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  • jrblackburnsmith

Arrested!


Image: Stock photo of police cruisers


Last week I wrote about being an adult child of an alcoholic, from generations of alcoholics, and how I was conflicted about how alcoholics are portrayed in the media. They tend to be one dimensional, destructive characters with no redeeming qualities while in my experience many alcoholics are charming, hardworking, well-meaning people. To illustrate that point, I wrote about how Grampa RL took us bear hunting in Lakewood, Ohio, while he drank with his friends at each stop along the way.


It would be wrong to stop the story there, however, because alcoholism is destructive and terrible. If alcoholics could quit drinking at the point of being charming, there would be no such thing as AA or Al-Anon. Part of why those memories from my childhood are pleasant is because I was young enough that I was in bed before things got ugly, and my memories as a teenager are very different. Even as a child there were incidents that were clearly off. One time when I was staying with my grandparents, RL woke me up around two am just because he wanted to tell me he loved me. He was swaying on his feet, slurring his words, repeating himself over and over and even as a little kid I did not trust the emotion he was sharing. I remember thinking, at seven years old, 'why do you have to be drunk to say you love me?'


As I got older, I became aware of the arguments and fights that RL got into. He used to keep a cooler filled with beer on the floor of the backseat of his car, so he did not have to stop on long road trips to get his fix. The scariest moment was on Christmas Day, when I was in high school. My grandparents were visiting from Mississippi, where they had moved in retirement, and Rl was drunk by mid-morning. He decided he needed to go to the hospital to dry out, but he was so drunk my dad would not let him drive himself (and of course he did not want to be driven.) RL threatened to go get his gun and shoot everyone (he did not have a gun, but we had guns in the house for hunting and target shooting.) Dad had to wrestle him to the ground and call the county Sheriff. The deputies put RL and handcuffs and took him to the detox center in the hospital and checked him in. Sounds great, right? It was what RL had said he wanted. Well, an hour later, RL checked himself out, because it wasn't an involuntary stay. He got a ride to our house, loaded up his car and headed back to Mississippi with his cooler of beer in the backseat.


Children of alcoholics learn that they cannot trust the adults in their lives. Because they are children, they cannot rationally connect alcohol or drugs to people's behavior, so that wariness about others --that lack of trust-- will continue to manifest itself in their lives as they grow older, unless they get help learning how to deal with it. The first time a counselor told me I was an adult child of an alcoholic I got furious. I left the session thinking 'I'm paying you to tell me what I already know?' and I didn't plan on going back. For one thing, my dad had quit drinking twenty years earlier at that point. But the counselor did recommend Al-Anon, and when I mentioned that to my dad, he drove me to a meeting. I learned some amazing things about myself. Most of my friends turned out to be adult children of alcoholics (unsupported at the time) and of course, my wife Denise is also an adult child. I had surrounded myself with people who had learned the same inconsistent behaviors that I had learned growing up.


Storytelling lets us capture the complexity of situations if we let it. As a writer, it can be hard sometimes to not cut to the chase. In Love: a novel of grief and desire, I tried to capture the complexity of alcoholism and grief and love. My hope is that readers will find something to love and something to hate in all the characters, for then the characters will be real.


Love: a story of grief and desire is now available as an audiobook! Available on amazon, audible.com and wherever audiobooks are sold.


Win a free Kindle edition of Love: a novel of grief and desire: I work with Reader's Favorite on the Kindle book giveaway. If you go to readersfavorite.com/book-giveaway you can sign up for the monthly giveaway. You can scroll through the list of giveaways (over 500 each month) or sort the list by title or author to find Love: a novel of grief and desire and put your name in for this month's drawing. Good luck!

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