Thursday, July 11th, 2013
Books about women and alcohol are all the rage this summer. I recently posted about Her Best-Kept Secret. Today, I want to suggest a memoir about a mom who got toasted way too much and then worked hard to fix her life. Author Heather Kopp‘s Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk is a great book for any parent who’s interested in alcohol and how it affects our kids. It’s especially helpful for, well, drunks. Heather tells you more about her incredible journey from addicted to clean below:
“I recently got an email from a mom I’ll call Lucy who recognized herself in my book. Which is to say, she’s an admitted alcoholic who hides her problem well.
Lucy is married to a prominent doctor, the mother of two school-aged kids and involved in her church. She admits that by all counts, she has a beautiful life. “So why can’t I stop drinking?!” she wrote. “How the hell did this happen?”
My guess is what happened to Lucy is what’s happening to a growing number of moms. It’s become trendy these days to combine happy hour with play dates, or to reach for a glass or two of wine in the afternoon to take the edge off a hard day with the kids. For most moms, that’s fine. But for women predisposed to alcoholism, pretty soon happy hour turns into a daily habit—and every day becomes a hard day.
Once we realize we’re stuck, denial kicks in. “I know for sure that I’m a great mom,” Lucy wrote. “My secret drinking hasn’t ever harmed my kids. I never slur or stumble. Sometimes, I think it makes me a more loving, patient mom.”
I don’t doubt that Lucy can drink copious amounts of alcohol with nary a misplaced foot or word. Increased tolerance is a hallmark of alcoholism. Neither do I doubt that drinking makes Lucy less irritable with her kids. Nothing soothes an alcoholic’s agitation more quickly than a drink.
But here’s the rub. And I say this with love: We’re kidding ourselves if we think that our addiction to any mood altering drug or activity isn’t affecting our kids. And we’re dangerously deluded if we conclude that it can actually improve our parenting.
By the way, this was me to a T. My own kids were in junior high and high school when I spiraled into alcoholism. I clung like a cat on a curtain to this idea that what my kids didn’t know couldn’t hurt them—but if I didn’t get to drink, I just might.
What I failed to reckon was that kids sense it in their bones when you are not fully present. They know you’re numbing your feelings and some part of you has gone missing. Usually, they just can’t put it into words until later. My kids were grown before they could name the myriad ways alcohol robbed them of Mom.
Of course, many addicted moms aren’t so subtle in the havoc they wreak. I know plenty who have lost custody of their kids because of drugs or alcohol. Ironically, though, it’s those of us with the wherewithal to work hard to try to manage our drinking who often stay stuck the longest. We high-functioning, fine-wino types take first place in rationalization and image management, but we’re the last to reach for help.
I suffered for twelve long years before I finally admitted my life was unmanageable and got into recovery. Since then, I’ve struggled to name and grieve the losses—conversations I never had with my kids, intimate moments we never shared—because I don’t even know what I missed.
Of course, I would have done better if I had known better. Which is part of why I wrote Sober Mercies. If you’re struggling with an addiction or know someone who is, maybe my story can serve as a kind of catalyst for healing.
It’s never too late to reach for help. And more important, it’s never too soon.”
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alcoholism, cocktails, drunk, Five O'Clock Cocktails, Heather Kopp, moms and drinking, Sober Mercies, soberboots.com, wine | Categories:
Guest Blogs, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
The book called The Good House by Ann Leary kept popping up on my Facebook feed. I read statuses such as “It’s so awesome!,” “Hildy’s alcoholism makes me feel better about myself,” “That was the most lovable and unreliable main character I’ve ever read.” My friends tend to be rabid readers with excellent taste, so I thought I’d better check it out. Also, it is creeping up the bestseller list.
I listened to The Good House on Audible in two days. (I’m so obsessed with Audible–that’s another story I’ll be writing soon). I highly recommend their version narrated by actress Mary Beth Hurt. However you ingest books, get your hands on this one fast.
Hildy Good does not drink, she tells you at the beginning of the book. Later she sneaks down to her mouse-infested basement to crack open a bottle of wine–just for a sip. She does not have a drinking problem, she insists, even though she’s just come back from rehab, and her grown daughters believe she’s doing great on the wagon. Hildy’s a 60-ish real estate broker in Wendover, Massachusetts. She’s quite sure that she’s the most successful business woman in town, and she loves her girls, her grandson and her dogs. Sometimes, just for fun, she reads people’s minds at get-togethers, but she insists it’s just a party trick. Meanwhile, Hildy is the descendant of a burned-at-the-stake Salem witch, and her aunt was a fortune teller. Oh, and by the way, her mother killed herself when Hildy was 12.
The story unfolds with her real estate business getting squeezed, her daughters being a little annoying and her loneliness building since her husband ran off with a man. Hildy knows everyone and everything in her lifelong hometown. Whether she has ESP or not, she says she can read people more accurately than shrinks just by taking a look inside their homes. Enter a new couple, Rebecca and Brian McAllister. Rebecca–bewitching herself–becomes fast friends with Hildy because they share secrets. Rebecca doesn’t mind if Hildy has a glass of wine, and Hildy know she’s carrying on with the psychiatrist who works from the office upstairs from the real estate agency. Enter Frank, the town fix-it man, who was Hildy’s first when they were teenagers. Blackmail, romance and partying ensue.
Author Ann Leary (more on her in a sec) doesn’t really need a good plot to carry off this hilarious and wry book because of the richness of the characters and the town. I found two aspects of her writing particularly captivating. First, it’s impossible not to relate to Hildy–she’s a mom, a wife, a lover, a snoop–with total abandon. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a 60-year-old protagonist, but age in this book is irrelevant. Second, this is a manifesto on what alcoholism is really like. But it’s not like a waggy finger at all. Instead, it’s authentic and totally, completely funny. Anyone who’s ever had a drink will be enthralled with Hildy’s gritty choices. The wait-what-just-happened plot was the zinger in this book that kept me not pasted, but glued to it.
I didn’t read anything about The Good House until I finished the audio book. Then I found out that Ann Leary is comedian Dennis Leary’s wife, and she’s also written another work of fiction and a memoir. I’m glad I didn’t know that because celebrity-connected books turn me off (getting deals is easy for them). But don’t be fooled by the author’s link to the A-list. Ann Leary writes the pants clear off of this novel. I’m happy to report that she’s hard at work on her next one about a battle over a WASP-Y Connecticut family estate. I’m in. I’m hooked. Please Ann, create someone I love as much as Hildy Good.
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alcoholism, Ann Leary, bestseller, Dennis Leary, ESP, Hildy Good, horses, Mary Beth Hurt, Massachusetts, real estate agent, The Good House, witch | Categories:
Best Sellers, Fiction, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Popular Books