Heartbreaking… when your child is an addict
memoir, 75 pp
Reviewed by Doris Green, https://dorisgreenbooks.com/
In Heartbreaking, Dawn P. chronicles her family’s struggle with her son’s addiction, from the age of 13 to 30-plus. Heartbreaking for the author, heartbreaking for the reader, this transfixing story of a family tragedy reveals the ways in which treatment plans and incarceration both work and don’t work. All the clearly delineated details—from overdose crises to bricks thrown through her windows to beatings of her son by dealers seeking payment—drew me deep into the unfolding disaster.
There’s much to absorb in this long, unbroken essay, which I read and digested in short periods, experiencing the story over several days, like the news developments of Hurricane Harvey. Dawn explains what it feels like to live through this prolonged catastrophe of addiction, complete with clear-eyed descriptions of social services processes, police interactions, courtroom discussions, and incarceration realities.
Dawn traces the seeds of tragedy to the time before her son’s birth and explores her changing (and often conflicting) roles as he grows and matures. While a mother first, Dawn is also at times a medic, caretaker, social worker, security officer, and victim herself, sometimes blamed when treatments fail. This long-term perspective fosters astute self-reflections and provides hard-won insights for other parents, as well as educators, social workers, and police officers.
Questions always remain in the aftermath of any addiction, and it would likely take an encyclopedia to explore the full impact of this experience on Dawn and her circle of family and friends. Dawn’s story nevertheless inspires an ongoing hope for the future. Above all, this is a story of growth and forgiveness. Forgiveness not once, not seven times, but, as Jesus suggested in Matthew 18: “seventy times seven” times.
Reviewer Doris Green authored “Elsie’s Story: Chasing a Family Mystery” and “Wisconsin Underground: A Guide to Caves, Mines, and Tunnels.” New this year: “Minnesota Underground: A Guide to Caves & Karst, Mines & Tunnels,” is co-authored with Greg Brick. Contact http://henschelhausbooks.com, Amazon, or, your local bookstore.
Wisconsin Writers Association
Copyright © 2022. All rights reserved.