by Kathleen Pooler
A memoir is a “slice of life” story that has universal appeal. Although it is about you, its main purpose should help readers connect with their own stories. A memoir does not just tell the story about what happened, but what you did with what happened and how you changed as a result.
When I wrote my first memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, I had started out with the intention of sharing the story of mothering my alcoholic son. It was only through the revising aided by the support of a developmental editor that I realized I had two stories to tell. I could not write about my alcoholic son until I wrote my own story of healing from two emotionally abusive relationships. This book would take five years to write as I had to face my own vulnerabilities and flaws. But through the writing, I gained insight into myself and was able to forgive those who had hurt me as well as myself.
When I started writing Just the Way He Walked: A Mother’s Story of Healing and Hope, the original memoir I wanted to write, I leveraged the lessons of writing the first memoir and dug into my message even deeper. I knew I would be exposing my son in the second memoir, and so I had to navigate the sensitivities of both our stories. I couldn’t tell my story without exposing my son’s undesirable behavior related to his alcohol abuse. I involved him in every step of the process and hoped he would own his part of the story. It wasn’t until a few months before the publication of Just the Way He Walked that he made the conscious decision to fully endorse publication. I had made a conscious decision not to publish this memoir unless my son was on board which culminated in a twenty year writing journey.
Writing this story sensitized me to my role enabling alcoholic behavior and I wanted to share the lessons learned with others who also struggled with an addicted child. But in order to make progress, I had to ask questions so I could release myself of the guilt and shame I carried as a young mother acting out of love and in good faith, albeit ignorance about the nature of the disease of alcohol addiction. Breaking the silence has been a very freeing and healing experience for both my son and me.
The three main questions I had to ask myself before writing these memoirs:
1. What is my purpose for writing my stories?
With both stories, I was driven to share the importance of maintaining hope in dire situations. For example, If I could stay hopeful while getting out of an emotionally abusive marriage, then I could model to my reader that hope.
2. What did I learn and what will be the reader’s takeaway?
Answering these questions required the courage and persistence to share my own vulnerabilities and flaws. Writing my truth in the most authentic way helped present myself and my son as a living, breathing human others could relate to.
I hope the reader will glean the message that it is possible to leave an abusive situation and for the addicted child to find recovery, an overall message of hope.
3. What really happened?
In my first memoir, a young woman acted out of naivete to make poor relationship decisions but was able to pull from her own strength within and find her voice. In my second memoir, a young mother was able to see her role in her son’s addiction and through alcohol education, Alanon and her faith was able to recognize and let go of her role of enabling alcoholic behavior. She learned that when love is not enough, hope steps in.
In both cases, I’d discover the message of hope. No matter how far down into the abyss you may go, there’s always hope for a better life.
How would you answer these three questions about your life story?
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Just the Way He Walked (April 2019) is Pooler’s second memoir of overcoming alcoholic enabling symptoms. Her debut memoir addresses one woman's life lessons from family abuse towards her journey of empowerment. To contact Kathleen Pooler or learn more about her books, visit her website at http://krpooler.com.
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