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Diary of an Al-Anon

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I've had a non fiction project bouncing around in my head for about 15 years now. It would be a memoir about my experiences growing up as the child of an alcoholic. In many ways, I feel ready to tackle this. My mother passed away almost 6 years ago from complications of renal disease. She had a host of health problems all compounded by her life long alochol abuse, and succumbed to them at the too young age of 61. I was only 24.

Here are the mental and emotional hurdles I now face:

1. I really do not wish to marr my mother's legacy. A lot of the experiences I can think of to write about will show a very ugly side of her and our relationship. To reassure myself, I have thought of how honest my mother was deep down. How in touch with her demons she actually was. She loved the truth that could be found in art, whatever the medium. Also, the whole point of me telling the story will be to show what it feels like to love an addict, the incredible highs and the horrific lows, the beautiful, broken people they are inside. And how important forgiveness is for those of us who walk beside them through their lives. Accepting these things as I do, it is still hard for me to contemplate writing about her at some on the lowest points. It feels like a betrayal of her memory.

2. Even worse than my misgivings about telling the sordid bits of my mother's life, is my hesitance to hurt others close to us who are still living. My mother was a victim of sexual abuse as a child...at the hands of her own father. A fact I'm not sure she ever told anyone else. This is rather crucial to her story because I firmly believe that the childhood trauma set her on the path of mental illness and addiction. I have two uncles and a brother for whom this knowledge will be a crushing blow. That is, if they ever get to read it.

3. Working on this will interrupt an already admittedly stalled fiction novel I've been writing for over a year. But that idea will also always be there, I just have to decide which project deserves my attention more right now, which am I in a better frame of mind to work on.

4. Am I really ready? The loss I still feel is crippling at times. I would give anything to sit and talk with her about this. We often talked about me writing a book about her life. I was so young then and she was so full of enthusiasm and encouragement for what she was sure was a lucrative writing career in my future. The story we talked about telling was a more light hearted "adventure" story but now, looking back, I realize that type of story could never be written about her. It could only go one way because there was only one underlying theme to her life. Emotional trauma leads to mental illness leads to addiction. Rehabilitate, relapse, repeat. It's all just really heavy and depressing and I don't know if it's even good for my mental state or the ongoing grieving process to jump into this right now. But will there ever be a "good time"? I think not...

I just want to write something that honors her AND tells the truth. Something that the family members of addicts can relate to, something that doesn't vilify even their worst thoughts and feelings. Something that tells them it's OK to be angry and embittered. But that it's also OK to forgive. I think this is worth writing about and that I could write it well.

But do I have the courage?

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  1. escorial's Avatar
    Maybe its something you got to write before you can feel open and motivated to carry on as before...it could be a good or bad experience but the end product might be a release rather then a book to publish...either way it can only help you..
  2. Plasticweld's Avatar
    LoLeah, some of that decision should be based on how you plan on concluding your true life story. Many have suffered alcoholic parents, depending on the ending it could be a story of victory and over coming life's problems. It could be written as just another sad story. I would write the ending first, and work back from there, it is after all what is fresh in your memory, and the ending is what will drive your story. I have written about my dad, who was alcoholic yet still very successful, drink and an escape from reality where what drove him to drugs but never made him non-functional. I took the opposite approach when writing about my father and that was he showed me what not to be. I think if you dig up any of my old stories by looking at my profile page under "started threads" you can find some of them title "What my father taught me." "The day my father lost his faith." there are a few of them. While I could use any of my up bringing as an excuse I instead used it as a lesson in what not to do in life and for me that was a victory. You are not alone, your story is all too familiar to too many people. Sharing sometimes helps those who are in the first steps of the battle, that there is hope. If you have the capacity to offer hope to even one person you will have achieved one of the greatest gifts a writer ever gets to experience...Bob
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