A conversation about growing up in an alcoholic home with Andrea Ashley, host of the Adult Child podcast

Photo by Thomas Picauly on Unsplash

Addiction is a family disease. That’s a line you’ve surely heard if someone in your life suffers from substance use disorder. In my experience it’s true. The chemically dependent person may be the primary symptom bearer, but the entire family system becomes sick and everything becomes organized — in many cases warped — around addiction. For children growing up with an alcoholic parent, the damage is particularly deep. The term “adult child” is used to describe adults who grew up in alcoholic or dysfunctional homes and who exhibit identifiable traits that reveal past abuse or neglect.

In 1978, Adult Children…

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Past Is Prologue

The term went mainstream in the ’80s and ’90s, and it’s carried a stigma ever since

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

By the time I attended my first Al-Anon meetings as a teenager in the ’90s, I had heard the word “codependency” many times. Where? No one in my house talked about it, nor did friends, but it was ambient in the culture at the time. While researching the genesis of this term and its conceptual underpinnings for a memoir about my own disastrous relationship patterns, I realized I’d probably heard it on the daytime talk shows I sometimes mindlessly watched after school.

Codependency had a moment in the late ’80s and early ’90s. But, sadly, when the term went mainstream…

And why ‘The Love Story of the Century’ is one of the best I’ve read

The Finnish writers Märta and Henrik Tikkanen and their children, 1966.

This week, I picked up a book that has languished in my towering to-be-read stack for a year. It’s called The Love Story of the Century and it was written in 1978 by Finnish-Swedish author Märta Tikkanen, translated by Stina Katchadourian, and republished in 2020 by Deep Vellum. The book is a novel-in-verse about living with an alcoholic, based on the author’s experiences with her writer husband, Henrik Tikkanen, and I read it in one gulp, until two in the morning.

How I love reading about love. Not thirty pages in, I took to the internet to see a photo…

This Is Us

When I revealed deeply personal details of my life in my memoir, my friendships changed in ways I never expected

Closeup of a woman’s face with a pensive expression.
Closeup of a woman’s face with a pensive expression.
Photo: Shane Gorski via Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

I was already a bit of a mess a year ago, just as the world changed forever. I bit my nails, pulled out strands of hair. I stared at the ceiling some nights, convinced I could hear a faint, constant ringing. “Aren’t you nervous for your book to come out?!” people asked. “Not really,” I answered. I don’t know why it felt right to lie. Not right — essential, as though only by performing cool-girl calm could I show my panic who was boss, shove it back into its hole.

I have struggled with anxiety throughout my life, but this…

The radical women behind the original “dump him” discourse

A gathering of members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, 1924.

A couple years ago, while researching my memoir about a love affair with a man addicted to heroin, I got lost in the testimonies of temperance women. I was trying to understand the deleterious effects of men’s addictions on women’s lives throughout history; still, it was a somewhat surprising place to find myself. The temperance movement, as I learned about it in middle school, was part of a puritanical Christian bid for the total prohibition of alcohol. I was led to imagine angry, humorless middle-aged white women pouring out crystal decanters of brandy or smashing barrels of rum in dark…

These principles are about so much more than sobriety

Photo: MundusImages/Getty Images

Recovering alcoholics often say they’re lucky. To a newcomer hearing this uttered in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, it can sound ridiculous. “Lucky to be here,” one might scoff, sipping weak coffee in a bleak church basement, surrounded by disconcertingly cheerful drunks? “Ha.”

But if you follow the suggestion to keep coming back, it starts to make sense after a while. That’s because 12-step recovery doesn’t just help people to quit drinking. It offers a “blueprint for living,” a set of tools and strategies that, when practiced daily, slowly transform our lives from feeling unmanageable to something we can deal with…

This is the sober-curiosity canon — created almost entirely by women

Recently, when a friend asked me why I thought so many people we knew had stopped drinking, I responded with, “Um, maybe because the pandemic is one of the biggest challenges humans have ever faced, and it’s the only way we can exert a modicum of control over our existence?”

That’s all true, but there’s also the fact that once we’ve quit, many of us discover a new vitality. Even if it’s not a full-on lifestyle change, getting a little dry time under our belts seems to catalyze creativity.

For adherents of 12-step recovery programs like me, there is no…

Sobriety gives you a foundation for handling random difficulty, including the end of the world

Photo: Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Getty Images

There was already so much to drink about.

We’ve been in a climate crisis for years. American voters have narrowed the most diverse field of presidential contenders ever down to three elderly white men. And now, here to bring the majority of human activities to a screeching, expensive halt is COVID-19, in all its apocalyptic glory.

Standing in my kitchen, reading the latest disorienting, overwhelming news about the virus, I hit “send” on a tweet asking whether it’s dumb to stay sober now.

I had split a cucumber-flavored seltzer, gussied up with simple syrup and lime slices, with a…

The underappreciated — and often feminized — labor that undergirds everyday life is essential to true creativity

Illustration: Ruohan Wang

When I crossed the 100,000-word mark in a draft of my first book, I paused to briefly mosh in the kitchen while brewing more coffee.

I had 13 days left to go, and I was riding the kind of stress-high I hadn’t experienced since my days as a student. The wave of feeling cresting in that moment was just as I remembered it: a frenzied sense of smug purpose so familiar it was almost soothing.

As the deadline neared, I felt crazy, but in a good way. Anticipatory excitement, restlessness, and the powerful fear of fucking up combined to form…

Roosevelt’s effort to help came at the end of the war, but still spared a thousand lives

Jewish refugees arriving at at Fort Ontario, Oswego, New York on August 5, 1944. (AP Photo)

Morice Kamhi’s family was in Sarajevo when World War II broke out. The situation for Jewish families turned dire quickly. “First there was the yellow arm bands, you were forbidden to go to public places … and then, little by little, they started taking people away,” he told an interviewer for an oral history. The project, an initiative of the State University of New York at Oswego, captures the stories of the survivors who spent a rare year living in America’s only refugee camp during World War II.

At the time, many Jews were trying to get from Sarajevo to…

Nina Renata Aron

Author of Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls: A Memoir of Women, Addiction, and Love. Work in NYT, New Republic, the Guardian, Jezebel, and more.

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