We are thrilled to introduce you to author Amy Hatvany. Her novel, Best Kept Secret, which will be out in June, 2011, is a deeply personal, emotionally resonant portrait of an alcoholic mother who desperately loves her child. Below, Amy introduces a sneak preview of the book.
When I was drinking, I thought I was the only woman who had ever poured red wine into a coffee mug first thing in the morning, sipping at it to ward off the shakes as I cut up toaster waffles for my kids. I believed I was the only woman who lied to supermarket checkers about the dinner party I was having that night as an explanation for the numerous bottles of alcohol in my cart. I thought I was the only woman to stare in the mirror, not recognizing what I’d become, hating how far I’d fallen, and feeling a shame so intense I wanted to die.
After getting sober in 2005, I began writing the novel, Best Kept Secret, as a direct result of my own emotional experiences around being a mother and a recovering alcoholic. I wanted to write a story that would illuminate how this descent can happen to anyone. I wanted to show how quickly a seemingly innocent glass of wine can destroy an otherwise successful, strong woman while she attempts to keep the balls in her life in the air so no one will suspect what’s really going on.
Although the plot and characters are fictional, the emotions behind this story were incredibly personal, because in revealing the main character’s secret, I was revealing my own. There were dark memories I had to revisit, and it took time to build up the courage to get the emotional side of those experiences fully onto the page. I worried about being judged for my alcoholism, but the idea that if I told the truth, it might help even one woman who is still suffering alone in silence made it worth the risk of what others might choose to think of me personally.
The following excerpt from the novel is the beginning of Cadence Sutton’s story – a woman struggling to come to terms with her alcoholism while she fights to regain custody of her son. My biggest hope for the book is that it starts a conversation about the secrets we keep. I hope that the story widens readers’ understanding and compassion, and perhaps makes them re-evaluate any preconceptions they might hold about women who suffer from alcoholism. Most of all, I hope that anyone in the throes of active addiction sees themselves in the pages and realizes that there is a way out. No matter what, they don’t have to face any of their problems alone.
Being drunk in front of your child is right up there on the Big Bad No-no List of Motherhood. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I knew it with every glass, every swallow, every empty bottle thrown into the recycle bin. I hated drinking. I hated it…and I couldn’t stop. The anesthetic effect of alcohol ran thick in my blood: the Great Barrier Reef built between me and my feelings. I watched myself do it in an out-of-body experience: Oh, isn’t this interesting? Look at me, the sloppy drunk. It snuck up on me, every time. It took me by surprise.
I tried to stop. Of course I tried. I went a day, maybe two, before the urge burned strong enough, it rose in my throat like a gnarled hand reaching for a drink. My body ached. My brain sloshed against the inside of my skull. The more I loathed drinking, the more I needed it to find that sweet spot between awareness and agony. Even now, even though it has been sixty-four days since I have taken a drink, the shame clings to me. It sickens my senses worse than any hangover I’ve ever suffered.
It’s early April, and I drive down a street lined with tall, sturdy maples. Gauzelike clouds stretch across the icy blue sky. A few earnest men stand in front of their houses appraising the state of their lawns. My own yard went to hell while I was away and I have not found time nor inclination to be its savior.
Any other day I would have found this morning beautiful. Any other day I might have stopped to stare at the sky, to enjoy the fragile warmth of the sun on my skin. Today is not any other day. Today marks two months and four days since I have seen my son. Each corner I turn takes me closer and closer to picking him up from his grandmother’s house. For now, it was decided this arrangement was better than my coming face-to-face with Martin, his father.
“What do they think will happen?” I’d asked my treatment counselor, Andi, when the rules of visitation came down. My voice was barely above a whisper. “What do they think I’d do?”
“Think of how many times you were drunk around Charlie,” she said. “There’s reason for concern.”
I sat a moment, contemplating this dangerous little bomb, vacillating between an attempt to absorb the truth behind her words and the desire to find a way to hide from it. I kept my eyes on the floor, too afraid of what I’d see if I looked into hers. Two weeks in the psych ward rendered me incapable of pulling off my usually dazzling impersonation of a happy, successful, single mother. Andi knew I was drunk in front of Charlie every day for over a year. She’d heard me describe the misery etched across my child’s face each time I pulled the cork on yet another bottle of wine. She knew the damage I’d done. Copyright c 2011 by Amy Hatvany