This is no ordinary wanting.
This is the wanting that has no end…
And there’s fear behind the wanting – the fear that if the wanting gets denied there will only be pain and the fear itself left.
So, why did I want to read a book about an alcoholic mother?
Several reasons: It’s a place I have never been, and I wanted to read about what it would be like. I had heard her being interviewed about it when it came out, and I wanted to decide for myself what I thought about it. I read this wonderful article not long ago, which was the clincher for me. (Go read it now, if you haven’t already – I’ll wait.)
Drunk Mom is so well written, it makes for compulsive reading, and I can’t imagine another book doing a better job of making you feel like you might ‘get it’, for those of us who haven’t been there. For anyone who has had these same or similar experiences, it’s the perfect book to make you feel like you’re not alone.
I prefer drinking to anything in the world: sex, food, sleep. My child, my lover, anything… It’s like my blood. Even before I get it, I can feel it in my veins… When I drink, I fill with real gold and become god-like.
While reading Drunk Mom, I could feel the thirst, the want, the need, and the desperation. I could feel her shame, guilt, remorse, and fear. Fear of losing everything, but especially fear for her son. But even that did not stop her. I could feel how debilitating mental illness can be, and how it can cause you to do things that go against everything you believe in.
I’m mortified by the fact that I drank without anyone around to take care of the baby in case I drank myself to death, fell on my head, or choked on vomit. I’m so mortified, my immediate thought is to drink this shame out of me…
Can’t get sober until I’m ready to face the guilt and worry; can’t face the guilt and worry when I’m sober.
The wish for oblivion, the denial, the secrets.
Living is difficult. Dying is difficult. Being dead is not difficult. And what else is a blackout if not death?
… there is a part of me that tells myself this: I’m not drinking. And I believe myself most of the time, truly.
Secret extras of Good Start in the fridge behind vegetables. Secret singles of Good Start in my son’s diaper drawer. Empties in plastic bags. On the bottom of the stroller. Breeding in my closet. I can’t keep away from bottles. I obsess over them. I am the Howard Hughes of bottles. I am the Howard Hughes of secrets.
This is our game:He can tell and I can tell that he can tell but I’ll say no, and he’ll say, No? Are you sure? And I’ll say, No, I am sure, even though I know that he knows that I know that he knows.
There has been controversy over this book. This article talks about whether it is a good idea to air your personal struggles publicly when you have children who will someday be aware of it all. Reading the comments, it is pretty obvious what most people think of it (not so good). But, as I was reading, all I could think about was how brave she was to write about it. She does not glorify anything, she speaks candidly and gruesomely about what it is like to be an alcoholic. She talks about her book being an apology to her son. Will he appreciate it, or will he have wished for a more private apology? It’s hard to know. But, for now, her book is a good way to start these kinds of conversations. This is her story, but so many others will be able to relate; maybe it will give others some solidarity and strength. Memoirs are often about personal struggles; why is hers considered more shameful than others?
I don’t ask for help because I am scared.
I also like that it challenges our idea of what an alcoholic is like. Often, the images that pop into our head are of homeless people drinking out of paper bags. Drunk Mom reminds us that people with mental illness and addictions can also be beautiful, smart, and talented like the author of this book. And brave. Despite all the criticism she has experienced since her book came out, Jowita Bydlowska continues to write about alcoholism and mental illness. This is a memoir worth reading.