I was recently introduced to the enchanting world of Powell’s City of Books in Portland and I was amazed at not only the sheer size of the store, but the organization of it all. My girlfriend and I floated between rooms leisurely picking books off of the shelves, occasionally skimming the pages looking for the inevitable line that will lead me to the register, book in hand.
I came across the section labeled ‘addiction’ with all sorts of specific sub-sections. I ran my fingers across their spines, pinpointing the ones that already sat on my shelf back in San Jose. I haven’t had a drink in nearly two and a half years. I rarely discuss my sobriety, not because it causes any discomfort, but I only find myself talking about sobriety with other sober individuals. Because I am not actively involved in AA, there are only a handful of people in my life that I regularly discuss addiction with. My initial pursuit of understanding addiction started with literature. I turned to memoirs of authors, musicians, and other people who had struggled with addiction and went through pages of their lives. I scoured their experiences looking for any connection to my own, with a desperate hope that all my struggles would instantly make sense. They didn’t.
But what these books did accomplish was much more significant. These author’s stories strongly resonated with me and provided me with some clarity seeing my emotions in their words. Days spent in bed reading these books not only helped fill time I normally spent drinking, but also helped me feel less alienated with my struggles that were often mirrored by the pages in my hand.
I pulled a thin, hard-covered book off the shelf and was drawn the split, black and white cover with looming grey clouds. Mayhem, a memoir by Sigrid Rausing. Rausing’s name meant little to me as I hadn’t heard about her family prior to reading this book. I opened the inside cover and boldly at the top it read, “a searingly powerful memoir about the impact of addiction on a family”.
That’s all it took. The book was quickly propped under my arm with a stack of others and I was on my way to the register. Admittedly, this has taken me a long time to finish despite its length of 200 pages. Her honestly and genuine love makes me think about my own family and reminds me that my sobriety cannot be used as a magic eraser of the past. In Mayhem, Rausing asks many questions about addiction, more than some addicts will ever ask themselves unfortunately. Rausing’s efforts are exhaustingly admirable and I can’t help but feel guilty reading such a sincere exposure of life. She writes that “it’s easy to express vulnerability when you are strong, and almost impossible when you are not.” This was one of those times I had to put the book down.
It’s been awhile since I’ve read a memoir on addiction and I glad this book has made its way to my shelf. My growing collection reminds to continue to be open, to write and actively work on my growth as an individual. Ambition is almost a requirement for my sobriety and reading feeds that determination. Addiction can lead to a lot of harmful and selfish behavior, but sharing the journey is selfless.