Other writers' work helped, too. Whenever I pulled it off the shelf, Thomas Lynch's book Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality opened by itself to page 95, the essay "The Way We Are." I read it dozens of times, each time crying a little. With his child passed out on the couch, after arrests and drunk tanks and hospitalizations, Lynch, the undertaker and poet and essayist, looked at his dear addicted son with sad but lucid resignation, and he wrote: "I want to remember him the way he was, that bright and beaming boy with the blue eyes and the freckles in the photos, holding the walleye on his grandfather's dock, or dressed in his first suit for his sister's grade-school graduation, or sucking his thumb while drawing at the kitchen counter, or playing his first guitar, or posing with the brothers from down the block on his first day of school."
Why does it help to read others' stories? It's not only that misery loves company, because (I learned) misery is too self-absorbed to want much company. Others' experiences did help with my emotional struggle; reading, I felt a little less crazy. And, like the stories I heard at Al-Anon meetings, others' writing served as guides in uncharted waters. Thomas Lynch showed me that it is possible to love a child who is lost, possibly forever.
My writing culminated in an article about our family's experience that I submitted to the New York Times Magazine. I was terrified to invite people into our nightmare, but was compelled to do so. I felt that telling our story would be worthwhile if I could help anyone in the way that Lynch and other writers helped me. I discussed it with Nic and the rest of our family. Though encouraged by them, I was nonetheless nervous about exposing our family to public scrutiny and judgment. But the reaction to the article heartened me and, according to Nic, emboldened him. A book editor contacted him and asked if he was interested in writing a memoir about his experience, one that might inspire other young people struggling with addiction. Nic was eager to tell his story. More significantly, he said that he walked into AA meetings and when friends—or even strangers—made the connection between him and the boy in the article, they offered warm embraces and told him how proud they were of him. He said that it was a powerful affirmation of his hard work in recovery.