How often do you complain that you wish life was better? I've thought it every time I get stuck in the doldrums, but I know that it's just a minor blip. What if your whole life is one big never-ending blip? What if you wake up every day only to find that the nightmare of last night is not really over? That pretty much sums up the sentiment expressed in Dina Kucera's memoir, Everything I Never Wanted to be. When I first received this title, I was expecting a depressing read about a family's battle with alcoholism and drug addiction. It doesn't help that the cover conveyed the same impression.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Dina Kucera's life is a mess. I don't think she will mind that I wrote that, because she uses more intense words in the 204 page memoir. When I say mess, I mean, she was an alcoholic, though sober for a few years now. Her husband was a pot-addict, also sober for a few years now. Her mother has Parkinson's, her grandmother was addicted to Xanax. Her three daughters are fighting off various additions - the eldest, Jennifer is both an alcoholic and a drug-addict; her second, April entertained neither until a life trauma sent her to alcohol for relief; the third, Carly, was a heroin addict at age 13. In addition, Dina's grandson, Moses, has cerebral palsy.
Does that sound like a family you would see on greeting card websites or as a success story poster for any kind of organization? I was shocked to read the vices that plagued this family. Carly's drug addiction tore me the most. She used meth to get off heroin and heroin to get off meth. No matter how many rehabs she went to, she kept returning to the drugs. Being a very anti-drug person, it took me some time to understand Carly's obsession. Dina shares with us four letters that Carly wrote. She starts with a letter in which sixteen-year old Carly expresses her desire to die. By the time, we read Carly's third letter, which she wrote at the age of six, the reader is well-versed in Carly's addiction. The innocence of the third letter made me very sad. How did such a girl go to full-blown addiction by the time she was thirteen?
That doesn't mean I agreed with her at all times. The author frequently says that no one "gets" it, that only someone who has been through what she has will actually understand her hardships. She rants against the rich people, the other parents (whose children don't do drugs), and anyone who's not a parent. All such people in Dina's life have either offered her unhelpful advice or turned their noses up at her. Hard and traumatic as those experiences have been to her, I feel that generalization is a very dangerous tool. It's the one thing that creates so much bias in the world today. And since I am not a parent myself, I felt offended many times, reading those passages. I'm not even going to begin narrating the what-would-I-do's, I know fully well that many times I've done the opposite of what I've proclaimed. But I don't believe that not being in a situation makes you any less empathetic than you are.
If you wish to buy this book, you can get 30% off at the book's website, by entering the coupon code "Dina" at checkout. If you ask me, I believe that money is well-spent!
I received this book for free from the publisher via TLC Book Tours.