A novelist’s account of how learning to live with a susceptibility to substance abuse helped him take control of his life in middle age.
Mohr (All This Life, 2015, etc.) showed a predilection for self-punishment early in his life. After his father “bolted for California,” his alcoholic mother left him with men who sometimes mistreated him. Mohr drank and drugged through his adolescence and young adulthood, losing jobs and an early marriage along the way. His craving for the pain that often came with overindulgence made him like Odysseus, who tied himself to the mast of his ship just so he could hear the “debauched propositions” of the Sirens and live to tell the tale. When he met Lelo, the woman who would become his second wife, his life began to stabilize. He started and finished a program in creative writing and gradually found success as a novelist. Yet he could not stop drinking and sometimes found himself “Alcoholic Quantum Leaping”: blacking out and then returning to reality, totally unaware of what had happened before he lost consciousness. Fatherhood and a commitment to his writing helped him curb his alcoholism, but whenever he tried to get completely sober, the “sirens” called him back to them. At age 35, Mohr had a stroke: three years later, doctors diagnosed a hole in his heart that they linked to his history of strokes. Forced to go on painkillers after more than five years of sobriety, Mohr meditated on mortality; his responsibilities to Lelo and his daughter; and on the fact that despite his best efforts, his more controlled relationship to drugs and alcohol could be compromised at any time. By turns raw and tender, this book not only chronicles a man’s literary coming-of-age. It also celebrates the power of love while offering an uncensored look at the frailties that can define—and sometimes overwhelm—people and their lives.
An entirely candid, compelling memoir of addiction and the long, fraught road of recovery.