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If I Die Before I WakeReview - If I Die Before I Wake
A Memoir of Drinking and Recovery
by Barb Rogers
Conari Press, 2010
Review by Samin Khan
Apr 12th 2011 (Volume 15, Issue 15)

The direct writing style of the author like a true American is a memoir of despair and its other side. Is there another side or twist to every life? Most of us would like to believe in the audacity of hope and the American dream but the experience of author is mere struggle to keep her head out of the water at best. The powerful personal story of the author is no fancy, make-believe "Feel-Good" Psychology but a scholarly first hand experience sharing of a person struggling to find a way out of trouble. There are no advices in book, nor does the author believe in giving one, book only counts on telling the truth in raw and without pleasantries. Addiction in all its complexity, broken relationships and death of young children is what will make an eternal tragedy.

Like the great Urdu Poet Ghalib who after losing his children dipped the pen in his bleeding heart, the first person narrative story of the author in the book is all tragic and little to rejoice about. However, the powerful moral theme is that of not finding oneself as victim of circumstances but as proactive fighting hero who never quits and finally finds a way out. The book explores author's life that is wrecked by alcohol addiction resulting in broken family relationships and most importantly death of young son. No wonder in some cultures alcohol addiction is harshly discouraged and even legally banned as fun or indulgence; it is grim serious matter for people of such places.

Barb Rogers story begins with the tragic death of her teenage son, Jon, the tragedy and guilt of the event remains in her active consciousness forever, existence of pain and guild within that has life of its own moves like the great "Absolute" of Hegel Philosophy. Her domestic life becomes a nightmare full of substance and emotional abuse. From here on there is a sinking feeling of nothingness and this nihilism results in social isolation and economic misery. The author can't even have a prayer to find hope in, existence in dark space with no end in sight. A heart full of pain and sorrow find dear delight in recluse drunkard-ness of a lost soul.

The book has no pages on honeymoon springs and romances but is all the way a dark tragedy and bewilderment of a postmodern soul where life only becomes pain, tragedy, and addiction. How many of us can find ourselves in similar situations with no exit and no reprieve and what happens to us when angels of darkness descent into the dark corners of our hearts and capture every bit of it. From this bottomless pit comes out the 12 steps recovery program in the author's life, few simple words and deeds but deeper than the ocean and higher than the heaven. From here on the author shows us real spirit of being a human person, to stay clean and sober, and find a way to the other side. Recovery is a painful life that one has to live everyday, think every moment and find a better way of existence. No recovery has ever been achieved without spiritual path finding and soul searching within the person.

Life, as Nietzsche said, is struggle against all odds; we all like the mad Greek character who takes the stone up the hill so that it will roll back to where it started from. Dealing with addiction is like taking a stone up the hill, there are challenges and it will roll back again but the key is keep working. A life of epicurean indulgence is as painful as the life of Homer's hero who struggle against nature and wild enemies but finally finds his way home. Few people have been through the abuse, loss, and pain that the author experienced. The book is a must read!


© 2011 Samin Khan



Samin Khan, from the most bombed city of the 21st Century Peshawar.  Dedicated to my lovely hardworking wife Sara Samin Khan


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