Sessums Snippet #3 – Something personal

A recent reader said in her review that she found Jenny’s enabling of JD’s drinking “cringe-worthy.”  And I’ll be honest, she’s absolutely right. Jenny Dee does enable her dad.

The truth is, there’s a lot of me in Jenny, including the way she handles her dad’s drinking.  My dad was an alcoholic…  Never physically abusive, but just a pleasant, happy drunk.  And for most of his life, when we were growing up, he managed to keep the drink in one hand and a wrench in the other.  He worked hard, super hard as a diesel mechanic and never let his drinking get in the way of putting food on our tables. In those days Mom worked evenings and I can remember me and my sisters heating Daddy a plate of dinner each night as soon as he got home so he wouldn’t pass out with an empty stomach.

Several years ago under my “romance pen name” I wrote a story about two alcoholics.  One recovered, the other working her way towards recovery.  To prepare for All the Wrong Reasons, I decided to read Alcoholics Anonymous ( The Original Text of the Life-Changing Landmark). Originally published in 1939, this book provides a description and definition of alcoholism as well as a step-by-step explanation of how the twelve-step program works. It then relates story after story told in first person by members of the group.

Post-Prohibition Era diagnoses of alcoholism were grim. Some believed it might be an allergy of sorts to which some were more susceptible than others. Most medical and psychiatric experts believed the condition was incurable and terminal. Those with limited resources were resigned to state hospitals or charities like the Salvation Army. If you had financial support you might get more aggressive treatment including the “purge and puke” method with barbiturates and belladonna.

Still most of the time those resulted in relapse and eventually death associated with the condition. In the beautiful story, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when the doctor notes that the father’s death certificate will read pneumonia and alcoholism as the cause, the mother begs him to leave the word alcoholism off for her children’s sakes. It’s a heartbreaking scene.

Eventually, though, a group of alcoholics, starting with Bill W. and Dr. Bob began to experiment and find success by applying the theories of The Oxford Society to their illness. A Christian fellowship movement, The Oxford Society’s tenants were described by their founder as follows: “All people are sinners”; “All sinners can be changed”; “Confession is a prerequisite to change”; “The change can access God directly”; “Miracles are again possible”; and “The change must change others.”

Many of the beliefs of The Oxford Society were adapted for the problem of the alcoholic and although the two groups diverged in the later 1930s, many of the edicts of the twelve steps have some connective tissue to The Oxford Society.

I relied on the stories of the “anonymous” contributors of the book when creating the relationship between JD and Mr. Killough. And when you read The Christmas Kettle Caper in the Mysteries of Christmas Past anthology, you’ll get a little more of that very special relationship.

Unfortunately, in 2018 my own dad died without ever having beaten his addiction to alcohol. Interestingly, his death happened just a few weeks before I released All the Wrong Reasons, the story for which I’d researched so much about the disease. I’ll always say my Lord’s timing is perfect because I know without a doubt that my understanding of his struggles with drink is what helped me deal with the impact of his death.

So there’s a little snippet of history plus a lot of personal history.

Have I mentioned how humbled I am that you’re reading this and my books? From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.

~C.H. Sessums

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