Rated of 5
by Jane (Prospect KY)
This is a powerful book. Not only did the author have to have "used personal experience" to write this book, she had to have lived the life of an addict or a co-dependent to get the tone of this tale exactly right.
I have a brother who went through drug addiction, and I watched my mother live the life of the mother in this book. Watching the addicted person ruin his life is bad enough, but also having to watch the decline of the co-dependent in the relationship is doubly bad because you feel like they have the power to step away from the craziness. In reading this book I think Ms. Howard has adequately presented the case that the co-dependents are as much addicts as the ones addicted to the narcotic.
I also was intrigued by the character of Aaron -- the second brother. I was never sure whether his demons were exacerbated by narcotics/alcohol or whether he was just struggling with the inheritance of mental illness. In any case, the descriptions of his reactions to the brother, father and mother were reminiscent of some of my own (if you take away the cloudiness of drugs/mental illness!)
The mother, Del, was strangely able to draw a line in the sand with helping Aaron, even with his obvious mental problems. She refused to help him buy a car and pay for his schooling unless he was able to contribute in part to those things. Why did this mother see this son differently ... who knows? But I can tell you my mother saw my brothers and sisters differently than she did my addicted brother too. She had the same all inclusive see-no-wrong view with my addicted brother as Dell did, while the rest of us were expected to stand on our own two feet, did so nicely, and thank God every day we did. That is the role of the parent -- to prepare a child for life not to live that life for them. Most of learning is done by living through mistakes ... a co-dependent doesn't let the object of her attention live through mistakes, and thus they are incapable of functioning on their own.
The character, Richard, the mother's significant other, was right on target for how an outsider sees the madness of a family caught up in this merry-go-round. I was struck by his patience and his strong love for Del in his willingness to continue to offer her solace despite his disgust with her inability to walk away from a toxic situation. I thought he offered insight on how you can still love someone in this situation but distance yourself from the madness ... create boundaries. Even with his boundaries he lost the comfort of having her with him as he went through the most difficult time of his life ... and how that affected his willingness to continue to be a part of what was happening.
This isn't a light beach read. It is a serious look at addiction and how it affects a family. I thought it was extremely well written. I think counselors wanting to help co-dependents should have them read this book. It is a cold shock to be reading this and realize you lived this story. I believe it will help friends and families of addicts take a step back and try to save themselves and learn they cannot save the addict. The addict has to save the addict in order NOT to be an addict.