More than ever I believe in this notion of evolution throughout a lifetime, that we actually develop into new selves as we progress. When I read the posts I published on this blog almost a year and a half ago, they seem written by an entirely different person. In December of 2012, I had recently finished my book and was filled with an excited optimism about publicizing it. Today I smile at a naïve sort of confidence in that voice – a childish sort of “Look at ME!” that I’ve since lost. I had no idea that within a week of that last post, a lifequake would strike and take out many structures by which I knew my world.
I’d already told my mom that addiction memoirs were best left unread by parents. But when I told my siblings about the book, they downloaded it within hours and read the entirety within days – sadly, not to support me, but to confirm their conviction that I was a self-aggrandizing twit. I had know my family’s perspectives differ greatly from mine on the nature of alcoholism, the worth of Twelve Step programs, and the plausibility of paranormal experiences. What I did not know was that their perspective condones war on any transgressor who breaks from what they feel to be right. Two family members posted a mocking Facebook queue ridiculing the book’s typos, followed by multiple condemning “reviews” on the book’s website: “This was a straight-up 570 page masturbation session.” A series of emailed flamers landed in my inbox like burning crosses, capped off by demands for individual apologies. I was a liar, a narcissist, a sadist, pathetically in need of approval, and willing to make up lies about deaths in the family in hopes of selling books.
Now, if you knew me, you would know I lack a thick skin. In fact, I battle with self-worth as it is, so aggressive accusations cut me to the quick. I knew no way to defend myself. At an intellectual level, I understood that my siblings were acting out in patterns classic for adult children of alcoholics. I also sensed that the very fact that we couldn’t talk to one another directly – all the attacks being online – supported what my book maintained: that our family was dysfunctional due to a history of alcoholism. Yet I still felt overwhelmed with shame, apologized all over myself, and rewrote many portions of the book to please them. I am a pacifist. I believed in treating others with only loving kindness.
But in the midst of this mess, I got diagnosed with breast cancer. Weirdly, a part of me was relieved that now my family would have to back off and quit the e-attacks. They didn’t. They “reported” the book as spurious, and my brother, posing as a reader in recovery, posted another mocking Amazon review during my last week of radiation treatment. But by then, I’d been given the gift of not caring. I even called him directly and told him to write his own fucking book.
In two days, it will be one year since I wrapped up radiation. I’ve been cancer-free since. But my view of life is altered. Where I used to look forward to a lot of cool things I was going to do, I now focus on enjoying what’s here now. Where I used to hope I could “make” my family see who I am, now I leave them to find their own paths while I focus on taking care of myself. And where I used to harbor high hopes that one day this book would “take off,” sell like hotcakes, and be eagerly accepted by some publisher, I now smile at such dreams. My ambitions today are far simpler. I want to live, and I want to help others. That’s it. I will write with discipline, posting weekly or biweekly from a sense of service. If one person learns something helpful from reading this blog or my book, if they are able to move any closer to god and healing because of what’s in these posts or the book that tells my story in a 555 page share, then I’ve been useful.
I will tell my story because it’s mine to tell. Take what you like and leave the rest. And I wish you lots of happiness.