Night Navigation

Posted on November 6, 2009. Filed under: addiction, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , |

I just finished a wonderful first novel by Ginnah Howard, Night Navigation. The characters, language, personal dilemmas, the emotional roller-coaster of addicts and their families, all were hauntingly familiar.  It’s obvious that Howard has had personal experience navigating the landscape of addiction and mental illness.

The book opens with Del giving her 37 year-old bipolar son, Mark, a ride to a medical de-tox facility for heroin addiction. “Through the four seasons, Night Navigation takes us into the deranged, darkly humorous world of the addict – from break-your-arm dealers to boot-camp rehabs to Rumi-quoting NA Sponsors.  Al-Anon tells Del to “let go”;  NAMI tells her to “hang on”.  Mark cannot find a way to live in this world; Del cannot stop trying to rescue him.  And yet, during this long year’s night, through relapse and despair, there are flare-ups of hope as Mark and Del fitfully, painfully try to steer toward the light.”

Told in the alternating voices of an addict and his mother, this riveting novel adds new depth to our compassion for and understanding of addiction, parents and their troubled children.  I identified with Del’s desperate attempts to save her sons: “She always gave them warm clothing:  long underwear, mittens, hats – this jacket  – hoping somehow to shelter them from their chaotic lives”. P.155  And this:  “She puts her feet up on the stool and rocks a little.  Even when he came toward her, looking so not like himself, she saw in his eyes the child who sat in his yellow sleepers on the edge of his bed, reading his Richard Scarry book by the light from the hall, circling with a blue crayon all the words he knew.  Year later he said to her, Sometimes I circled a few I didn’t know.  She still has dreams where she picks up the phone and he says, Mom, it’s Aaron”.  p. 157

This book is not only beautifully written; but the revealing glimpses it gives us into the world and psyche of a struggling addict, mental illness, and depression, contributed to my growing knowledge base and a better understanding of what my daughter must be experiencing.

Here’s a little prayer that I’m told, is a favorite of the Dalai Lama’s and is a favorite of my Buddhist friend, Donna:

And now, as long as space endures.
As long as there are beings to be found.
May I also endure
To wipe away the sorrows of the world.

This book helped ease my sorrow, a bit.  Thanks, Ginnah.

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