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A gripping, brutally honest memoir of motherhood in the shadow of alcoholism Three years after giving up drinking, Jowita Bydlowska found herself throwing back a glass of champagne like it was ginger ale. It was a special occasion: a party celebrating the birth of her first child. It also marked Bydlowska’s immediate, full-blown return to alcoholism and all that entails f A gripping, brutally honest memoir of motherhood in the shadow of alcoholism Three years after giving up drinking, Jowita Bydlowska found herself throwing back a glass of champagne like it was ginger ale. It was a special occasion: a party celebrating the birth of her first child. It also marked Bydlowska’s immediate, full-blown return to alcoholism and all that entails for a new mother who is at first determined to keep her problem a secret. Gritty, deeply personal, and sometimes grimly comic, Drunk Mom is Bydlowska’s account of the ways in which substance abuse took control of her life—the binges and blackouts, the lies and humiliations—as well as her fight toward recovery while also contending with her new role as a young mother. This courageous memoir brilliantly shines a light on the twisted logic of an addicted mind and the powerful, transformative love of one’s child, ultimately giving hope to any reader, especially those struggling in much the same way.


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A gripping, brutally honest memoir of motherhood in the shadow of alcoholism Three years after giving up drinking, Jowita Bydlowska found herself throwing back a glass of champagne like it was ginger ale. It was a special occasion: a party celebrating the birth of her first child. It also marked Bydlowska’s immediate, full-blown return to alcoholism and all that entails f A gripping, brutally honest memoir of motherhood in the shadow of alcoholism Three years after giving up drinking, Jowita Bydlowska found herself throwing back a glass of champagne like it was ginger ale. It was a special occasion: a party celebrating the birth of her first child. It also marked Bydlowska’s immediate, full-blown return to alcoholism and all that entails for a new mother who is at first determined to keep her problem a secret. Gritty, deeply personal, and sometimes grimly comic, Drunk Mom is Bydlowska’s account of the ways in which substance abuse took control of her life—the binges and blackouts, the lies and humiliations—as well as her fight toward recovery while also contending with her new role as a young mother. This courageous memoir brilliantly shines a light on the twisted logic of an addicted mind and the powerful, transformative love of one’s child, ultimately giving hope to any reader, especially those struggling in much the same way.

30 review for Drunk Mom: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Alan

    This memoir was tough to get through while also being a very fast read. It’s tough, because Jowita relapses after her baby is born, and it’s so hard to read about a parent who tries to balance her drinking with being a good mother because the deal with alcoholism is that, yes, sometimes you might be able to get drunk after the baby goes to sleep and nothing goes wrong, but babies have needs 24/7. Jowita would breast feed every other day—she’d stay sober for a while to get the toxins out of her b This memoir was tough to get through while also being a very fast read. It’s tough, because Jowita relapses after her baby is born, and it’s so hard to read about a parent who tries to balance her drinking with being a good mother because the deal with alcoholism is that, yes, sometimes you might be able to get drunk after the baby goes to sleep and nothing goes wrong, but babies have needs 24/7. Jowita would breast feed every other day—she’d stay sober for a while to get the toxins out of her breast milk, pumping the toxic milk out and supplementing his diet with formula. But it’s also a quick read because, while I wanted her to sober up again, reading about the terrible decisions she made is like watching the TV show Shameless—in the show, the members of the Gallagher family exclusively make bad decisions, so no matter how badly you’ve screwed up your life, it’s never nearly as bad as them. Or in the case of this memoir, Jowita. It’s sad when people die from drug and/or alcohol abuse, but it’s one thing to do damage to yourself, it’s another thing entirely to bring a child into your mess. Almost this entire memoir was about the months of her relapse. She does go to rehab for three weeks, but like almost everyone who goes to rehab, she relapses yet again. With most memoirs of someone who is addicted, I feel empathy for the person, but Jowita made it extremely difficult to like her. If I read it correctly, she’d only had a short time sober when she wrote this (seven months), and she didn’t sound particularly far on a path toward serenity and recovery—she basically said, “Will I relapse again? Well, that’s what we addicts do.” Which is true, but when you’re reading about someone who claims being a mother is the most important thing in the world to her, you sort of want to read a more uplifting story.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Karen Green

    Tricky one, this. When I first heard the buzz about this book, I assumed it was being written by a woman in, say, her late 40s, looking back on her life at a time when alcoholism and motherhood collided, and written with hindsight, reflection and a pretty clear indication of the kind of effect her actions had on her child(ren). So I was surprised to learn that it was actually written by Jowita Bydlowska, a Toronto writer younger than me, with barely two years of motherhood and one year of sobrie Tricky one, this. When I first heard the buzz about this book, I assumed it was being written by a woman in, say, her late 40s, looking back on her life at a time when alcoholism and motherhood collided, and written with hindsight, reflection and a pretty clear indication of the kind of effect her actions had on her child(ren). So I was surprised to learn that it was actually written by Jowita Bydlowska, a Toronto writer younger than me, with barely two years of motherhood and one year of sobriety under her belt. That's not to say that this isn't a well-written book - it is. Bydlowska can write, and if it weren't for my own kids and their needs, I would have sat and read it in one go. As it were, I managed it to finish it in two days, while neglecting my children at a level barely worth a mention. It's an engaging story, for sure. It's also raw, dirty, messy and at times, painful to read - like any good addiction tale or confessional. And, like the good ones, there's some decent insight into her situation, some very clear and powerful passages regarding the thought processes of a drunk - the self-loathing, the excuses, the unbreakable cycles, the destructive thoughts and actions and the regrets that perpetuate the cycles. But we don't get much in the way of 'Why?' We get a cursory glance into a complicated, perhaps abusive, relationship with her parents, but only that. We get a cursory glance into her adjustment period as an immigrant, and we get a cursory glance into the nature of her relationships with other people, including the relationships with her boyfriend (She yells, he sighs. Only at the very end do we learn that he is not perfect either.) and her son, despite them being at the centre of the chaos. In fact, my biggest criticism is that the 'Mom' part of the Drunk Mom story feels superficial, glossed over. Bydlowska writes beautifully about the power of the first moments of motherhood and the transformative nature of motherhood - but not often. Besides the fact that she now pushes a stroller while teetering on heels drunk instead of leaning on someone else while teetering on heels drunk, the baby feels like a prop, an accessory. We are assured, time and again, that the baby was always safe, but I guess that's the problem with writing a book about being a drunk mom - if she wrote more about her interaction with the baby while she was a drunk mom, we would probably see that there were many times that actually, the baby wasn't safe, and who's going to put that in print? But I guess that comes back to my original misgivings about the story - there hasn't been much time to see, reflect, and write safely about, the real fallout from being a drunk mom. That said, I certainly hope there's no sequel. I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John

    Profoundly disturbing portrait of real addiction. Pay no attention to reviewers who say "I liked the book but I didn't like her." By that metric, people wouldn't listen to Van Morrison or watch Russell Crowe act. There were moments in the first half of the book where I had to look away for a bit: just too claustrophobic. But, can we fault the writer for doing her job and describing something in a way that makes us appreciate the horror on a visceral level? I don't think so. I wish her luck and a t Profoundly disturbing portrait of real addiction. Pay no attention to reviewers who say "I liked the book but I didn't like her." By that metric, people wouldn't listen to Van Morrison or watch Russell Crowe act. There were moments in the first half of the book where I had to look away for a bit: just too claustrophobic. But, can we fault the writer for doing her job and describing something in a way that makes us appreciate the horror on a visceral level? I don't think so. I wish her luck and a ton of empathy. It's not over, and it may never be over, but at least she has done much of the heavy lifting. And, if you're thinking about reading the book, wondering if you can learn something about your own situation? You can. And you and others in your life deserve to have you do this too. I wish you luck and send you empathy as well.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Oh, in case you’re wondering: I’m not a cocaine addict. I prefer to drink. You found me in the middle of my story and I happened to have just found a baggie of cocaine in that bathroom. But honestly, I prefer drinking. I prefer drinking to anything in the world: sex, food, sleep. My child, my lover, anything. I love to drink. Sometimes I think: No, I am drink. It’s like my blood. Even before I get it, I can feel it in my veins. I’m not being poetic—I can actually feel it in my veins. It’s gold. It like Oh, in case you’re wondering: I’m not a cocaine addict. I prefer to drink. You found me in the middle of my story and I happened to have just found a baggie of cocaine in that bathroom. But honestly, I prefer drinking. I prefer drinking to anything in the world: sex, food, sleep. My child, my lover, anything. I love to drink. Sometimes I think: No, I am drink. It’s like my blood. Even before I get it, I can feel it in my veins. I’m not being poetic—I can actually feel it in my veins. It’s gold. It like little zaps of gold going through me, charging me, starting me up. When I drink, I fill with real gold and become god-like. So I’m not a cocaine addict. I’m a drunk. I had been a drunk for a long time. I stopped drinking for a time, and then I started again. *** In case it wasn’t clear from the above segment, Jowita Bydlowska is an alcoholic. That’s not a dismissive statement, but a descriptive one: Drunk Mom, a memoir spanning an unclear number of months in 2009 and 2010, is her open wound to the world—a mostly-accurate account of her relapse into alcoholism following the birth of her son and after three years of sobriety. The book is structured as a series of episodes detailing the seemingly innocuous first glass of champagne to celebrate the birth of her son, “Frankie” (names changed to protect as much innocence as possible), spiralling quickly out of control as she reverts, in terrifying fashion, to old, destructive, dishonest habits. The catch, however, is that her behaviour this time around threatens not only herself but her son as well. She recounts the times Frankie was left unchanged, covered in his own filth, because she was unconscious elsewhere; the times she’d fall asleep drunk somewhere public while out with him; the many opportunities she took while out with her son to duck into liquor stores—her time spent with child a mere mask for her actual wants and needs. While there is a narrative through-line to the events recounted in Drunk Mom, it often feels broken and a little disjointed—which makes sense given the somewhat ungrounded nature of the author’s memories during this period of time. She is, for lack of a better phrase, the villain of her own tale, a semi-unreliable narrator who wants desperately to get it right. Her descriptive work is blunt, a collection of straight-razor cuts bleeding all over the page with little care to how messy or horrible it might look to the casual observer. She can’t be worried about something like that; her concern is getting it out in any way possible, documentary-style—harsh, often without emotion. Reading Drunk Mom was an unexpectedly emotional journey. While I understand alcoholism to be a true addiction, a disease in some ways (though the term is sometimes rejected as it implies there is a “cure” to a facet of an individual’s personality), it was hard, given the risk to her son, not to feel at times angered or disgusted by Bydlowska’s actions and the logic workarounds and lies upon lies she managed to concoct. This is due in part to her personality, which is minimized throughout. She claims several times that she is numb, locked inside of her self. Intentional or not, this is accentuated by her writing style, which itself is sparse and staccato and without a sense of self behind the words. More often than not the book felt as if narrated by a disembodied spirit—that the only way for her to put it all on the page was to distance her self from it. Granted that’s an assumption, and in many ways the drink itself IS her personality, but there is a certain obvious amount of distance, of handling the past with rubber gloves on so as not to be re-infected by it. The result of this is a memoir that reads less like a confessional and more a begrudging recitation, unfortunately limiting the amount of sympathy I felt for her and everyone involved. Despite all that, when the author reflects on a possible sexual assault in Montreal, or attempts to understand how it is she broke her toe, and is unable to remember such things due to the severity of her blackouts, it’s hard not to feel frightened for her safety, and for the longevity of any future sobriety achieved. There’s a rather multi-faceted dichotomous relationship between the author, herself, and everyone in her life: she loves her family and hates them, says they’re good people and they’re not; she accepts she needs help and wants it, yet is hostile to the idea of it (even after AA has proven itself and saved her life and her relationship with her boyfriend and son, she still looks to it with a bit of open disdain, citing the pledge at the end of each meeting as “a silly ritual but it gives the illusion that we’re in this together, before we go out into the world again, outside of the twelve-step walls.” She spends half her time viewing the system that has saved her life and will continue to do so, as well as those dearest to her, as a leash tied around her neck and not the solid ground beneath her feet. Which, again, is part of the addiction and/or disease. So, as I said: dichotomous. Drunk Mom is a case study in hitting absolute rock bottom and anteing up again, repeating the process until that moment of clarity hits and the body and mind finally decide to wash out every pent up emotion and poison trapped inside, chorusing “it’s time, get your shit together and let’s make things right again.” It’s not an easy book to want to read, and in spite of knowing things would turn out okay (because, after all, she’s around to write the tale), it was often difficult to want to follow through or show sympathy towards a character who, for much of the book, seems like she might spit on you were you to express care or concern for her wellbeing. And though I struggled throughout to know whether the author was ever trying to elicit a sympathetic response, and continue to do so even after finishing the book, I can’t deny that Bydlowska’s account of alcoholism, addiction, and borderline self-annihilation is an eye opening and in some ways necessary experience.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ariel

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I love reading addiction memoirs. They can be incredibly rewarding, and I have read some amazing ones by people like Sarah Hepola, Kirsten Johnson, and Carolyn Knapp. This is not one of those books. What this is, is someone profiting off of child abuse. You know that thing, where people get drunk and then breast feed their infant? Yeah that's child abuse. You know that thing, where people get blackout drunk and pass out on the floor while being the only person home with the baby? Yeah that's chi I love reading addiction memoirs. They can be incredibly rewarding, and I have read some amazing ones by people like Sarah Hepola, Kirsten Johnson, and Carolyn Knapp. This is not one of those books. What this is, is someone profiting off of child abuse. You know that thing, where people get drunk and then breast feed their infant? Yeah that's child abuse. You know that thing, where people get blackout drunk and pass out on the floor while being the only person home with the baby? Yeah that's child neglect. You know that thing, where you have an infant and a boyfriend and you decide to take a solo vacation to another city to get drunk and possibly sleep with another guy? Well, that's just being a shitty person. And she proves it to us over and over, that she is indeed a shitty person, even when sober. She has this bizarre idea of herself as being some incredibly beautiful woman, inspiring the desire of every man she meets. In reality she is a butter face. She also is constantly seeing herself as above others around her, describing others in her rehab group as "clowns" and talking sh*t about unattractive people. She acknowledges her snobbishness when, vacationing with her boyfriend to a small town, they make fun of the locals for not being as sophisticated as them. You know, acknowledging that you're a piece of sh*t doesn't make it any better. She's sophisticated and yet somehow finds herself getting drunk at the park by herself on a regular basis. That sounds like a homeless person activity, but she's not homeless. She lives in a house with her boyfriend, and she can't drink at home because she constantly lies to him about not drinking and constantly puts the baby in harms way by getting blackout drunk when her boyfriend isn't home and she's supposed to be taking care of the child. Her boyfriend is not much better. He later admits he knew she was drinking, yet still continuously left her alone with the baby, including for an entire week while HE went on vacation. Yes the baby is still less than a year old but they're both soooo exhausted from caring for the baby that they need to take his and hers separate vacations. It boggles. He also seems to be cheating on her a lot, or at least spending a worrying amount of time having late-night drinks with other women. Gee, I wonder why. Could it be, that sleeping with a neurotic blackout drunk is not that enjoyable?The entire book, I was wondering why he stayed with her, and maybe it's just that she lets him cheat. I also wondered why she had a baby in the first place, when she so obviously has zero skills as a parent. By book's end (or as far as I got before returning it and getting my money back), I came to the conclusion that she's just not that intelligent. After all, despite the fact that she spent three years sober after completing AA, when she inevitably falls off the wagon, she still can't seem to grasp the concept that she's an alcoholic. Hmmm did you not just spend three years admitting you were an alcoholic? Any person with a shred of intelligence knows that it's not something that goes away. Lastly, the writing. God, it's just not good. I saw some other reviews that described it as raw, vivid, brave. No, no, no. It's not raw, it's bland, and the sparse metaphors and imagery are a cacophony of words, and not in a good way. They often seem untouched by the eyes of a professional editor. Mostly her style, if you can call it that, is blunt, non-descriptive sentences, and lots of repetition. This may have been novel 100 years ago, but now it's just trite. Vivid, again, no. Just.. no. After the first 1/4 or so, I realized I felt like I knew nothing about this woman, and other than the fact that there's just not much to her, the writing is also just incredibly shallow. There's no depth here. Brave? Nope. It's a woman with a personality disorder profiting off of child abuse. I'm frankly amazed that any respectable publishing company would actually publish this piece of garbage. I'm also amazed she hasn't been arrested. But I guess I don't understand how the laws work in Canada. She was, after all, living on maternity leave payments from the government for a year, much of which she spent in a drunken stupor, not bonding with the baby. Good job, mom! How about you go get your tubes tied so you don't inflict this on some other poor kid. Yep, I hated the book THAT much.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nadia

    The writing deserves 3 stars, but the author as a human being barely deserves 1 star. The story is sad and vividly told. But I was actually disappointed in myself for reading it. She is so narcissistic, self-indulgent and pretentious....and I think these traits would apply even sans her addiction issues. I wanted to focus on the writing but I could not look beyond how much I dislike her.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carolw

    This book was very hard to read and I almost gave up on it many times. Not because it was badly written or boring or I didn’t like the characters, but because the author was me. Maybe I didn’t experience everything she did but her crazy thoughts and crazy language was me. It was a reminder and sometimes I need just that....a reminder.

  8. 5 out of 5

    JenniferD

    wow. and, man! i stayed up way, way too late last night because i couldn't stop reading this book. it's a tough read at times - which, given the title one must expect, really. but the thing bydlowska does amazingly well is convey the mindset of an addicted/alcoholic person: the frantic, the chaotic, the scheming, the blacked-out, the re-framing. the behaviours she uses in planning to buy her alcohol, drinking her booze, dealing with the empty bottles, lying to her boyfriend, endangering her baby wow. and, man! i stayed up way, way too late last night because i couldn't stop reading this book. it's a tough read at times - which, given the title one must expect, really. but the thing bydlowska does amazingly well is convey the mindset of an addicted/alcoholic person: the frantic, the chaotic, the scheming, the blacked-out, the re-framing. the behaviours she uses in planning to buy her alcohol, drinking her booze, dealing with the empty bottles, lying to her boyfriend, endangering her baby's life - being aware of this, guilty over it yet unable to do differently...well, it's amazing. it's a warty story and while moments are sensational - the opening scene has her finding a baggie of coke in a washroom stall at the ROM (in toronto), which she then proceeds to snort - i never felt like bydlowska was purposefully trying to make anything out to be worse or bigger than it was. her alcoholism was (is) ugly. people around her suffered. this book doesn't ask you to like her or feel empathy for her (though i did. feel empathy, that is.) i think the point of this book is to open the minds of those who don't have addictions/addictive personalities. fwiw, bydlowska is the partner of globe and mail columnist russell smith.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    Last week, when I received an advanced copy of “Drunk Mom” I was a giddy kid on Christmas morning and, at the same time, antsy-pantsy like on a first date. I resisted reading Jowita Bydlowska’s memoir at first, because I knew the moment I crack it open, the first chapter wouldn’t be enough. Or the second, or the third. I’d have to cancel my plans—eschew a looming project proposal deadline and forego homework—shut myself in, read the whole thing straight through, ignoring all responsibilities and Last week, when I received an advanced copy of “Drunk Mom” I was a giddy kid on Christmas morning and, at the same time, antsy-pantsy like on a first date. I resisted reading Jowita Bydlowska’s memoir at first, because I knew the moment I crack it open, the first chapter wouldn’t be enough. Or the second, or the third. I’d have to cancel my plans—eschew a looming project proposal deadline and forego homework—shut myself in, read the whole thing straight through, ignoring all responsibilities and obligations. You know, like an addiction. The prose is fast-paced, to the point, and very much in the moment. Jowita Bydlowska takes you right there with her in the liquor store, stroller in hand, trying to calm the paranoia throbbing in her head. You wake up with her in the Montreal hotel room, disoriented about last night’s shenanigans—and act as her accomplice as she tries to slip out of the hotel, panic-stricken that someone will recognize her—or you—from the night before. Reading “Drunk Mom” is akin to you watching a friend on their birthday, drinking to the point of blacking out and you do nothing because you’ve been there before or perhaps you’re drinking too, and life’s a party and everyone’s fun and sexy. Most of all, you’re fun and sexy! It’s hard to judge or do anything in the nanoseconds of delirious action. It’s only in the aftermath of the frenzy you wonder what happened and maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t have accepted that last drink. “Drunk Mom” is not big on sentimentality. It’s what makes it a compelling memoir, and there are no cumbersome tones of apologies either. “This is not a self-help book,” Jowita writes, sticking close to this thesis throughout the book. She’s a jerk and Jowita makes no bones about it, coming clean with her lying and the colossal disasters as a result of her relapse. “Nobody can make anybody use. Using is personal decision,” Jowita confesses, just after she leaves rehab, two months before another relapse. And that’s the magic of “Drunk Mom” the prickly honesty over empty, flowery promises—and the personal decision to stick with being honest long after the last drink and on the dangerously seductive edge of another. It’s hard to shake something your brain says you need, and reading “Drunk Mom” with its energy and razor-sharp style brings that compulsion to the forefront, making you want more. You know, like an addiction.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elliot A

    Had to read this for my last grad course. Apparently my prof is friends with the author. I think that makes it a conflict of interests to "teach" it in this course. Almost 3 months ago I finished reading this book, since then we had countless discussions on it in my course and I even did a presentation on one of the chapters, which received positive feedback. Yet, I am still torn about this book. On the one had, I am impressed and in awe of the author’s courage to share this dark time in her life Had to read this for my last grad course. Apparently my prof is friends with the author. I think that makes it a conflict of interests to "teach" it in this course. Almost 3 months ago I finished reading this book, since then we had countless discussions on it in my course and I even did a presentation on one of the chapters, which received positive feedback. Yet, I am still torn about this book. On the one had, I am impressed and in awe of the author’s courage to share this dark time in her life with the public. On the other hand, I am deeply conflicted about what to think regarding her shared experiences. More than once I was very clear about my opinion of the stories she shared. They bring about strong reactions from the reader, which is always a possibility when such dark subject matters are addressed. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had judged the author; that I had condemned her and labelled her a drunk and that was the end it of it. This memoir has not only forced me to question the blurred lines between the amount of detail an author should share, but it has also put me in a rather uncomfortable position to re-examine the role of the reader. My main point of critique is the writing style. For all the details of her questionable behaviour she shares, the author adopts a rather impersonal writing style by keeping the reader at an arm’s length from her deeper, more private thoughts and emotions. It is a contradiction that keeps battling it out throughout the entire book and makes for an interesting reading experience. Overall, I am still very conflicted about this book. I cannot say if I would recommend it. It certainly makes for a complex study considering various points of view. ElliotScribbles

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Smith

    OK, some information before I get to the review: I know Jowita. Not well, we aren't super-close. But she wrote for me when I edited a magazine a few years ago, and she and I are FB friends. We follow each others blogs. I am an alcoholic, and although I've been sober for just over 9 years, I well remember those dark days. I am also a Mom, though I've never been a drunk one - I stopped drinking about 2 years before my first son was born. And so I read Jowita's book as a friend, as a writer, as an a OK, some information before I get to the review: I know Jowita. Not well, we aren't super-close. But she wrote for me when I edited a magazine a few years ago, and she and I are FB friends. We follow each others blogs. I am an alcoholic, and although I've been sober for just over 9 years, I well remember those dark days. I am also a Mom, though I've never been a drunk one - I stopped drinking about 2 years before my first son was born. And so I read Jowita's book as a friend, as a writer, as an alcoholic, and as a Mom. It was horrific, in so many ways. But it was also very familiar: she took me back to my drinking days immediately. What she wrote was true and real and I felt it in my bones, all the way through me. The selfishness and lying and hiding and evasion - they are all part of addiction. Yes, she was awful. So was I. So is any addict. That's the deal: we ruin our lives, our bodies, our homes, our reputations, our relationships. We don't care, at the time. The writing style was stripped down and spare and unflinching. It took me about 20 pages to 'get in to' it, but it was absolutely right for the story that was being told. Anything more flowery or expansive would be easier to read, maybe, but it would also be a mask, or a way of concealing what had actually happened. And I think the whole point of writing this book was for Jowita to stand there open and bare-faced and vulnerable. I thought the writing did this. I finished the book yesterday, and I have already reread some of the passages, some which really struck me hard. The darkness is frightening and disturbing, but since I know that she is OK and her son is OK, I was able to read the book and see the amazing skill that she has as a writer. Finally, a personal note: I was back in Toronto in May of last year and I met Jowita and her son for Chinese food one night. I watched them together, as a Mom with sons the same age, and as a woman who has also struggled with alcoholism. And I saw a bond of trust between them. Her son was comfortable with her, open and loving. And loved. That child is loved. He is safe. I really believe that Jowita has come out the other side, that she is beyond the darkness. I am stunned at her book, stunned that I was in contact with her while all this was going on and knew nothing. I am fiercely proud of her recovery and her writing. Her book is awful - her book is excellent.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jess Genevieve

    Couldn't put it down. It made me want to drink. It made me feel guilty for wanting to drink. It made me consider going to rehab. It made me feel human; ever yearning and vulnerable. Couldn't put it down. It made me want to drink. It made me feel guilty for wanting to drink. It made me consider going to rehab. It made me feel human; ever yearning and vulnerable.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Misty K

    What I didn't like- her writing style. I know it was meant to reflect the state of her mind, it was slightly off putting. Also, the grammar/spelling whore that I am, I tend to always notice mistakes immediately. There were a lot. I wish someone would have taken a few extra read throughs before publishing. What I did like- Jowita was a woman I could easily relate to, and I don't drink! She was a new mom who had no clue what she was doing when she became a mom. I felt that way. I still feel that w What I didn't like- her writing style. I know it was meant to reflect the state of her mind, it was slightly off putting. Also, the grammar/spelling whore that I am, I tend to always notice mistakes immediately. There were a lot. I wish someone would have taken a few extra read throughs before publishing. What I did like- Jowita was a woman I could easily relate to, and I don't drink! She was a new mom who had no clue what she was doing when she became a mom. I felt that way. I still feel that way some days. Add a debilitating disease, low self esteem, anxiety, being an immigrant, being depressed, you get the picture. Any of those symptoms combined with being a new mom can be a deadly mix, but add in addiction and it's like a bomb exploding everyday. It's a cautionary tale for sure, but I loved how honest she was about the level of addiction she dealt with. I think people forget that alcoholism isn't always a messy appearance, isn't always someone broke and living on the streets. She hid her abuse for so long because she kept it at a level she could handle, one that she could explain away, until she couldn't. No one wants to stop something they love doing. She loved to drink, but lied to herself so expertly, she made it OK to be in this toxic relationship with alcohol. It had become the love of her life because it didn't need her the way her boyfriend and kid did, it just let her need it. I think most would call her a terrible person, or say she should have her child taken away. I guess I could agree to some extent; she put him in some really dicey situations. I think I felt for her because of the inner monologue, her inner fight with herself that she wasn't a bad person, a bad mother. Hell I argue with myself about that everyday, alcohol free. Until she writes his name down as the sole reason left in her life to live for, maybe she didn't truly think she needed to live. She did some horrible things, but mostly I just want to hug her. We all make mistakes as parents, some bigger than others, but at least she had the guts to tell everyone exactly all the bad things she has done. Some might argue she is capitalizing on the horrible things she did to her son. I say she made herself completely accountable to the entire world for her actions and made a nice little future for her son. He should thank her for writing this book, because maybe it will be the thing that helps keep her sober for him. It might show him how powerful a mother's love can be when you see the choice between your child and anything else.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carole Yeaman

    I have NEVER finished a "one star" book before. I remember only two books I've even read partially that I'd give a one star to, & that was "Naked Lunch"/Wm. Burroughs, and something by Jean Genet. One star is not merely "dull & amateurish", but oozes evil. I shudder to think that the events in this book actually took place. I think dear Jowita should be incarcerated in some severely strict addiction facility for a long stretch & have no access to that baby for as long as true recovery takes. Sin I have NEVER finished a "one star" book before. I remember only two books I've even read partially that I'd give a one star to, & that was "Naked Lunch"/Wm. Burroughs, and something by Jean Genet. One star is not merely "dull & amateurish", but oozes evil. I shudder to think that the events in this book actually took place. I think dear Jowita should be incarcerated in some severely strict addiction facility for a long stretch & have no access to that baby for as long as true recovery takes. Since it doesn't look like she can make much progress in this direction, should she get her child back she should be monitored for a decade. A repellent trip with a repellent author. Oh God, Russell - get rid of her so your son stands a chance of even surviving. To heighten the reaction I have to this book, I recently read Annie Lamott's account of her son's first year "Operating Instructions". The father of this child split as soon as she told him she was pregnant. However, the baby has a wild & wonderful village of friends & relatives to cherish him, play with him, & enrich his life in hundreds of ways every waking moment. Equally importantly, the baby gives back all that to the adoring adults, multiplied a hundred times. A life so the opposite of Bydlowska's, that it's hard to believe they are writing on the same topic, or even living on the same planet. Are you sure you were wheeling around a baby in that stroller all winter, Jowita? It was portrayed as being so inert it must have been a teddy bear & the "displacement" was just more of your delirium. A ONE star book that had to be finished. Shuddering while I type this. MAY THE UNIVERSE LOVE & PROTECT ALL BABIES NO MATTER WHAT. This book (now that I have had time to settle down - the first review I did on it vanished from the screen) is not just enraging. It is the most heartbreaking story I've ever read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    NK

    Cleverly written with a strong sense of pointlessness and meaninglessness. Clever, pointless, meaningless words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Carter

    I’d heard about this book years earlier but didn’t get a chance to read it until now. The first thing that stands out about this book is the title: Drunk Mom. Drunk Girl or Drunk Woman would not have the same impact, for immediately the title leads to questions and judgements. As someone who had gone through a struggle with alcohol in my teens and early twenties, I could relate to her feelings of wanting to be as others wanted her to be and the question of why she could not just snap out of it. I’d heard about this book years earlier but didn’t get a chance to read it until now. The first thing that stands out about this book is the title: Drunk Mom. Drunk Girl or Drunk Woman would not have the same impact, for immediately the title leads to questions and judgements. As someone who had gone through a struggle with alcohol in my teens and early twenties, I could relate to her feelings of wanting to be as others wanted her to be and the question of why she could not just snap out of it. I knew about the familiar feelings of guilt, and the whole addiction “game” of hiding and pretending, and trying to stop drinking. I did have a bit of doubt when she says that she never breast-fed when drinking. It’s hard to believe someone who was so out of control and who often didn’t remember what she did would be able to keep this part of her life straight. She at one point mentions mental illness, but never elaborates on it or how much her mental illness might also have played a part in her addiction. An online search reveals she has Bipolar 11. In the back of the book in the acknowledgements the author writes that Drunk Mom is an imperfect account of the events that occurred from 2009 to 2010 when she relapsed after 3½ years of sobriety. She was only in her late twenties and a lot of times she does come across as rather immature. Especially with her being sick of being trapped in the house night after night. It seems she just didn’t get what motherhood was about. I also had a real sense that she suffered from the loss of her freedom, of who she was before motherhood. I really liked the chapter “Archaeology” because it was the first time I had a glimpse into her past—her childhood and family history. I believe there is so much more that she could write about. Some of the things she mentions: she was the first child her mother had, and her mother had trouble conceiving, and she writes that the whole family was waiting for her like some kind of messiah. She goes on to say that her beloved grandmother went crazy and went off to a mental ward and then Jowita as an infant has an accident—the official story being she fell off the changing table and hit her head and one of her pupils got stuck and remains bigger than the other to this day. As a toddler she bit other children and was aggressive—she states she hated them and they hated her. She preferred to play by herself. In the book she says she doesn’t think the why she’s addicted is important and that there is no one event, no line that she crossed that she can pinpoint that made her an addict. I personally beg to differ. At her age I too would have said the same. My insights came with age, as I learned more about the effects our childhood, our past, our wounds have on present day life. Therefore, I would’ve liked her to share more of her back story. It could have been woven in amongst her present-day drunken episodes. My one big complaint is the lack of dialogue tags. At times it wasn’t always clear if something was being said or not. I sometimes had to read a section over to be clear. All in all, I thank her for her story. I think there are many more mothers out there in similar situations, and we are often blinded by motherhood—thinking all mothers should or do fit a certain stereotype. We want our mothers to be that perfect caring, loving person. Reality is, it’s not always the case. Can we look at a woman/mother that is not perfect without judgment?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kristi

    Actual rating = 3.5 There are a few things wrong with this book - First, I know the book is called Drunk MOM, so the focus is on the year after her son is born when she relapses, but it would have been nice to have had more of a backstory as to who Jowita is and how she has found herself in the position she was in 2009-2010. She says many time that this story is "not the TV show Intervention", but what makes that show so compelling is that you are with the addict in present time but also get a (r Actual rating = 3.5 There are a few things wrong with this book - First, I know the book is called Drunk MOM, so the focus is on the year after her son is born when she relapses, but it would have been nice to have had more of a backstory as to who Jowita is and how she has found herself in the position she was in 2009-2010. She says many time that this story is "not the TV show Intervention", but what makes that show so compelling is that you are with the addict in present time but also get a (re)view of their past life, so you get a more complete picture of the addict as a person outside of the chaos of their addiction. Bydlowska gives you hints that she has been a caretaker to her younger sister after they arrives in Canada from Poland, but never any details about where her parents were or why they aren't a bigger part of her life now. Second, it often feels as if Bydlowska is trying to prove to the reader that her son was actually safe at all times, even when it is obvious he was not. She often gets blackout drunk while acting as his primary caregiver, but always makes sure to point out that although she was a mess, the baby was still not put in any harm. This is not a judgement on her behaviour - she has obviously admitted that she has a problem, and throughout much of the book admits that she made one poor decision after another, but trying to constantly prove that the baby was ok seems to only serve to make herself feel a bit better about the whole situation. Now to what is good about this book: I genuinely found it to be un-putdownable most of the time. Bydlowska writes with such candor about so many things, showing just how far addicts go to justify their actions and behaviours to themselves and everyone else, and how easy it can be to make excuses and deny that a problem exists. She talks about how the notion of suffering from postpatrum depression as a "luxurious term", that normal women wouldn't behave like her so she isn't able to excuse her behaviour in that way - showing how addicts often believe is is something morally wrong within themselves causing them to behave the way they are, instead what really may be the problem. She talks openly about how aware she is that this is a problem that she will be dealing with for her whole life, and how terrifying that prospect is. Her relationship with her boyfriend, the father of her baby, revolves around the mutual, unspoken understanding that if they don't talk about the drinking problem then it doesn't really exist. At first Bydlowska considers this a blessing, as it allows her to continue drinking, but slowly starts to wear on her, as the lies, spoken and unspoken, become stifling and ultimately unbearable. I really consider this a worthwhile read, and would recommend it to anyone who read and enjoyed A Million Little Pieces (scandal or no scandal) or really any addiction based bio.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Carter

    I wasn't sure about this book when I picked it up. The conversation about memoirs moving into TMI territory had affected me and I think my prejudgement verged on cynicism. Even the first chapter - snorting a random score of cocaine, found in the bathroom of the R.O.M., I mean, come on! - made me sort-of sour my face up. "Appalled" was the word that went through my mind. But she won me over. Very simply put: she told her story. She told it honestly and without flinching. At times, she was self-de I wasn't sure about this book when I picked it up. The conversation about memoirs moving into TMI territory had affected me and I think my prejudgement verged on cynicism. Even the first chapter - snorting a random score of cocaine, found in the bathroom of the R.O.M., I mean, come on! - made me sort-of sour my face up. "Appalled" was the word that went through my mind. But she won me over. Very simply put: she told her story. She told it honestly and without flinching. At times, she was self-deprecating, even funny. She reached for the meaning within her experience, of course. After all, that's what writing is, but even while she reaches for meaning she also clearly acknowledges that the meaning ultimately doesn't matter. What matters are the actions we take: to drink or not to drink. At the same time, the writing is beautiful and I think, if "Frankie" (real name: Hugo) grows into a decent person he will recognize it for what it is: the story of his mom taking ownership of her own failure, her own life. The one thing I wish about this book is that she'd talked about writing. She wrote about photography and her desire to do that but I wondered where the writing-urge was in the discussion. I've done a lot of reading about anxiety and addiction and the artistic process and writing obviously had a part in this story but its place in her experience wasn't really discussed.

  19. 4 out of 5

    B

    A quote from the book... "A popular adage going around the rooms of Alcoholic Anonymous was Albert Einstein's "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Motherhood is a type of insanity, my friend Mary said once. It is not insanity as defined by Einstein because doing the same thing over and over yields different results eventually.... The insanity of motherhood lies in perseveration. You can be all like: "I'm going to count to three!" ... but there's alway A quote from the book... "A popular adage going around the rooms of Alcoholic Anonymous was Albert Einstein's "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Motherhood is a type of insanity, my friend Mary said once. It is not insanity as defined by Einstein because doing the same thing over and over yields different results eventually.... The insanity of motherhood lies in perseveration. You can be all like: "I'm going to count to three!" ... but there's always three and three-quarters. You will read the same five storybooks tomorrow before bed. There's never a last time you'll forgive your child for biting you. You need to make the dinner tomorrow again. Just when you want to abandon doing the same thing over and over again, you need to do it one more time. Motherhood is an infinity of second chances. It is insanity by repetition." Exactly. Although I don't first hand understand exactly what Jowita went through (hiding empty mickeys in her diaper bag, for instance), I do agree with what she writes about raising young children. "It is insanity by repetition." And if your first response to that kind of inane repetition is to drink, it will surely drive you to it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeanine

    3.5 - 4.0 I disliked Jowita for a good majority of this book. But I think she had to be a dislikable character, because addicts are often unlikeable. But while she frustrated me, I felt compelled to keep coming back to her story. It helped me better to understand the mind of an addict, and gave me a better understanding of how easily it is to choose your addiction over your children. It was also narrated really well, and that makes a world of difference.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I've never been one for addiction memoirs, but Jowita Bydlowska's story is so much more than that. This memoir reads like a novel, with incredibly vivid scenes that I feel will forever be etched in my mind. Bydlowska is an incredibly talented and brave writer, and I'm so glad that she shared her story in this way. A powerful read. I've never been one for addiction memoirs, but Jowita Bydlowska's story is so much more than that. This memoir reads like a novel, with incredibly vivid scenes that I feel will forever be etched in my mind. Bydlowska is an incredibly talented and brave writer, and I'm so glad that she shared her story in this way. A powerful read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    This book was riveting. It was fascinating to see through the eyes of an addict and see the exact thought process. This book was at times very funny and also heart wrenching. Definitely glad I came across it at the bookstore!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Meave

    Really good, once you get into her rhythm, but absolutely the wrong thing to read in a bar.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mary Havens

    It would be super-easy to vilify Bydlowska but you have to admit that she has extremely large cajones to strip herself bare and lay it all out. I kept screaming at her to give that baby to someone who wasn't blackout drunk because she was clearly incapable of taking care of an infant. I think she struggle with what most moms struggle with: enormous guilt in feeling that she was inadequate in taking care of her child. And she does admit she was inadequate and apologizes profusely to her son and h It would be super-easy to vilify Bydlowska but you have to admit that she has extremely large cajones to strip herself bare and lay it all out. I kept screaming at her to give that baby to someone who wasn't blackout drunk because she was clearly incapable of taking care of an infant. I think she struggle with what most moms struggle with: enormous guilt in feeling that she was inadequate in taking care of her child. And she does admit she was inadequate and apologizes profusely to her son and her partner. Also: let's take a minute to address the enormous pressure put upon moms. Why does giving birth mean you are suddenly put on this "gotta be perfect" pedestal?? I read something, somewhere (how's that for a source!? :) ) about spicing up the news by emphasizing "SHE IS/WAS A MOTHER" because you can't possibly think that a MOTHER could be the same person after having a child. It's the whole Madonna/whore complex but magnified to the nth degree. Moving on..... What struck me, for the first time ever (and it's not my first addiction memoir) is the massive amount of lies she told to everyone including herself. Also: did her friends know she was an alcoholic? Because they certainly pushed it on her at this various parties, including her "going to rehab" party. Either they were stupid jerks or they were completely oblivious. With the amount of lying she did, I can see that but maybe they knew and didn't take it seriously? I've heard of addicts of all varieties having to completely change their friends and even family because they just didn't get it. I'm always struck with how self-destructive addicts are. I've been watching a lot of My 600 lb Life lately and some of the addicts will get so close and then sabotage themselves. It's frustrating to watch someone think so little of themselves (and I say this as someone who has struggled with self-worth almost my entire life). The writing is lyrical at times, which I liked but can come off pretentious too, and she writes in little bursts which makes it a quick read. I hope Bydlowska has figured it out for her her son and partner's sake, but mostly for herself.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    Well written, painful to read. Good insight into alcohol addiction.

  26. 5 out of 5

    librarianka

    Why is Jowita Bydlowska's book such a compulsive and compelling read, one that's hard to put down? I think it's because there are absolutely no distractions, no descriptions, not much background information, no lengthy explanations (except for a brief Archeology chapter) no theory, no psychology and no advice. It's like she says - "this is no self help book". The author sticks to raw facts and with tremendous focus and gripping immediacy, takes us through the several months of a life of a drunk, Why is Jowita Bydlowska's book such a compulsive and compelling read, one that's hard to put down? I think it's because there are absolutely no distractions, no descriptions, not much background information, no lengthy explanations (except for a brief Archeology chapter) no theory, no psychology and no advice. It's like she says - "this is no self help book". The author sticks to raw facts and with tremendous focus and gripping immediacy, takes us through the several months of a life of a drunk, totally exposing the addict's mind. It's like she is aware that only through complete exposure, through striping of all the lies, she, we, anybody, can become liberated and gain strength and courage to live the life. Even though it might be a temporary strengh, a temporary courage, it's worth to get access to it and her book recalls her way of getting there. I also think that the act of exposing lies, makes it a universally appealing read. Not all of us are drunks, addicts, but among our lot, arent we a lot of harmful things? Don't we all have secret lies we'd rather not face, if only very tiny ones, very ocassionally? I am sure we can use the honesty in this exposé of the workings of the mind. I also congratulate the author in creating an incredibly strong literary voice as the result of the process she had a courage to go through. I hope this book gets translated into many languages, including Jowita's and mine.

  27. 5 out of 5

    MacDuff

    As far as addiction memoirs go, this one is definitely one of the better out there, despite being one of the more difficult to read. This is because the author is a new mother. After having been sober for years, she toasts to the birth of her new son with champagne. And after that, all her hard work goes down the tube. Like "Alcohol: a Love Story," you keep waiting for rock bottom to be a huge accident. A DUI, an arrest, a death. Because the author's drinking takes her just to the edge of that l As far as addiction memoirs go, this one is definitely one of the better out there, despite being one of the more difficult to read. This is because the author is a new mother. After having been sober for years, she toasts to the birth of her new son with champagne. And after that, all her hard work goes down the tube. Like "Alcohol: a Love Story," you keep waiting for rock bottom to be a huge accident. A DUI, an arrest, a death. Because the author's drinking takes her just to the edge of that level. You keep waiting for a baby to be hurt. So as the reader, you're constantly on the edge of your seat. So it's a tough read. And the author herself is very tough to relate to because she is very clearly just as in love with alcohol as she is with her newborn. This is tough to wrap your head around, even if you are fighting a battle with alcohol. She is given help, which she rejects. She has loved ones around her, whom she fights off. Ultimately, she makes concessions and finds her way out of the madness that is her drinking. At the end of the story, you want her to succeed more for her boyfriend and child than for her own good. Which is tough to say, but it's because she never delves into her own successes or accomplishments. She always focuses on her demons. You finish the memoir thinking that you want her to shake off the demons, to find a love that won't hurt her in her child. It's a lovely, tough book. Certainly one I will never forget.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Zoom

    I read this because someone on CBC called it the Canadian Glass Castle, which was a memoir about a fascinatingly dysfunctional family. Drunk Mom was an entertaining read, but it's not the Canadian Glass Castle. It's all about one woman's drunken exploits during her relapse following the birth of her baby. There's something about this book that bugs me, but I can't quite put my finger on it. I think it's the unreliable narrator. If she was so drunk she was experiencing regular blackouts, how much I read this because someone on CBC called it the Canadian Glass Castle, which was a memoir about a fascinatingly dysfunctional family. Drunk Mom was an entertaining read, but it's not the Canadian Glass Castle. It's all about one woman's drunken exploits during her relapse following the birth of her baby. There's something about this book that bugs me, but I can't quite put my finger on it. I think it's the unreliable narrator. If she was so drunk she was experiencing regular blackouts, how much of the book is fabricated or pieced together rather than authentically remembered? And how much is exaggerated for the sake of entertainment? It's like she feels it's not enough to be a drunk, she has to be the worst damned drunk that ever walked the face of the earth. The book has a true confessions feel to it. She knows it leaves her wide open to judgement, particularly as a mother, from herself and her family and the world at large. It's almost like her penance for falling so short of the motherhood ideal. And yeah, there's the urge to judge her, but I found myself far more in judgement of the baby's father. What kind of willful blindness would be required to entrust one's baby to the care of someone who is totally smashed all day every day? She at least has some justification for her poor parenting - she was drunk. But what's his excuse?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    *Received this as an advance reading giveaway.* To be honest, I was leery of this book. The cover didn't really do it for me, and I assumed that the writing was going to bad. Well, surprise, surprise, I ended up getting sucked into this memoir, reading voraciously and delaying chores so that I could finish it. This is a raw, honest glimpse into the mind of an alcoholic. She describes how it feels to need alcohol and the way that it feels as it enters her body. She goes into detail about how she pl *Received this as an advance reading giveaway.* To be honest, I was leery of this book. The cover didn't really do it for me, and I assumed that the writing was going to bad. Well, surprise, surprise, I ended up getting sucked into this memoir, reading voraciously and delaying chores so that I could finish it. This is a raw, honest glimpse into the mind of an alcoholic. She describes how it feels to need alcohol and the way that it feels as it enters her body. She goes into detail about how she plans to drink, how she hides the evidence, and the great lengths she goes to in order to appear sober. It's a downward spiral with predictable results, but for someone with little knowledge of alcoholism it's an eye opening account that helps foster understanding. As a writer, her style is unique and mirrors the flighty mind of an addict. There are poignant descriptions, realistic dialogue. I have a few complaints mostly related to editing. Just call your boyfriend Russell, we all know who he is. And, Is the title necessary? I'm kind of embarrassed to read this in public. Overall, I'm pretty impressed with this book, and I will pass my copy along to my friends. Canada's version of "Million Little Pieces"? Only this time, it's true.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    Just finished reading this very well written book. I found it hard to put down, and a very real account of how the writer struggled with her addiction. Most of us, I believe, know someone with some kind of addiction, and we strive to understand how it holds on tight and doesn't let go. How can a person who loves someone hurt them at the same time? When you have what appears to be a great life, why would you seem to throw it away for a drink, a drug, something that threatens that "great life"? Ap Just finished reading this very well written book. I found it hard to put down, and a very real account of how the writer struggled with her addiction. Most of us, I believe, know someone with some kind of addiction, and we strive to understand how it holds on tight and doesn't let go. How can a person who loves someone hurt them at the same time? When you have what appears to be a great life, why would you seem to throw it away for a drink, a drug, something that threatens that "great life"? Appearances are deceiving, of course, and when you don't understand your own unhappiness, it's then that you turn to something to dull your senses. I am thankful and proud of Jowita for sharing her story, for she has done a brave thing in doing so. There will be some that judge her, and look upon her story with disgust, I'm sure, but I think it's only when we reveal our weaknesses and show who we really are, that we get real happiness. I wish Jowita good luck.

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