I laughed. I sighed. I squirmed. I forgot to breathe, until another burst of laughter reminded me how. I was horrified. My heart broke, twice. I gasped. I was mesmerized. In the end, my heart was swept away on a river of stone, found solace, and was healed. It was a busy hour.
Patrick Lane spoke to a near capacity crowd at the Millenium Library as a part of the Big Ideas series, and read from his memoir There Is a Season, detailing his experiences as an alcoholic from the age of 14 to his eventual return to sobriety. It was an incredibly frank and tender discussion of a horrendously harrowing experience. The non-addicted person will never really understand the disease of addiction, but Lane spared nothing in his efforts to help the audience make sense of it. The intense joy, the bliss of the drug, the way everything else fades into irrelevancy until there is only the drug, filling every hour of the day. He takes us on his journey through rehab, meeting many other characters on the way - the boy who had been addicted to crack cocaine since the age of eight and had been selling it to other kids, the girl who had been hooking on the streets since the age of 11 to support her habit - knowing that some of them would be dead within six months of returning to the outside, unable in the end to stay clean or sober.
My soul ached as he described his fear of returning to writing once he returned home. Never having been a sober writer, he was terrified that somehow his voice was tied to the alcohol and was now lost, and too terrified to find out. This book, which began as a collection of writings on his garden, allowed him to find his voice again. That voice has blossomed, opening up entirely new branches to explore.
According to Lane, one in 20 people in our society suffers from an addiction. If you can only imagine the number of people connected to each one of those individuals - family, friends, lovers, parents, sons and daughters - then the entire country should be reading this book. He fearlessly took us to his darkest of days, and with great levity showed us his way out. In the end, his was a message of hope. "Don't give up on the addicted." he advised. Having heard his story, I can now more clearly understand why.
Welcome back, Patrick. It's so good to hear your voice.