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Book review: Drunk Mom: A Memoir

Book by Jowita Bydlowska


 

Drunk-momAdmitting that you’re a new mother who spent the first year of your son’s life getting so plastered you routinely blacked out, tended to him while fairly out of it, and wheeled him through a snowstorm while lost is both brave and reckless in a culture that chastizes pregnant women for even glancing at a glass of wine. True, maternal tippling is a trendy topic on “mom” blogs like Mommy Needs A Cocktail and Vodka Mom. But these chirpy, jokey accounts don’t touch the dark spiral of addiction Toronto writer Jowita Bydlowska relives in this riveting account of her relapse into alcoholism after her son’s birth.

Bydlowska is an evocative, talented and gutsy writer who appears willing to confess all—googling how long it takes cocaine to pass through breast milk, putting her fist in her mouth to mask the sound of vomit, waking in a hotel room alone, not remembering how she got undressed. The former fashionable party girl details the grip of her addiction—“the wanting that was bigger than me”—while tempering out-of-control behaviour with paeans to motherhood: the cosmic joy of her son’s first smile, her agony of knowing, in her lucid moments, that she’s failing him.

Addictions, and the damage they cause, are messy, resistant to pat narratives. So it is here. Details of Bydlowska’s relationship with her partner are blurry, and a chapter blaming family “dysfunction” feels tacked on. She writes from newly won sobriety, rehabs and relapses behind her, one hopes, though drinking is clearly part of her self-definition. “Alcoholism isn’t something you can slow down or ever unlearn,” she writes.

Bydlowska is also careful to sidestep some of the inevitable censure she’ll receive: she drank only twice during pregnancy, she writes. Still, this memoir is destined to garner debate. Bydlowska writes of watching other upscale stroller-pushing moms and wondering: do they hide mickeys in their diaper bags too? With this bracing book, others will now be asking that question as well.


 

Book review: Drunk Mom: A Memoir

  1. I discovered my partners drinking when the children were six and twenty two months. I learned that an alcoholics story is usually self centred and highly inaccurate. I subsequently discovered that her drinking (2 litres of vodka a day) was like this during the ten years that we were together.
    The kids and I went to al anon family groups ( my group welcomed my babes in arms.. not to mention a very emotionally and physically wrecked me) where we work thru a program that gradually deprogrammed me.
    I haven’t read the book and don’t intend to. I hope it talks about recovery. I do find that alcoholic s find it difficult to recount history .. as they are very rarely wholly present in it.
    If you are interested in this book then possibly it is because you are affected by anothers drinking.. remember that al anon family groups are where you find answers….. and serenity.

  2. Wow. Sounds like a train wreck to me. I agree with Rich that the book might not be factually accurate. I enjoy memoirs, and non-fiction, but I am not paying for this book. My new favorite memoir is called, “Ring EXchange – Adventures of a Multiple Marrier” by author
    Pam Evans. Written for those who have never been married or married only once or are curious about multiple marriers. There is a deep heartfelt message for all readers. http://www.ring-exchange.com/

  3. Well, unlike the other posters, I HAVE read the book. It’s a beautifully written, raw, honest account of how the author failed her child, her partner and herself. She has no illusions about her behavior and she freely admits her memory of the time she was drinking is sometimes patchy. She also states at the end that the book is a form of apology to her loved ones. It takes a lot of guts to lay yourself bare and open to harsh criticism, and I am full of admiration for her courage in doing so. I also found the book to be a great read. I loved the writing style and her interesting way with words. I’m looking forward to her next book!

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