Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska

4 Nov

Have you ever had a friend confide something somewhat disturbing to you? Maybe they warned you there was something they wanted to talk about. Or maybe they just blurt it out while you’re enjoying your weekly meetup for coffee/drinks. They look you right in the eye while they confess a truth that’s been weighing on their heart. They hush their voice and tell you the unpolished, unaltered secret that they can’t hold onto any longer. You are enraptured in them at that moment. You don’t know whether to condemn them or tell them it’s okay, so you just sit and listen, because that’s probably all they want you to do anyways.

That’s what reading this book was like. Somebody baring the dirty, nasty secrets of their past. I read this book in two days, glued to every word. While getting my hair done, waiting for the subway, eating a bagel and sipping coffee at a diner. I couldn’t turn away. Jowita Bydlowska describes a year of being a relapsed alcoholic while also being a new mother. Her prose is jarring, overloaded with metaphors and missing dialogue and cuts between time. I found it beautiful and felt pulled into what it must be like in the mind of someone completely under the spell of addiction.

I was reading some of the reviews of this book on Goodreads and was shocked to see how many people gave it one or two stars. These reviews always read something along the lines of “Great book/writing, but I can’t give her a good rating, because she was a horrible mother who did deplorable things while caring for her child.” WHAT?! When you rate a book, you aren’t rating the author as a human being. She doesn’t speak highly of the things she did. If anything the book is full of shame, grief, self-loathing and disappointment. I loved the book because of her absolute honesty. Who wants to read a 300-page book about someone being a perfect mother, never making any mistakes? Bigger question: Who wants to read a 300-page book about anyone being a perfect person, skating through life making all the right choices?

Sometimes when I sit down to write personal essay/memoir/blog posts, I hesitate. I think less about the craft of writing and more about who might one day read it. My mom, my friends, ex-boyfriends, future boyfriends. I even worry about possible future children who will think their mother was a moron/shitty person in her younger days. So I censor myself. I tell half the story and shelve the rest. I’m not ready for the world to see the ugly parts of me. It always makes me think of one of my favorite F. Scott Fitzgerald quotes:

“You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner…you only have your emotions to sell.”

And that’s what made me so in awe of this writer and this work. It was the truth, her truth as she felt it and she lived it in what was the darkest year of her life. I thought it was beautiful.

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