"It happened this way: I fell in love and then, because the love was ruining everything I cared about, I had to fall out.
This didn't happen easily, or simply, but if I had to pinpoint it, I'd say the relationship started to fall apart the night I nearly killed my oldest friend's two daughters."
Thus begins the prologue of Caroline Knapp's 1997 best-selling memoir, Drinking: A Love Story.
Why are we-why am I-so fascinated by stories of drug and alcohol abuse? There but for the grace of God go I? Because, lacking luck or God's grace, there went too many in my family? I could easily write a top ten list for my favorite drinking books or drug movies.
There are good reasons why I turn to this genre, why I tended bar for many years, and why in those groups I led for violent men, I had a secret sadness for those broken by cocaine, Jim Beam, and crack. My father succumbed to the life soon after turning 35. I grew up at a time when it was all there for the asking. At seventeen, I walked down the street and a young man said, "Yes or no?"
"Yes," I said. He smiled, popped something in his mouth, and went on his way.
America has a love-hate relationship with drinking and no one outlined this teeter-totter better than Caroline Knapp (who, sadly, died of lung cancer in 2002) a successful journalist and columnist, a magna cum laude Ivy Leaguer, a daughter of upper-class Cambridge Massachusetts, who drank herself into oblivion.
With honesty and writing so good it disappears before your eyes, Knapp takes us deep into her secretly out-of-control world.
"Between the day I knew I had to stop drinking and the day I finally did, I cried almost all night."
I am lucky enough not to have struggled with an addiction to drugs or alcohol-though I think I only skated away from it through a combination of luck and having a weak stomach-but I struggled with cigarettes in this way. I loved smoking. Stopping terrified me. Reading Caroline Knapp's book helped me stay away.
This is the thing about memoirs. Despite the mocking that goes on about over-sharing, I believe that those brave enough-like Knapp-to share, offer us a wonderful gift. By reading them, we can get a me too, and have hope. We can gasp in gratitude at our luck at our own lives, and perhaps have more empathy for those who fell over grace's line, or perhaps we can grasp these stories as a helpful hand offered.
Growing up in a family where secrets reigned, without books I'd have had no clue that the entire world wasn't made up of Cleaver, Cosby, and Brady families. Every day I silently offer gratitude to authors for writing out their lives. Today I send a message to Caroline Knapp. Thank you, Caroline, for your brave and bea
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