Nickell tells the story of her long road through addiction and abuse in this inspirational debut memoir.
The title’s reference is to a photo of the author at age 4, which she keeps in her own wallet. The picture serves a dual purpose: to remind Nickell to love herself, and to avoid the destructive thought patterns that were developing when the picture was taken. “I remind her that she matters, that I will always care for her to the best of my ability,” Nickell writes in the book’s preface, “but that she’s not calling the shots anymore.” The author relates that she had an alcoholic father and emotionally abusive mother; she herself started drinking early and she lost her virginity during an inebriated blackout. Her stepfather, she says, would send her to school with joints to sell, and he regularly exposed himself to her. She was on her own by 14, and she got married at 17, when she was three months pregnant, to a man who abused her, she writes. One altercation, involving a thrown lighter, left Nickell legally blind. A series of drug offenses resulted in jail time, and it was only then that she began her journey toward recovery—and a Christian relationship with God. In this book, Nickell charts her long struggle to reach a level of financial and emotional security, buoyed by therapy and religious faith. Her prose is consistently candid and gritty, as in this passage, in which she describes a diagnosis of “body rot” at a rehab center: “I had abused myself, had allowed others to abuse me, and for years, I had deprived myself of food and sleep. My regular body functions were shutting down. I was very, very tired.” It’s a remarkable story, overall—not just because of what Nickell went through, but also because of what she was able to achieve: She owns and operates a highly profitable bakery business. Nickell speaks of God often, but she also discusses the psychological work that she put in to improve and forgive herself, making this a useful book for both religious and secular readers.
A stirring account of a hard life and hard work.