Book Review: Becoming Vulnerable by Joshua Corwin

Joshua Corwin is a poet who has tackled a cause close to my heart: being autistic and a recovering addict. His book, a collection of poetry called Becoming Vulnerable, looks at the myth that vulnerability is a weakness and the power of embracing vulnerability.

Corwin’s poetry is a perfect clap back to the idea that all autistics have to be scientists and mathematicians. His poetry shows the beautiful art that the autistic mind can create. Every word is like a brush stroke on the canvas of a masterpiece, the intent behind it so carefully planned and orchestrated.

His poetry confronts the true nature of the journey from addiction to sobriety, while capturing the beauty and bittersweet moments of loss that so many of us ignore.

It is very clear that for Corwin, the world is a living entity, and every person within it is a working part, moving together to heal from the wounds that so many of us experience through the grief of love and loss. He demonstrates a deep connection to the world around him, and how this has influenced his own journey through addiction to self-discovery and acceptance.

Corwin captures a mindful resistance to the demons of addiction, calmly saying “I am not this person anymore.”

I would like to briefly look at some of my favourite poems from this collection:

Hello Grandpa

Smoking a joint & looking to the sky. Overlooking Pacific Coast Highway. I didn’t know why I was smoking & doing what I was doing. – This substance, no longer sustenance for me

“Hello Grandpa” beautifully captures that bittersweet memory that every addict has of the last time he used.

For addicts, drug use can often become romanticised, a twisted love affair that brings only destruction. This poem dissects this fact and presents it beautifully. Corwin takes you on a moving journey from the last time he used through to losing his grandfather, saying goodbye, and finding gratitude and peaceful moments in recovery.

“Hello Grandpa” puts words on a journey not well documented or understood, a spiritual new beginning of transcending the pain of the past and and embracing the hope that will become the fuel to escort them into a brighter future.

Hi, My Friend

I was thinking about a friend I used to do drugs with. About how I didn’t -and still don’t- know if he’s alive or dead

I really related to this piece. I, too, have friends that I used to use with, with whom I have lost contact.

This poem reminded me that while we shared a common demon, their fates are their own, as is mine. In this piece, Corwin highlights the fact that we cannot dwell on things we have no control over. This poem was a beautiful farewell to the past.

Gratitude after breakfast

I USED to think it was impossible to cease thinking for more than five seconds. 
I secretly believed I knew everything.
I USED to deem gratitude an unnecessary word.
I hated to stretch my cheekbones into a smile.
I was convinced everyone was a phony.
I USED to think I was the shit.

This poem takes an honest look at the paradox of self-absorption and self-hatred that comes with addiction. Corwin lays bare the inner battle within every addict. He wonderfully contrasts at the end where he has returned to humble self-love and care.

The Update

Like a pacifist in rage
I need to accept my brain chemistry.
But persevere.

An honest insight into life as a neurodivergent person and the battle to accept oneself. Corwin begs the question, am I broken, or is the world just not made for people like me?

Memory Smile

He stayed sober
Sheer self-will.
Refused help.
His mind wouldn’t let him.
He couldn’t say the words
When he tried to vocalise them,
his mind fought back.

In direct opposition to the idea that autistic people lack empathy, Corwin captures his empathy for another addict, watching him kill himself through denial of his struggles. A common sight for many of us in the addiction recovery community.

At points, this collection made me uneasy, not because of the quality, but because it made me confront aspects of myself that I have kept hidden for years, especially the parts about spirituality. Corwin has established a deep connection with the spiritual that comes across in the poetry he has written. 

Corwin’s poetry lays bare the parts of us that we as autistic addicts in recovery have kept hidden. It ends on a beautifully wholesome note, wishing us to live in the moment, free of the fears presented by a difficult past and an unknown future.

Becoming Vulnerable is available for purchase now through Corwin’s website, found here.


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