Bottle Blues

I’ve spent the last two days trying to make a rather dry subject seem interesting.  Assigned topics are never as exciting as the subjects that we would choose on our own.  I wouldn’t have selected the topic of alcoholism and it’s effects on the families even though I have experience with it.  My father was an alcoholic, and I watched it destroy his health.  The effects it had in family dynamics can be attested to first hand, yet it’s one of those subjects that I don’t like to talk about.

I loved my father and he was never a violent drunk.  I am often very reserved in sharing personal information about myself and my family, because I don’t want to ever disrespect them in any way.  I understand why he started drinking, why he continued to drink, and I understand  the long reaching effects it had on our family.

I”m faced with research facts and medical documentation of symptoms that I experienced first hand.  For me this is a particularly difficult assignment because of the emotional pain behind it.  That’s the most devastating part of alcoholism that is never  considered in the younger “party” days.

My dad was a WWII veteran.  He went in on D-Day and lived first hand through horrors that were far greater than could be shown in the movie Saving Private Ryan.  He was in an Engineer corp on the front lines of battle throughout the European theatre. When most of our soldiers came home, the Engineer Corp stayed behind to clean up Auschwitz, Nuremberg, Dakow, and such. He saw depths of human despair that most of us will never experience.  I don’t begrudge him coping with those horrors through alcohol.  If it were today, doctors would overmedicate him and claim post traumatic stress disorder.  But that’s not how the heroes of World War II handled it.  They resumed life the best they knew how, jumped in with both feet and worked hard in their jobs to support their booming families.

Dad will always be a hero in my book.  He was a sweet gentle man who was slow to anger, and approached life with humor! He was a quiet unassuming man who stood 5’7″, but in my book he was a giant.

Over the years the alcoholism progressed, and he stayed comfortably numb most of the time. Between my siblings and myself, we exhibit every potential symptom of children of alcoholics.  Understanding is often the first step to freedom. The 12 step program that many help groups offer are great tools to achieve this freedom.

This assignment has hit a little too close to home with me, and as I begin to churn the facts, my emotions pour onto the page.  The loss of my father, the respect I will always have for him despite his problems with alcohol overshadow my words. Personal slant – uh yeah, I’d say so.  Personal experience pieces often sell.  I’m concerned that when it comes to matters of the heart, and especially when it concerns my father, this 48-year-old woman is reduced to that 7-year-old girl in pig tails running along behind daddy, trying to keep up with his strides.

How well this one will sell when the main emphasis is put on the emotional fallout rather than the clinical issues remains to be seen.

What gives you an edge over the competition to sell articles?  Your slant, or unique perspective.  How you convey the gleaned knowledge, the volumes of research and combine them into a winning recipe depends on you writer’s voice. Yet, it can’t be too personal or readers won’t relate.

It’s different for fiction than it is for nonfiction.  My nonfiction voice tends to fluctuate between an intelligent midwestern American voice of experience, and the sagacious wit which I often approach life with.  On occasion the two combine for a truly unique perspective on a chosen topic.  there’s not much opportunity for humor in this current piece, and I”m concerned that any intelligence fled the moment the emotions began to rise.

However, an assignment often means a guaranteed sale.  YEAH!  So, there’s hope yet that the editor may indeed accept it, or ask for a  revision without a complete rejection.

Writing from the heart can be deeply satisfying, yet emotionally draining.  If it’s truly from the heart it will carry impact to the reader.  It will grip them, until they feel the choking sensation rising within themselves.  Maybe one of their loved ones is experiencing the hell of alcoholism, or maybe it will bring conviction to their own drinking and help them see it through someone elses eyes.

An alcoholic never intends to harm those around them. In my dad’s case, it was to numb the pain, a self-administered medication.  How could I possibly fault him for alcoholism when I’ve done the same thing to myself with food?  In my case I can recover from the extra pounds with minimal damage.  It wasn’t the case for my father, it ruined his liver and his heart an eventually was the cause of his death.

I hope this piece does get published and that it has an impact on someone.  Many tears were shed in writing a 2500 word article on a topic I would not have chosen. I’ve put more energy into this piece than I thought I would, and it has been strangely cathartic. I’m also hoping this one gets published for the effort it has taken me.  I may not have sweated but it sure involved many tears.

Thanks for dropping by today and listening.  I’d appreciate any comments you wish to share on the subject!