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Once A Million Little Pieces was selected for Oprah's Book Club, it topped the best-seller list for 17 straight weeks. As thrilled as he was by the book's success, James knew that its categorization as a memoir could mean trouble, but he says he didn't know how to stop what he had started.

"I think there were opportunities to [stop what I had started], and I think I was scared to do it or didn't know how to do it," he says. "And I didn't do it. It was a mistake. It was a bad mistake."

Watch James talk about his doubts over promoting the book as a memoir   

James says he now regrets making the decision to publish the book as a memoir but doesn't blame anyone but himself. "We can swing back to what a memoir is or isn't, what rules there are or aren't, what advice I got or didn't get. But at the end of this, the responsibility for that situation all has to come back to me," he says.

If he could do it all over again, James says he would have done things differently. "I would have been very clear when that book came out about what it was. And I would have been very clear about what I was trying to do when I wrote it," he says.

When James wrote the book, he says he was trying to change the way people think about things, to change lives in some way. "I definitely wasn't trying to write a self-help book," he says. "[But] I was trying to write a book that might help people—addicts or the family members or friends of addicts, that it would give them a different way to think about it."

"And it did," Oprah says. "It has."

"That was very humbling and amazing," James says. "I mean, to this day, I get letters almost every day about A Million Little Pieces. It's probably the greatest thing about what I do."

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