If you’ve read Shuggie Bain along with Kym and Bonny and I . . . today is the day you’ve been waiting for! Each of us is going to post questions related to the book on our blogs today. And tonight at 7pm we will have a discussion on Zoom. It’s not too late to get an invite for the Zoom discussion, by the way, we’d be happy to send you a link if you want to join us.
If you’ve read this book then you’re keenly aware of the devastating impact alcoholism can have on a family. I think, for personal reasons, that this impact is greater when the alcoholic is a mother. The role of caretaker and nurturer becomes secondary to the addiction and the children pay the price. Alcoholism hurts not just the alcoholic but also those who love the alcoholic and when the alcoholic is the mother, the one who is supposed to take care of and nurture her children, those children pay the price. There’s neglect and anger and confusion. Yet, Shuggie loves his mother fiercely, to the point where the author, Douglas Stuart, has been quoted as saying that the book is about love before it’s about addiction.
What do you think of that? Can love overcome addiction? Is Shuggie loyal to a fault, especially considering that his siblings left him to deal with Agnes as soon as they were able? How do you think loving someone with an addiction impacts a person?
Please leave your thoughts on these questions, along with anything else you want to share, in the comments below.
I just went to a memorial service last weekend for a person that suffered with addiction. There were probably 50 people there, each of whom loved and cared about this person, but sadly, love could not overcome this addiction. Love can try, try again, and keep trying, but in my experience, addiction is often too strong. Loving someone with an addiction shapes many lives, not only the addicted person. It affects the whole extended family, including several generations. Children are left without parents, wondering why, whose fault it might have been, and how they could have prevented it. It’s all incredibly heartbreaking and far too sad. Shuggie seemed to make peace with his alcoholic mother, and that’s really all a person can do.
I think that this was very much a “one-sided” story of love. The addicted is incapable of loving anything but what they believe drink (in this case) does for them. It is a sad love for those around the addicted… hoping that one day that love will be returned and it never is.
Having grown up with an alcoholic father, I can’t tell you how many times, while reading this book, that I thought to myself how much worse it would be to have an alcoholic mother… or both! Not that it was “easy,” and my mother had her own… ISSUES (often exacerbated & exploited by my sadistic dad), but especially in the/my day when most moms didn’t work outside the home. I never had to worry about what I’d find when I came home from school because my dad was NEVER home at that time of day.
If love could overcome addiction, we’d have a cure. I do agree with the author that it’s a book about love… I felt that.
Judy Shaw says
Thanks for the suggestion; I just checked it out from our library but won’t have it done by your discussion. I just finished reading Educated; it was interesting and well written but pretty depressing. Have you read it?
Sadly, I don’t think love can overcome addiction for the addict. I’m not sure how (if?) an addict gets “cured”. I do think loving his mom was part of what saved Shuggie. It’s really pretty amazing that he was able to love so deeply and unconditionally because he NEVER saw it modeled for him … and yet, I think it was his love for his mom that gave him the strength to persist. and he grew into a kind and loving person.
I had a relative that was an alcoholic but he was male, unmarried and ended up living in a veteran’s home. I have a cousin who ended up marrying her AA counselor (now divorced) and it was the thought of losing the ability to see her kids/grandkids that had her going to AA. In the book, I found myself mad when she fell back into the liquor as she had come so far as I was hoping she would overcome it.
My brother is an addict and my sister-in-law is struggling with this very question right now. After abusing his body for 50-odd years with drugs and alcohol (and cigarettes), he suddenly had a major heath breakdown several weeks ago and we are now awaiting news on his prognosis after tests this week. My sister-in-law and I have talked for hours about how she is feeling and dealing with all this. At this point she just feels trapped having to care for him and deal with everything else going on in their lives, and she feels guilty about feeling that way. I so do NOT have an addictive personality and am having a very hard time understanding how he can be so self-destructive. I understand intellectually, but not emotionally, if that makes any sense. I love my brother but really it’s the memory of who he once was that I love.