When I think of grief memoirs, I don’t often think about addiction. Which is kind of funny because my father was an alcoholic and all of his health problems, and his subsequent death, were the result of his addiction to alcohol and cigarettes. If I do think about addiction as a topic for memoir I mostly think of books told from the point of view of the addict: the addict who fell to the lowest point in their lives then scraped their way out of a dark hole to recovery.
One reason why I believe Dark Wine Waters is a good resource is that in this book we get the point of view of the codependent, someone who experiences the complexity of love and grief.
Why do we write?
One of my other projects is the iWriteBecause project. We who are writers write for so many reasons: because we love words, because our mothers couldn’t read or write, because stories flow through our veins… I believe as memoirists we write first for ourselves, to figure things out, an excavation of sorts, and an accounting. We write to heal. In fact, recent research shows that the act of writing can put your body into a meditative state that promotes healing. Research has also shown that creating a narrative out of the traumatic experiences of our lives helps us deal with them better.
We also write to connect with others.
Fran’s story is an accounting of her life with her husband Terry. She is attempting to make some sense of his death by suicide. She must have asked herself a thousand times how did I get here? By asking these questions she will undoubtedly connect with many many (too many) others who have loved an addict.
And those of us with the gift and the strength to tell our stories should reach out to those who can’t as Fran has done. If you’ve loved an addict, you’ll find solace in Dark Wine Waters knowing you are not alone.
Characters: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
I was in a writing workshop once where a fellow student had written an essay about her horrible parents. And they were indeed horrible–they were abusive. In the essay we were critiquing she declared they were evil then moved on… But like characters in a novel must believable, so must characters in memoir. They must be complex, fully rounded human beings and to some degree must have their own struggles and challenges. We must trust the narrator and so the writer must depict these real life characters accurately on the page. Chalking up a character’s behavior, no mater how horrible, to “evil” isn’t enough.
Simone does a good job depicting her husband Terry as a complex character. She shows us the hard times when he was too drunk to be a good partner or when his actions embarrassed her.
“Do you remember when you passed out on Sunday was we drove back from Holden Beach?” she writes in a scene being played out in a therapist’s office. “I felt furious. Do you remember vomiting on the side of the road? I felt disgust. I had to drive ten hours by myself…”
But she also shows us the good times, and not just in the beginning, when she was falling in love, before his drinking problem was apparent to her, but throughout their marriage. They traveled together, he bought her flowers, massaged her feet. He was charming and she was in love.
She writes: “My husband was a tender soul with a broken body and split personality. And therein lay my ambivalence and confusion. For years, I teetered on a tightrope between love and hate, rode a wave between drunk and sober, and fought a battle between blame and forgiveness.”
Love and addiction can be so complicated.
Dark Wine Waters is published by Central Recovery Press, whose “publications are written specifically for recovering individuals and their families; chronic pain, addiction and other behavioral health professionals; treatment facilities; and the general public.”
I have no doubt Simone’s book will find the right readers.
Visit the website http://www.darkwinewaters.com where you’ll find more information about the author and lots more great writing on her blog.