Books about grief are not my favorite. I don’t find comfort in reading the details of someone else’s depression or hard time when I’m in the same, dark place. More conventional grief books tend to either lecture that their way is the one and only way to cope or guide us through a dreary depression without the triumphantly hopeful ending we all envision for ourselves. The only exception seems to be if that hard time is loosely related and recounted with the intent to entertain and inform.
With that in mind, every week this month I will present an unconventional book to read while coping with grief. Some books might not be for you. My mission isn’t necessarily to demand you read these books, although I highly recommend each one, but instead to promote the notion of using the whole bookstore to avoid being relegated to the eight books in the grief section. We are going to cover some important topics: alcohol and addiction, inspiration, health and identity.
I guess the idea to write about alternative books for grief has been in the back of my mind for a while but recently I felt an even stronger desire to spread the good word.
A friend, let’s call her Catherine, approached me the other day asking for suggestions for her friend whom we will call Julia. Catherine told me Julia’s mother committed suicide 10 years ago. Julia was in her early 20s at the time. Since her mother’s death she’s gotten married and had two children. When she asked me if I could email her a few grief resources, I, of course, said yes. Then she expressed her gratitude for my help and said Julia confessed to her she couldn’t keep curling up with a bottle of wine every night in front of the TV with a husband, two kids and a job. It’s very embarrassing to admit before I read Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety, I wouldn’t have thought twice about Julia’s wine habit.
Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety, written by Sacha Z. Scoblic, is a story of her life after coming out as an alcoholic. It may seem like a stretch to read a memoir about sobriety to cope with grief but in addition to providing you with a hand-held guide to defining your possible dependency on alcohol, Sacha’s story is similar to ours. She is forced to adjust to her new sober identity, leaving her former self behind. She encounters insensitivity and confusion about how to function in her new role, which is something easy to understand after experiencing a relabeling following the death of my mother.
In one section, she recounts a dinner party hosted by a friend who loves to soak each dish in alcohol. Sacha daydreams of her friend’s plot against her until she confronts the issue only to discover her friend was clueless to the sensitivity and happy to adjust.
Her underlying message, that people are a lot nicer than we think they are, seems like a good mantra to adopt. Simply telling people they are being insensitive or asking for something you need when having a hard time can be a hurdling feat but in the end it’s the proverbial sigh of relief we often crave.
In addition to learning how Sacha navigates her new identity she also teaches us, ever so subtly, how to define our relationship with alcohol. I asked the fantastic author herself to email me her assessment of Catherine’s friend Julia.
She wrote, “It’s tempting to escape to the bottle, but ask: How is that escape going to help your feeling of being overwhelmed? Oh, you say, it’s fantastic; I feel warm and cozy and I don’t worry about things. Indeed, at first it will numb you–for a few hours. But in the morning you’ll have a headache, give the kids junk instead of good food because now you’re late, forget your husband’s name, see the laundry you meant to do last night, arrive late at work, and do your job less efficiently, which in turn means things start to pile up at work as they are at home. Then you get home and, I’ve done it again, this life business is hard, I deserve a drink. And the cycle repeats. In other words, the bottle is not an escape; it is a trap. A seductive one, to be sure, but a trap nonetheless.”
More than the thought-provoking prose Sacha is clearly capable of, her book is a gift. She tells the story us the meaty part of the story. With the problem acknowledged from the onset, we can enjoy the bumpy road to the triumphant happy ending.
Sacha Z. Scoblic’s book is available on Amazon, here: http://www.amazon.com/Unwasted-Sobriety-Sacha-Z-Scoblic/dp/080653429X!
Click here to listen to an interview with the author on WHYY: http://whyy.org/cms/radiotimes/2011/11/09/sacha-scoblics-lush-sobriety/.