My Year of Short Stories: Nov 29th

Big Mother by Clancy Martin, The Believer Magazine, Oct/Nov 2017.

This piece explores the trust that is earned and broken due to addiction. The author goes into depth about all the different technologies he used to try and prevent himself from drinking, as well as the visitation monitoring his ex-wife insisted on when he was with their daughters.

The piece starts off with a nugget of truth: When an addict says they’ll never use again, they aren’t lying. They believe it at that moment. But the promise fades and so does their belief. Despite the fading belief an addict may have in themselves, the need to be believed, despite all evidence to the contrary, never goes away.

One interesting line that stuck out to me in this piece was–not advice–maybe a lesson?–by the first visitation supervisor Clancy Martin and his daughters ever met with. He’d fallen back into the bottle and his oldest daughter tells him, “you can’t drink,” and he responds with a promise that he will never drink again. And at that moment, he believes it. He is sure he will never drink again. Of course, this promise is empty because, within this society, alcohol is simply too available. When his daughters are gone, the supervisor takes him to the side and tells him, “You can’t promise them that. Don’t ever make a promise like that again. You don’t know that you’ll never have another drink. You can promise only that you’ll try not to.”

I think this interaction gets to the heart of this piece. It’s about honesty. It’s about being honest with oneself in order to be honest with the people around you whom you love and love you. A promise that is so finite and so extreme isn’t a promise at all. It is lip service, and even though the speaker likely believes it at the time, all too soon he will understand the impractical nature of those words. It isn’t until the author is finally honest with himself that he can be honest with those around him, and so trust himself, and be trusted by others.

A touching look into the difficulties of addiction and fatherhood and trust. (B)

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