Friday, March 05, 2010

More than stale cookies and tears

I used to date this guy in high school whose parents were total AA freaks. They lived it, they breathed it, and they definitely needed it as surely as they needed gravity, or the universe was going to implode. Their AA buddies filled the table at Christmas and Thanksgiving and perpetual diatribes were recited about how they were still alcoholics even though they hadn't touched a drink in 8000 days. It all seemed very confusing and pessimistic to me.

Well, my boyfriend thought it would be a great idea for prom to get his hands on a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the occasion – that romantic little underage devil. His father found his poison in the boot of his car and off to the AA meeting he trotted with his "alcoholic" son in tow kicking and screaming. When it came time to stand up and tell his story, he truthfully said he was there because his father had found an unopened bottle of champagne in his car that he had been reserving for prom night. To my knowledge, despite this humiliating event, this guy did not go on to be an alcoholic, but I think he did lose a lot of respect for his father.

When I first got started on An Addict In My Son’s Bedroom, I had to scroll back up to the top and do a double take on that picture to make sure it wasn’t ole Bill and Connie terrorizing yet another of their progeny by projecting their own controlling obsessions onto a normal, albeit slightly substance-curious young man.

But as I continued to read, I thought, “Holy Shitstorms. Mom, quick, shackle down the boy’s legs. Dad, grab his arms. I’ll just saw off his fingers and ears so he can’t call his drug dealer anymore.”

This is not the blog of misguided obsessive parents. This is the blog of two crushed and desperate yet hopeful and persevering and especially loving parents of an addict with all of the confusion and ups and downs of optimism contrasted by let downs that the vomit-inducing rollercoaster ride has held for them.

Truthfully, Askers, the writing itself has been peed all over in grammar and punctuation mistakes and there are incomplete sentences bespangling almost every single post which are like flashing red no-vacancy lights in the middle of the peaceful desert that distract the ever living rattlesnake piss out of me.

But my question is, Mom and Dad, do you really care?

You Askers may be shocked to hear this coming from me, but I do believe there is a place in the blogosphere for mere support groups, the kind in church basements where everyone and their half-literate twitchy-eyed step-uncle are welcome to tell their cockeyed tales of survival. At the end everyone gets a hug and a cookie just for breathing. But most of the people that show up for that kind of gig don’t come around here and ask for my opinion on how they expressed themselves and on the fucked up outfit they're wearing.

But, since you asked, Mom and Dad, I’ll tell you that I - as someone who does not need this particular support group - don’t feel like sitting there on one of those uncomfortable folding chairs sipping instant coffee out of a styrofoam cup with the powdery cream shit in it listening to your meatless updates on how things are going and hearing you yap about your woodworking during the breaks, while staring at your template that I want to punch the boring out of, all the while trying to figure out if it's Mom or Dad whose actually talking to me.

However, I will gladly stick around despite not really belonging there, or caring for your outfit, if you give me the heart and soul and self-reflection and real depth that I know you’ve got in you. No one is born with the skill of writing, Mom and Dad. But you know what? You weren’t born with the skill to make this either and you managed to do it with chisels or whatever. As I’m sure you are discovering, you have to hone your ability to be effective through writing, it requires carefully forging your thoughts, brainstorming on ways to transmit feeling through prose via verbal experimentation. Rather than just saying “I’m disappointed”, an effective writer finds a way to make the reader feel the disappointment without ever saying that word. Rather than saying “Here’s a list of advice”, an effective writer transmits the advice by brutally and intimately acquainting the reader with failures and successes. Sometimes you really get that. A lot of the time you get it. But sometimes you don't.

A great blog doesn’t just require something to talk about – you clearly have that part covered, and that is something that I as a blogger struggle with. A great blog requires a shit ton of time-consuming drafts, zillions of scratched out words and paragraphs, and an assload of extremely tedious re-reading and editing, and yes, the use of a dictionary and thesaurus. This all sounds like a real drag and is probably unnecessary if all you want is support and community and self-reflection. But you would be surprised at how through the self-editing process, you can experience a thrill in discovering that unexpected words - those tiny seemingly insignificant units in a language - can testify to how you feel better than you ever imagined. You begin to scrutinize under a microscope how those words match up with all the turmoil and joy and ambiguity inside and in doing so you force yourself to go deeper and deeper into the core of what it is you want to share with the world. And this, Mom and Dad, is in itself an intense process of self-discovery and one that can create some of the strongest bonds of supportive community possible.

For the most part, you already know all this. But for the times that you forget it, you get a post-fart hug and a stale cookie:







But for the times that you get it and for making me care about Alex, you get some stars.








I dare you to earn more though.

19 comments:

  1. I have been a supporter of ASK and have even played my part in the tearing of assholes around here.

    However, I find this review and it's criticism of self-help groups to be demeaning, disheartening and callous.

    I'm not talking about the blog that was reviewed here, I'm talking about your generalization and your complete lack of caring about those who NEED support groups.

    And of course, I'm saying this because I need a support group, and unfortunately my need of said support group obviously relegates me to church basements with mouth breathers.

    Jesus.

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  2. Thanks for your opinion Mrs. Booms. FYI, I need a support group of my own. But that's not really the point. In any case, it was not my intention to belittle people who need support groups. In fact, I get it that those groups are needed, in church basements and in the blogosphere.

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  3. I don't suppose it was the belittling of those in need of support as much as it was a picture being painted of those in AA being either fanatics or inbred.

    While this isn't the forum to seek help or the answers regarding help, I suppose it's hard enough for those that have yet to seek help think that once they do so they will be felt up by Deliverance supporting cast members while chugging down Sanka.

    Because just knowing that you have to walk in and admit that you have to empathize with the crack head, who sucks dick behind a dumpster in a back alley and then broke into someone home, only to pawn their iPod for another rock is pretty much raw enough as it is.

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  4. Given that English is a second language for me, spelling and grammar don't bother me too much. This is the internet, after all.

    Can bad writing be overlooked if the story behind the words is compelling enough?

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  5. What can I say, Mrs. Booms, I was trying to give a humourous portrayal of a support group while at the same time saying there is perfectly a place for that in life and in the blogosphere. And it's in those circumstances where how they articulate and what they are wearing (i.e. their template) are not important at all, that was the point- but in this forum I was asked answer those questions.

    The story about the boyfriend is true. So in this case his father was a bit of a fanatic. But I believe I went on to say that these people in particular are in no way obsessive parents. They are loving and dedicated to their son's recovery. So my thoughts on all AA and people in recovery or in support groups are not fanatics. Not at all.

    There is an important place for support groups. It is not usually among support groups where one should be nitpicking at grammar and prose. That was my only point.

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  6. I am also really sensitive and angry today, obviously. And this was about the fourth sort of, inappropriate support group comment I'd heard in the week.

    So while I still don't agree with it entirely, I'm certainly not going to be a dick about it.

    Shit's rough out there. Hanging with mouth breathers for help is just a fact of life.

    Also? There is a support group called Hookers for Jesus, so you know, I've got that to look forward to.

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  7. I've known people who have yanked their children into rehab for nothing more than usual (although underage and dangerous) teenage partying. I'm not talking hardcore drug use, but mostly beer and pot. I hate that these kids are labeled alcoholic and addict and user before they're 18. Obviously, that isn't the case here.

    As for your question, Thanatos, I think the answer is no if you truly mean bad writing wherein it's impossible to follow a train of thought. On the other hand, I think in some cases poor grammar can be overlooked, but the story better be so good I'm laughing my ass off or crying like a baby.

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  8. mongoliangirl3/06/2010 9:57 AM

    Well, well, well...what do we have here? A blog-o-rama comment fest about recovery groups! Just up my alley, mother fuckers!
    You all know I love me some 12-step recovery. Mostly because it's kept me alive and sane enough to torture the blogosphere. OK, I'm actually glad it's kept me alive and sane enough to do many other things. Blogging is kind of low on the list of priorities (as is evidenced by my recent lack of blogging).
    I'm 21 years clean and have never once sat in a meeting without at least a few twitchy people. As a matter of fact, if there are too few twitchy people it causes me to wonder if I'm in the right place.
    I could not agree more that kids being kids often means checking into all kinds of things like what it's like to be drunk, smoke weed, etc... I too feel sorry for those kids whose parents take that to the level of accusing them of being addicts and/or alcoholics. But I also cannot fault parents who don't know or have forgotten that alcoholism and addiction make themselves blatantly obvious. In other words, they don't have to guess at it. It'll show up and stand out like a drunk hooker at a Baptist picnic.
    At the same time, when it does show up for real, it'll scare the bejeezuz out of any mom and dad and I cannot fault them for screaming, crying, teeth gnashing and hand wringing as if they are watching their child ride his/her bicycle toward a deadly cliff.
    The hardest part of watching someone live in active addiction or alcoholism is learning that, sometimes, you just have to let them ride over the cliff.
    In my opinion, discovering the balance of when to act, and when to let someone fall is one of the hardest to learn. I've had to deal with finding that balance myself with many people I love, and it is nothing short of a complete and total bitch.
    I read through the reviewed blog when it showed up on the list earlier this week. I agree with Madame's ideas about their writing. It doesn't matter if a person is blogging about gardening or watching their child struggle with a nasty illness, if the writing is too messy it takes away from everything.
    I also agree that they have it in them to do better. I like many of the posts Madame pointed out as well. They get down to the nitty gritty of what 'Mom and Dad' are going through and make even a cynical, crow bar carrying, mouthy, oldtimer like me appreciate the pain of the situation they are in.
    Though it's probably an odd place to do it, I certainly do wish anyone dealing with addiction and/or alcoholism (from any perspective) everything I've gotten from finding 12-step recovery and being willing to use it for all it's worth. I was not joking when I said I credit it for me being alive and sane enough to do what I want to do in this world.
    The bottom line is that the only perspective that matters to me when it comes to 12-step recovery is my own.

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  9. mongoliangirl3/06/2010 10:01 AM

    Oh, and do I get an award for posting the longest comment ever? Even if it's not the longest comment ever?
    And, um, no, you cannot say that my award is someone saying that posting a comment that long is proof that I should be blogging.
    I recommend a weekly pedicure as my award. Horse training season has just started and my boots are already making my feet look like damn hooves. Somebody get over here and rub my fuckin' feet already!

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  10. Alcoholism and addiction took the lives of two of my three brothers. The remaining one is riding his bicycle toward that rocky cliff and is dangerously close to going over the edge. All of my life I have been witness to this devastating disease. I have pushed my brother in his wheelchair after he broke his back thinking he could fly off a three story building. As a teenager, I broke down a bathroom door to find one of them lying in the tub covered in blood after a suicide attempt.

    As mongolian girl said, the hardest part is knowing when to let them go. I am not chasing after my brother on his bicycle right now but I am here if he survives the fall.

    I think Madame's review was spot on. Given my past, I obviously relate the the blog but it is too painful for me. I can't watch the TV show Intervention for the same reason. I have enough reality in my world.

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  11. Mongolian Girl - I'll be your Huckleberry.

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  12. mongoliangirl3/06/2010 12:00 PM

    Well that's a good thing Zen Mama, 'cause I needs me a Huckleberry. XO XO

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  13. Sylvia Wrath3/06/2010 12:53 PM

    Some bloggers who write about recovery are basically looking to find a support network in the blogosphere - sort of an extension of a regular support group here on the internet. I gather that Madame Bellicose was simply saying that if that is all this blogger wants/needs and they are satisfied with the sub par writing on their blog then don't expect her, or anyone else interested in reading quality blogs, to have any continuing interest in their blog.

    Her description of support groups may not apply to every single one out there, but let's face it: Support groups can and do seem to be a magnet for some...interesting characters. If you're not in recovery or dealing with some other issue, sitting in on that support group meeting could be a strange, unnerving experience. I don't get the impression that she was saying that ALL people who attend these groups are strange, half-literate, and twitchy eyed. Or that she was saying that there was something inherently shameful about attending a support group. I just want to defend Madame a bit on the charge that she is callous and demeaning towards those that attend those groups in her review. I've attended support groups and I certainly don't feel offended by this review.

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  14. This blog kind of kicks my ass, because the love is equally as strong as the desperation.

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  15. Weak coffee in a styrofoam cup. Kinda the same quality of refreshments as served at blood drives.

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  16. As to the comments about if bad writing can be overlooked, I hope I made it clear that my take on this blog is not that the writing is bad. The writing is actually quite good. I don't give any stars out if the writing is bad or even mediocre and this one got three so that should tell you something. It's just that, like a lot of good blogs, it suffers from a lack of editing, and my hunch is that in those times the content and the support-seeking and support-giving is so much more important to the writer than the instrument. But he did submit for review here, which leads me to think that he wants to be an effective writer. I think he knows he has enough self-reflection in him regarding this topic to write a book or two on. (I say him because I gathered that the majority of the posts were written by Dad). I just think he needs to first edit the hell out of his posts and secondly fine tune them.

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  17. Oh and Mongo, I'm on the footrub baby.

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  18. Thank you Madame Bellicose for your review. I had almost forgotten that I had submitted to be reviewed.

    I do accept your critique. You are correct, I don't do a lot of editing. With work, family, dealing with our son and everything else time is compressed and editing is one of those things that gets dropped. If this is worth doing I need to find the time to make it better. That was the purpose of the asking for a critique.

    No higher education here, using what I learned and forgotten in high school english, that's what has gotten me to this point.I understand, I need more to get to the next level.

    3 stars, WOW, I actually am quite surprised. I remember thinking that from what I read before submitting; I'm going to be sliced, diced and thrown out with the trash. But it will be good, I will get better with criticism more than with praise. Plus some of the commenters were awesome too.

    Thank you for taking your time to review my blog. Now it's up to me to work on this improvement.

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  19. ps.: I'm a boring old guy. The template that you hate will probably be low on my priority list for change. I'm just not that artsy, fartsy.

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Grow a pair.