“I will not be there. . . I will be an outsider,” writes Jane in a diary excerpt within Jane: A Murder. In this creative research project, I take Jane’s depiction of a lost family member and use it as a model to explain the degeneration of my uncle Patrick, whom my family lost to the streets as a result of alcoholism. Jane’s story and the story of my uncle are drastically different, and yet their stories parallel each other; both Jane and Patrick were lost at a young age, and although Patrick is still alive, he cannot return from his disease, and has exiled himself from the family. Through documentary poetry inspired by letters, interviews, and personal anecdotes, I solidify my claim that after losing daily functionality in society, alcoholism is extremely difficult to recover from, and relapse is likely. By combining Patrick’s voice and my own voice in this piece, much like Maggie Nelson includes both her and Jane’s perspective, I follow Patrick’s continual degeneration, a life led by many alcoholics around the world. This degeneration brings immeasurable emotional strain on the family as they try to cope with the broken promises and messy struggles with this disease decade after decade.
Throughout this collection, I prove that alcoholism leads to the consistent degeneration of an individual’s well being, both physical and mental. The poems in this piece capture Patrick’s decline as he hits “rock bottom” again and again and still somehow surpasses it. I write, “The soft curls gone gray, rigid/ arms now hanging rags. Nobody says a thing/ about the time we found him under the steps,/ when he broke in and stole from the liquor/ cabinet” (6). Here, he is
weak and frail from years of damage to his body, no longer the robust young adult he was when he finished school. This poem also tackles his compromised mental state; at the time, my family believed that him breaking into my grandparents’ house, living in the basement, and stealing their alcohol was his rock bottom, but he did not see his behaviors as adverse and continues to drink. He is not alone in his prolonged abuse; in a study in Addiction Medicine , Bankole A. Johnson writes, “The prevalence of lifetime alcohol abuse and dependence was 17.8 and 12.5%, respectively, for a total prevalence of 30.3% for any lifetime alcohol use disorder” (55). Alcoholism spanning a lifetime is more common than many think, and as the years go on, it becomes harder to shake the disease as the body and mind weaken (Johnson).
Even if one is able to escape his or her alcoholic habits and become sober, one has a very high likelihood of relapsing because of the addiction and societal pressures. Patrick’s story is an example of the difficulties of staying sober throughout recovery, as he has failed countless times throughout the past few decades. In a text interview, when I tell him he can still stand back up after falling into his alcoholic habits once again, he responds, “Yes, my dear, I will.” Unsurprisingly, he did not live up to his words and was found drunk shortly after this interview
Erica Lane is a first year student at Boston University studying Film and Television with a strong interest in screenwriting. She enjoys buying notebooks, running down the Esplanade, and stopping often to pet dogs on her runs.