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Olivier Ameisen is a French Doctor practising in New York. He has a private Cardiology practice, a varied social life, and work that he loves doing. He is a gifted pianist with a loving girlfriend. There is no reason for him to drink to excess and no history of drinking in his family, but nontheless he becomes an alcoholic. The book starts with an embarrassing blackout episode and being treated in an emergency room by one of his ex-students.
Ameisen attempts many different ways to stop drinking. He attends hundreds of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, takes medication, goes to various expensive rehabs, and seeks the guidance of educated friends. For fear of harming patients, he quits practising and closes his business. Nothing that he tries works and he continues to relapse, regardless of the consequences. He starts to drink so much he is no longer aware if it night or day, and regularly ends up needing medical treatment for injuries sustained while drinking.
He is eventually committed to hospital as a result of an intervention, and faces the loss of his New York medical licence, along with financial ruin caused by expensive stays in rehab and unemployment. Losing everything in New York, he returns home to France to live with his elderly mother. He keeps drinking and is committed to hospital again by his family.
Olivier's mother dies and he begins to feel there is no chance of controlling his drinking. His girlfriend sends him an article about Baclofen. He begins experimenting with taking the drug, and finds this drug removes all his cravings for alcohol. The second part of the book details his attempts to get his findings fully researched and published, and ends with a call for more research.
Despite his achievements, Ameisen relates how he has been plagued by feeling of insecurity and anxiety, and suffered panic attacks throughout his life.