started as a choice, my choice, but now I was slave to it.
Every time I swallowed a pill I was tricking myself into seeing and feeling what was not there. But I could only trick myself for so long....

Lynn Smith never wanted to be an addict. A popular straight-A student from small-town Pennsylvania, she moved to New York City to pursue her dream of acting. In the city, she came in contact with new people, new ideas, and a completely ...

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2005 Hardcover New 743490436. Absolutely Brand New; 1.02 x 8.7 x 5.82 Inches; 304 pages; Lynn Smith never wanted to be an addict. It just happened. One day, she was living a ... so-called normal life, and the next she woke up to reality. In the mirror she saw the face of a grinning skull. Read more Show Less

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2005 Hardcover New jacket Brand New Hardcover with dust jacket, clean, tight, unmarked, () This all started as a choice, my choice, but now I was slave to it. Every time I ... swallowed a pill I was tricking myself into seeing and feeling what was not there. But I could only trick myself for so long...Lynn Smith never wanted to be an addict. A popular straight-A student from small-town Pennsylvania, she moved to New York City to pursue her dream of acting. In the city, she came in contact with new people, new ideas, and a c. Read more Show Less

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Rolling Away: My Agony with Ecstasy

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Overview

This all started as a choice, my choice, but now I was slave to it.
Every time I swallowed a pill I was tricking myself into seeing and feeling what was not there. But I could only trick myself for so long....

Lynn Smith never wanted to be an addict. A popular straight-A student from small-town Pennsylvania, she moved to New York City to pursue her dream of acting. In the city, she came in contact with new people, new ideas, and a completely new way of life — a way that exposed her to drugs. She tried pot, acid, and cocaine, but it was the "love drug" Ecstasy that won her heart. Rolling Away is the story of Lynn's frenzied flight into addiction and her long struggle to come back down to earth. At once harrowing and inspiring, Rolling Away is a triumphant narrative about sex, drugs, and rock-bottom survival — and how a second chance can save your life.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Growing up in small-town Pennsylvania, Lynn Marie Smith was a straight-A student and a straight-arrow girl. None of her classes, though, had prepared her for the Manhattan fast lane. After moving to the city to pursue her acting ambitions, Lynn Marie rapidly slipped headfirst into a new life style. She tried pot, acid, and cocaine, but it was the party drug Ecstasy that finally ensnared her. Seduced by the drug, she stopped auditioning and began a five-month binge, popping pills and dancing all night long until she was nearly paralyzed by piercing headaches and attacks of paranoia. Finally, a harrowing hallucination drove her to make a desperate call for help. This terrifying memoir exposes the hellish underside of the "love drug."
Publishers Weekly
Aspiring actress Smith dabbled in recreational drug use after moving to New York City from smalltown Pennsylvania. Sadly, the recent high school graduate quickly went from being a casual user to an addict. Smith's descriptions of "rolling" on ecstasy are appropriately disjointed and haunting. She deftly conveys an ecstasy user's sense of euphoria, especially the bubbling happiness that spreads like a wave through an "E"-fueled dance floor. But in tackling recovery, she falters. Although Smith's experience in treatment was difficult, and her description of it lends some insight into her subsequent triumph, she lingers too long in very well-trod territory. Once Smith is out of the hospital, though, the book regains its footing as Smith details her appearance in an MTV special about ecstasy use, and the difficulty of dealing with her somewhat emotionally unhealthy family. Smith has written a fervent cautionary tale; even when revealing the drug's joyful moments, her tone is one of warning and regret. As a member of the advisory board of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Smith tours and lectures about ecstasy, and it's likely that this work will find wide readership. The book's greatest strength is its alarming passages about coming down from a high and about the emptiness of living for the next pill-popping moment. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Smith's revealing debut features prose that rolls by as smoothly as the book's catchy title ("rolling" on Ecstasy is the present-day equivalent of "tripping" on LSD). Taking readers on a journey from rural Pennsylvania to the concrete jungle of Manhattan, Smith relays her folly in succumbing to the thrills of Ecstasy and its attendant club scene. After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, she takes her newly minted degree precisely nowhere. Rather than seeking acting roles, she tries on the hat of addict, at which she excels. Her life rapidly spirals out of control, and Smith suffers a psychotic breakdown that prompts a rescue mission by her mother and a return to Pennsylvania. Ultimately, Smith succeeds in staying clean and resumes life, complete with a triumphant return to New York City. A brutally honest memoir and testimonial to the courage of recovery; recommended for public libraries with holdings such as Go Ask Alice. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A young memoirist recounts her descent into and triumph over addiction. Smith arrived in New York City in 1997, fresh from high school in Danville, Pa. A natural on the stage, she came to the Big Apple to pursue her dreams of acting. But before she could be discovered, she discovered Ecstasy. The first pill she popped was a Mitsubishi, purchased from a dealer who looked like a J. Crew model and swallowed in the bathroom of McSwiggans Pub on Second Avenue. All of the sudden, the beer bottles glistened "like lights on a Christmas tree," Smith's skin turned to silk, and simply placing her palm on the top of the bar felt profound. She was hooked. Meanwhile, life in Manhattan rolled on. There were sublets to find, singing lessons to take, and kids to baby-sit. Smith fell head over heels for Mason, a Manhattanite home on winter break from a Vermont college. Then came the crash. She was plagued by panic attacks and nightmares about her father killing her family. Her period stopped; she occasionally flew into rages. Eventually, Smith got herself into rehab. She broke her addiction and quickly became an MTV-touted anti-drug spokeswoman. At the close here, she tells us that she's been clean for four years, and now gets "high on life." As that last cliche indicates, Smith's writing is uneven. Her descriptions of how good the highs feel are riveting. One wishes, however, that her editor had axed the poems. ("One pill has dissolved / Chills surge through my core / Before it wears off / I swallow one more.") And her rapturous prose about her love for Mason tends toward the sophomoric: "I knew he was my soul mate . . . .When I looked into his eyes, I felt like I had known him my whole life." Notrefined, wise or gritty enough to touch all readers, but likely to be a hit with teenagers and 20-somethings.
From the Publisher
"Lynn Marie Smith has written a gripping narrative that is both intensely personal and yet also very informative. From beginning to end, Lynn's brave and unflinching examination of herself, her actions, and the mistakes that led her from a straight-A cheerleader at school to a crazed, half-dead drug addict shows us the kind of determination and fight it took for this young woman to stay clean. In the end, the hardness of her drug tale is lifted by her honesty and spunk, and love of family, friends, and life."

— Loung Ung, author of Lucky Child

"Rolling Away is sensitive and bold....it speaks to anyone who ever wanted to pop that pill (or did) and got bound up in that toxic love affair. Bravo to Lynn Smith for getting out of it and channeling her fears and passions into thoughtful and revelatory prose."

— Jenny Lauren, author of Homesick

"I wish that all aspiring party girls would read Rolling Away, Lynn Marie Smith's cautionary tale, to understand how damaging and empty drug abuse really is."

— Lizzie Simon, author of Detour

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743490436
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynn Marie Smith has appeared on several television shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show and MTV's True Life. A member of the advisory board of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, she tours and lectures frequently around the country, educating others about the perils of Ecstasy abuse. She lives in Southern California. Visit her website at www.rollingaway.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: No Place Like Home

From the outside my house looks like every other one on Bloom Street. A ranch home, two-car garage, groomed shrubs lining the front of it, and a rose bush by the entrance. But we have something that the others didn't. In our front yard stands a giant, old oak tree. No matter how many times my father trimmed it back, the tree seemed to grow bigger and bigger each spring. It shaded everything and prevented the sunlight from ever shining through the front windows. Driving past 1320 Bloom Street, you might not even know there is a house there because it is always hiding behind that big oak.

When I was in high school, I stayed away from the house as much as possible. If I wasn't in class, I was rehearsing for a play. I lived in the school's theater. The stage was my one true home. I felt safe there. My mother, friends, and teachers told me that I had a gift, a real talent. But I knew the only reason that I excelled in acting was because I had spent my whole life doing it. Practice makes perfect. I performed every day, putting on a show free of charge, for my family, friends, and teachers. If there was ever a lull in conversation or an uncomfortable silence, you could always count on me to chime in with a joke or kooky observation, anything to avoid the tension in the air. I could read a room, get a laugh, and work a crowd with my eyes closed. Acting was my survival and my greatest defense.

From my earliest memories I remember my mother crying. My father had yelled at her for buying clothes for us that he thought we didn't need or she was upset that he was too hung over on Christmas morning to open gifts with us. There was an endless supply of reasons for her to cry and that's what she was always doing, at least to my young ears. I would crouch down in the hallway outside her bedroom door and listen to her sniffling. She didn't want my sisters and I to see her like that. She was protecting us, but it only made me more scared and distrustful to live in that house.

There was a routine that she and my father had perfected: he would bring something up, asking for an argument, throwing a lit match on the gasoline, and then came my mother's yelling. My father would just sit in his chair with his leg crossed, nodding at her like she was a child. Then he would go outside to mow the lawn or disappear to the bar. My mother would rush to her bedroom, and later magically resurface with a big smile, lie on the floor, and play Chutes and Ladders with us. The whole time I would stare at her glossy eyes and watch little bits of mascara crawl down her cheeks.

My sisters and I dealt with it very differently. Stacey, the oldest, was the good girl, straightening and cleaning her room. Stephanie, the youngest, would become even more introverted and quietly hold onto my mom's leg. I took center stage. I would do a crazy dance or impression and watch my mother's face light up. I learned early on that laughter is more like Novocain than real medicine. I was the comic relief. So this "gift" that people said that I had was actually a survival strategy, although later it became a tool of manipulation.

Growing up in chaos, in a home where any second the floor could give way, I learned to dodge bullets and keep on movin'. It was every man for himself. If I stood still I was an easy target. I wanted to be a kid and have fun. Instead I was busy worrying about when the next disaster or argument would break out between my father and any one of us.

My father is not what you would call a cruel man. He kept his distance both emotionally and physically from all of us. He never asked me or my sisters questions about life, school, boys, the weather, or anything, ever. He simply didn't care. The only time he did communicate was to tell us something was wrong. "Jesus Christ, Kathy, why didn't you pay this bill?...Lynnie, clean up your room...Stacey, move the car into the garage...Stephanie, did you take my goddamn brush again?" He spewed negativity, and we absorbed every drop.

My father never laid a finger on any of us: no hitting, no hugging. Nothing. Mentally he knew how to hurt us, though, always knowing what button to push at just the right time. My mother, sisters, and I became daily obstacles between him and his beer. He would do whatever it took to clear his path to get to that bar stool. He was an alcoholic. This was obvious to me, but no one dared talk about it, especially my mother.

He was different when people came over to visit. He was on his best behavior, laughing, making jokes, talking to me like he cared. He'd brag about me to his friends. I was the shiny Corvette covered up in a dark garage, only shown off when there was an audience. We always kept up appearances and I was a fake and a phony just like him, playing along with the charade. I loathed the idea of anybody knowing how my family truly lived behind closed doors. Once the friends left and the party was over, it was back to status quo — cold, distant, and tense. I was more comfortable with that anyway.

My father never told me that he loved me, so my mother said it every chance she got. She thought she could love us enough for both of them. When you're little you know where the love is because you gravitate toward it. The affection only came from my mom, so I found myself in competition with my sisters to get it. I knew there was only so much to go around and I wanted as much as I could get.

I never understood why my mother stayed with him for so long. She married him at nineteen. She was young, naïve, and wanted nothing more than to be a mother. My father made that simple, by being neither a husband nor a dad. She was determined to make it last. My mom enabled and ignored, putting on a show for everyone. She spent so much time pretending. No matter how bad it got, and it got bad, she wasn't going to leave him. My mother took her vows very seriously, as she grew up in a strict, Catholic household where she was taught to stick it out. My father didn't cheat or leave her black and blue, so he was a fine husband. They slept in different rooms and when they weren't arguing they were nowhere near each other. In my entire life, I never once remember seeing them hug, kiss, or show any sign of affection toward each other. I must have been the only kid in grade school that begged her mommy to get a divorce.

By the time I got to high school, I had so much rage inside of me I thought I was going to explode. Not knowing how to deal with this, I threw myself into all the extracurricular activities I could. I landed the lead in each school theater production, was on the forensics team, was on the homecoming and prom courts, and earned straight As. I tried to be the best at everything, but acting was all that I really loved. I knew that I had some talent and beyond that, it was a great escape. I was a big fish in a small pond. In any case, I planned to get the hell out of Dodge as soon as high school was over. I grew up watching my father drink his life away and seeing my mom wasting away with him, both of them rotting in that town. I told myself day after day that I would never be like that. I knew that after graduation if I didn't leave when I had the chance, I would be stuck in Danville. I felt the wet cement drying around my feet and needed to get away before it was too late. Drivers, start your engines. So I began running and didn't stop. I had no idea at the time what I was running to or from, but I knew that if I moved away and went to the big city, nothing or no one could catch me. Not my small town roots, not my alcoholic father, not even myself. I was going to live in New York City and start a new life.

Copyright © 2005 by Lynn Marie Smith

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First Chapter

Chapter 1: No Place Like Home

From the outside my house looks like every other one on Bloom Street. A ranch home, two-car garage, groomed shrubs lining the front of it, and a rose bush by the entrance. But we have something that the others didn't. In our front yard stands a giant, old oak tree. No matter how many times my father trimmed it back, the tree seemed to grow bigger and bigger each spring. It shaded everything and prevented the sunlight from ever shining through the front windows. Driving past 1320 Bloom Street, you might not even know there is a house there because it is always hiding behind that big oak.

When I was in high school, I stayed away from the house as much as possible. If I wasn't in class, I was rehearsing for a play. I lived in the school's theater. The stage was my one true home. I felt safe there. My mother, friends, and teachers told me that I had a gift, a real talent. But I knew the only reason that I excelled in acting was because I had spent my whole life doing it. Practice makes perfect. I performed every day, putting on a show free of charge, for my family, friends, and teachers. If there was ever a lull in conversation or an uncomfortable silence, you could always count on me to chime in with a joke or kooky observation, anything to avoid the tension in the air. I could read a room, get a laugh, and work a crowd with my eyes closed. Acting was my survival and my greatest defense.

From my earliest memories I remember my mother crying. My father had yelled at her for buying clothes for us that he thought we didn't need or she was upset that he was too hung over on Christmas morning to open giftswith us. There was an endless supply of reasons for her to cry and that's what she was always doing, at least to my young ears. I would crouch down in the hallway outside her bedroom door and listen to her sniffling. She didn't want my sisters and I to see her like that. She was protecting us, but it only made me more scared and distrustful to live in that house.

There was a routine that she and my father had perfected: he would bring something up, asking for an argument, throwing a lit match on the gasoline, and then came my mother's yelling. My father would just sit in his chair with his leg crossed, nodding at her like she was a child. Then he would go outside to mow the lawn or disappear to the bar. My mother would rush to her bedroom, and later magically resurface with a big smile, lie on the floor, and play Chutes and Ladders with us. The whole time I would stare at her glossy eyes and watch little bits of mascara crawl down her cheeks.

My sisters and I dealt with it very differently. Stacey, the oldest, was the good girl, straightening and cleaning her room. Stephanie, the youngest, would become even more introverted and quietly hold onto my mom's leg. I took center stage. I would do a crazy dance or impression and watch my mother's face light up. I learned early on that laughter is more like Novocain than real medicine. I was the comic relief. So this "gift" that people said that I had was actually a survival strategy, although later it became a tool of manipulation.

Growing up in chaos, in a home where any second the floor could give way, I learned to dodge bullets and keep on movin'. It was every man for himself. If I stood still I was an easy target. I wanted to be a kid and have fun. Instead I was busy worrying about when the next disaster or argument would break out between my father and any one of us.

My father is not what you would call a cruel man. He kept his distance both emotionally and physically from all of us. He never asked me or my sisters questions about life, school, boys, the weather, or anything, ever. He simply didn't care. The only time he did communicate was to tell us something was wrong. "Jesus Christ, Kathy, why didn't you pay this bill?...Lynnie, clean up your room...Stacey, move the car into the garage...Stephanie, did you take my goddamn brush again?" He spewed negativity, and we absorbed every drop.

My father never laid a finger on any of us: no hitting, no hugging. Nothing. Mentally he knew how to hurt us, though, always knowing what button to push at just the right time. My mother, sisters, and I became daily obstacles between him and his beer. He would do whatever it took to clear his path to get to that bar stool. He was an alcoholic. This was obvious to me, but no one dared talk about it, especially my mother.

He was different when people came over to visit. He was on his best behavior, laughing, making jokes, talking to me like he cared. He'd brag about me to his friends. I was the shiny Corvette covered up in a dark garage, only shown off when there was an audience. We always kept up appearances and I was a fake and a phony just like him, playing along with the charade. I loathed the idea of anybody knowing how my family truly lived behind closed doors. Once the friends left and the party was over, it was back to status quo -- cold, distant, and tense. I was more comfortable with that anyway.

My father never told me that he loved me, so my mother said it every chance she got. She thought she could love us enough for both of them. When you're little you know where the love is because you gravitate toward it. The affection only came from my mom, so I found myself in competition with my sisters to get it. I knew there was only so much to go around and I wanted as much as I could get.

I never understood why my mother stayed with him for so long. She married him at nineteen. She was young, naïve, and wanted nothing more than to be a mother. My father made that simple, by being neither a husband nor a dad. She was determined to make it last. My mom enabled and ignored, putting on a show for everyone. She spent so much time pretending. No matter how bad it got, and it got bad, she wasn't going to leave him. My mother took her vows very seriously, as she grew up in a strict, Catholic household where she was taught to stick it out. My father didn't cheat or leave her black and blue, so he was a fine husband. They slept in different rooms and when they weren't arguing they were nowhere near each other. In my entire life, I never once remember seeing them hug, kiss, or show any sign of affection toward each other. I must have been the only kid in grade school that begged her mommy to get a divorce.

By the time I got to high school, I had so much rage inside of me I thought I was going to explode. Not knowing how to deal with this, I threw myself into all the extracurricular activities I could. I landed the lead in each school theater production, was on the forensics team, was on the homecoming and prom courts, and earned straight As. I tried to be the best at everything, but acting was all that I really loved. I knew that I had some talent and beyond that, it was a great escape. I was a big fish in a small pond. In any case, I planned to get the hell out of Dodge as soon as high school was over. I grew up watching my father drink his life away and seeing my mom wasting away with him, both of them rotting in that town. I told myself day after day that I would never be like that. I knew that after graduation if I didn't leave when I had the chance, I would be stuck in Danville. I felt the wet cement drying around my feet and needed to get away before it was too late. Drivers, start your engines. So I began running and didn't stop. I had no idea at the time what I was running to or from, but I knew that if I moved away and went to the big city, nothing or no one could catch me. Not my small town roots, not my alcoholic father, not even myself. I was going to live in New York City and start a new life.

Copyright © 2005 by Lynn Marie Smith

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Group Reading Guide

Rolling Away

by Lynn Marie Smith

Description

Growing up in a small rural town in Pennsylvania, Lynn Smith was one of the popular kids, where she excelled in the performing arts and always dreamed of moving to New York City to pursue a career in acting. At 19, her dream came true when she enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Lynn was exposed to new people, new ideas, and a completely new way of life — one involving drugs. She tried pot, acid, and cocaine, but it was ecstasy that changed her life forever. She spent her weekends popping pills and dancing at clubs, working only to support her habit.

In five months, Lynn went from living somewhat responsibly to not caring about a thing and ignoring symptoms such as throbbing headaches and paranoia, thinking they were normal. Until the night she began to hallucinate uncontrollably. Somehow Lynn managed to call her mother, who returned her to her hometown of Danville. Lynn spent the next fourteen days in a psychiatric ward in a state of extreme confusion. While in the hospital, her doctor performed a neuro-spec scan of her brain, showing the damage Lynn had inflicted upon herself through repeated ecstasy abuse. Since that day, Lynn has dedicated herself to educating others about the perils of drug abuse. She went public with her story in hopes of preventing others from making the same mistakes. Lynn has been given something not everyone gets — a second chance.

Discussion Questions

  1. Lynn's relationships in New York significantly and permanently alter her life. From Lucy, Manny, and Brian, to Mason, each person she meetsin the city seems to lead her deeper into drugs and darkness. Yet Lynn takes full responsibility for her choices. How do you feel about Lynn's relationships and their influence on her? How do you think Lynn's mother feels? Does your attitude change if you are a parent? Should it?
  2. Lynn's relationship with her father is central to her story, and her drug use and his alcoholism are inextricably linked. Do you think that Lynn's experiences with ecstasy made her more or less sympathetic to her father's drinking? Why do you think she confronted him the way that she did during her visiting hours: "Dad, you're an alcoholic." (p.144) Did it seem like she was trying to help him, hurt him, or both?
  3. Throughout the book, Lynn desperately seeks intimacy with new groups of people. Think about all of the families of circumstance, of shared experience, of lifestyle that Lynn creates. What is it that bonds each of them? Do you think that it was Lynn's unhappy family life that created this need in her, or something else?
  4. Lynn reveals countless moments that unveil the true horror of life addicted to drugs, some as simple as her asking: "Did I eat today? I forgot what hungry felt like." (p. 123) Were there other moments like this in the story? Discuss what stood out for you most in Lynn's story.
  5. The character of Sam is quite mysterious. Lynn sees him as her guardian angel: "I believed and still believe he was sent for me." (p.139) Why do you think she responded to him in this way? What do you believe about his role in her recovery?
  6. When Lynn gets out of the hospital, she goes homes and "walk[s] around the living room, relishing [her] first taste of freedom." (p.167) At the start of her journey, Danville and this house were her jail and now she finds freedom within the same walls. Think about returning home after such a life-altering experience. What do you imagine you would feel? Lynn eventually begins to feel confined again. Why?
  7. Lynn writes her story with a strong sense of immediacy. Yet there are instances where she comments on her actions with the judgment of retrospect. For example: "In my mind this was a step up, but in reality this move [to Brooklyn] was the final nail in my coffin." (p.101) Review the moments in the story when she looks back like this. Why do you think she picked them? Do you believe that she had any sense of the truth of her situation at the time?
  8. As Lynn enters drug culture, she says: "I had crossed into a strange world, but I was right at home with it. If there was one thing I had mastered, it was adapting to my surroundings. Read the room and morph into what I needed to be to survive." (p.41) Discuss how this ability, and perhaps other aspects of Lynn's personality, impacted her addiction.
  9. As Lynn moves further away from her dream and initial plan for moving to the city she comments: "I think I was afraid of taking a risk, afraid of participating, afraid of rejection, ruled by fear — I knew how to struggle, how to complain, how to wallow — but what was it like to be truly happy, truly love myself and my life?" (p.67) Lynn's downward spiral seems so easy. Do you think it is harder to do something positive with your life?
  10. Lynn moved to the city to follow her dream and more deeply connect with herself. Instead, she completely lost hold of who she was. Trace the pitfalls. How did city life make her spiral easier? Do you think she would have found herself in the same place if she had moved somewhere else? If she had stayed in Danville?
  11. Lynn said, "Everything that surrounded me was a reflection of myself, a mirror image, and everything matched up." (p.93) This is a classic description of clique culture. Discuss the phenomenon. In the book, this ability to judge your actions only against others making the same choices impacts Lynn negatively, but that doesn't have to be the case. How have you seen this in your own life?
  12. Starting on pages 9, 108, and 234 Lynn shares poetry with you. Look at each of these separately from the story and discuss their use. Why do you believe Lynn included them? How is poetry's impact different from prose?
  13. Lynn's relationship with her mother is the most significant in her life. Talk about the bond between mother and daughter. How did they see each other? Do you believe that each truly understood the other? How did each help the other? Were there moments when they could have helped and didn't?

Enhance Your Book Club

  1. Lynn's blog http://lynnmariesmith.blogspot.com/ adds to her book. Visit the site with your reading group to see what she's involved in today, share other stories, and even view her brain scan.
  2. Learn more about ecstasy use and abuse on http://www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/MDMA/, http://parentingteens.about.com/cs/ecstasy/l/blecstasy2.htm, and http://www.narconon.org/druginfo/ecstasy_x.html.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Group Reading Guide

Rolling Away

by Lynn Marie Smith

Description

Growing up in a small rural town in Pennsylvania, Lynn Smith was one of the popular kids, where she excelled in the performing arts and always dreamed of moving to New York City to pursue a career in acting. At 19, her dream came true when she enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Lynn was exposed to new people, new ideas, and a completely new way of life — one involving drugs. She tried pot, acid, and cocaine, but it was ecstasy that changed her life forever. She spent her weekends popping pills and dancing at clubs, working only to support her habit.

In five months, Lynn went from living somewhat responsibly to not caring about a thing and ignoring symptoms such as throbbing headaches and paranoia, thinking they were normal. Until the night she began to hallucinate uncontrollably. Somehow Lynn managed to call her mother, who returned her to her hometown of Danville. Lynn spent the next fourteen days in a psychiatric ward in a state of extreme confusion. While in the hospital, her doctor performed a neuro-spec scan of her brain, showing the damage Lynn had inflicted upon herself through repeated ecstasy abuse. Since that day, Lynn has dedicated herself to educating others about the perils of drug abuse. She went public with her story in hopes of preventing others from making the same mistakes. Lynn has been given something not everyone gets — a second chance.

Discussion Questions

  1. Lynn's relationships in New York significantly and permanently alter her life. From Lucy, Manny, and Brian, to Mason, each person she meets in the city seems to lead her deeper into drugs and darkness. Yet Lynn takes full responsibility for her choices. How do you feel about Lynn's relationships and their influence on her? How do you think Lynn's mother feels? Does your attitude change if you are a parent? Should it?
  2. Lynn's relationship with her father is central to her story, and her drug use and his alcoholism are inextricably linked. Do you think that Lynn's experiences with ecstasy made her more or less sympathetic to her father's drinking? Why do you think she confronted him the way that she did during her visiting hours: "Dad, you're an alcoholic." (p.144) Did it seem like she was trying to help him, hurt him, or both?
  3. Throughout the book, Lynn desperately seeks intimacy with new groups of people. Think about all of the families of circumstance, of shared experience, of lifestyle that Lynn creates. What is it that bonds each of them? Do you think that it was Lynn's unhappy family life that created this need in her, or something else?
  4. Lynn reveals countless moments that unveil the true horror of life addicted to drugs, some as simple as her asking: "Did I eat today? I forgot what hungry felt like." (p. 123) Were there other moments like this in the story? Discuss what stood out for you most in Lynn's story.
  5. The character of Sam is quite mysterious. Lynn sees him as her guardian angel: "I believed and still believe he was sent for me." (p.139) Why do you think she responded to him in this way? What do you believe about his role in her recovery?
  6. When Lynn gets out of the hospital, she goes homes and "walk[s] around the living room, relishing [her] first taste of freedom." (p.167) At the start of her journey, Danville and this house were her jail and now she finds freedom within the same walls. Think about returning home after such a life-altering experience. What do you imagine you would feel? Lynn eventually begins to feel confined again. Why?
  7. Lynn writes her story with a strong sense of immediacy. Yet there are instances where she comments on her actions with the judgment of retrospect. For example: "In my mind this was a step up, but in reality this move [to Brooklyn] was the final nail in my coffin." (p.101) Review the moments in the story when she looks back like this. Why do you think she picked them? Do you believe that she had any sense of the truth of her situation at the time?
  8. As Lynn enters drug culture, she says: "I had crossed into a strange world, but I was right at home with it. If there was one thing I had mastered, it was adapting to my surroundings. Read the room and morph into what I needed to be to survive." (p.41) Discuss how this ability, and perhaps other aspects of Lynn's personality, impacted her addiction.
  9. As Lynn moves further away from her dream and initial plan for moving to the city she comments: "I think I was afraid of taking a risk, afraid of participating, afraid of rejection, ruled by fear — I knew how to struggle, how to complain, how to wallow — but what was it like to be truly happy, truly love myself and my life?" (p.67) Lynn's downward spiral seems so easy. Do you think it is harder to do something positive with your life?
  10. Lynn moved to the city to follow her dream and more deeply connect with herself. Instead, she completely lost hold of who she was. Trace the pitfalls. How did city life make her spiral easier? Do you think she would have found herself in the same place if she had moved somewhere else? If she had stayed in Danville?
  11. Lynn said, "Everything that surrounded me was a reflection of myself, a mirror image, and everything matched up." (p.93) This is a classic description of clique culture. Discuss the phenomenon. In the book, this ability to judge your actions only against others making the same choices impacts Lynn negatively, but that doesn't have to be the case. How have you seen this in your own life?
  12. Starting on pages 9, 108, and 234 Lynn shares poetry with you. Look at each of these separately from the story and discuss their use. Why do you believe Lynn included them? How is poetry's impact different from prose?
  13. Lynn's relationship with her mother is the most significant in her life. Talk about the bond between mother and daughter. How did they see each other? Do you believe that each truly understood the other? How did each help the other? Were there moments when they could have helped and didn't?

Enhance Your Book Club

  1. Lynn's blog http://lynnmariesmith.blogspot.com/ adds to her book. Visit the site with your reading group to see what she's involved in today, share other stories, and even view her brain scan.
  2. Learn more about ecstasy use and abuse on http://www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/MDMA/, http://parentingteens.about.com/cs/ecstasy/l/blecstasy2.htm, and http://www.narconon.org/druginfo/ecstasy_x.html.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(10)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2005

    I am a librarian at a public library in Florida

    I am a librarian at a public library in Florida...I just spent the last 40 minutes here at work reading through Lynn's book, which I just brought from our processing unit to the reference department, so that it can be placed out for patrons. This is only the second book, in seven years, that has caught my attention like this. I am blown away by what Lynn has written. I want to thank Lynn for her willingness to share her story with the world. I will certainly be recommending this book to everyone I can.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2005

    A 'can't put it down' for anyone, everyone.

    I loved this book. The slide into drugs was understandable, but the partying was extreme for anyone. Belying that, was Lynn's accessible storytelling, that made the shocking tale seem like it could happen to you or me. Just when I'd had enough drug tales, the book changed. Her relapse read like a Grisham novel. Her family story took the book to a higher, even more engaging human level. By the time she found her 'voice' speaking at a prison, I was cheering for this girl, as I felt I knew her. A great, multi-dimensional, fast-read book. Go Lynn!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2005

    I Enjoyed this Book

    Rolling Away captured my attention and would not let go. I stayed up half the night reading it and then finished it the next morning. I have never suffered from addiction but with her vivid imagery and wonderful storytelling, i found myself identifying with Lynn each step of the way. Great Read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2005

    Great read!

    This book is great. It takes you through a journey of emotions, and at the same time teaches you what can happen when your on ecstacy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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