Amber Tozer Opens Up About Her Descent into Alcoholism

In Sober Stick Figure, the stand-up comic gets brutally honest about her struggles with addiction and recovery

Photo: Dan Chapman

It was long past midnight, and Amber Tozer had passed out in the backseat of a taxi in Brooklyn. When she came to, she realized she didn’t have enough money to pay the fare. With the cabbie chasing after her, she sprinted through the darkened streets. While running, she encountered two strange men who chased the cabbie away.

Inexplicably, Tozer then got into a car with those two strangers. They drove around the city to score some weed. The next morning, she was both exhilarated and horrified with her risky behavior.

This is just one of many dangerous situations that Tozer, a 39-year-old standup comic and television writer, details in her candid book, Sober Stick Figure.

In the mid 2000s, Tozer was a rising star in standup comedy, doing her routine in clubs in both Los Angeles and New York. She appeared on Last Comic Standing in 2008. She later became a writer for the Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.

Along the way, she started to become well-known around the comedy circuit. (Henry Winkler, Tig Notaro, Patton Oswalt and Andy Richter all wrote reviews of the book.)

But despite her career success, it was a difficult road for the Colorado-born Tozer.

She had her first drink at age 7. By the time she moved to New York after college, she was binge drinking her way through failed relationships and dead-end jobs. She relocated to Los Angeles for a new start, only to find the same demons chasing her in Hollywood.

Seven years ago, Tozer hit rock bottom. (Her moment of clarity came while sleeping on an air mattress after doing cocaine.) With the help of friends – including a recognized Hollywood producer – she sought treatment for her addiction.

While talking about her experience, Tozer pulls no punches. She talks about her alcoholic father, her desperate need for attention, and her “crazy” mind. (The book is illustrated with funny stick figure drawings that are both funny and poignant, considering the subject matter.)

“My main concern about writing the book was hurting and embarrassing my family because I exposed some of our harsh and dysfunctional history,” Tozer tells PEOPLE. “Thankfully, they have been incredibly kind and supportive.”

For Tozer, the brutal honesty also has a higher purpose. “I love to write funny stories about dark and scary truths that lead to transformation,” she says. “Lucky for me, I’m an alcoholic and have a dark and funny story to tell.”

“Listing to and reading about other alcoholics and their journey planted sober and hopeful thoughts in my mind,” she continues. “I hope my journey does the same for other people.”

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