3 out of 4 stars
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With bipolar disorder, instances of mania can be the absolute worst. Couple that with an addiction like alcoholism? That’s a recipe for disaster just waiting to happen. Janny Becker’s It began with Huntley Drinkley is an excellent primer on this, chronicling Becker’s life from her childhood to her old age.
The effects of addiction and declining mental health are the focus of her memories, starting with her first drink as a child all the way through to her experiences with the Program. Moreover, it also deals with her career as an occupational therapist, with emphasis on how her alcoholism and bipolar disorder affected her work.
Becker’s life is, well, lively. There’s much to learn from her, each tale recounted something that contains a lesson about life, mental health, or the dangers of addiction. She freely admits to this being a part of her legacy, a bit of honesty that I found to be rather refreshing.
I also thought Becker’s self-reflection was quite a joy to read. She’s very self-aware, and it’s clear that she accepts her flaws for what they are. She doesn’t make excuses for her alcoholism or the resultant behaviour, which went quite a long way in winning me over to her side.
That’s not to say that the other characters weren’t as colourful. Becker paints quite a picture of her family, so much so that it’s easy to imagine what her parents and sister were like in life. Her sister, in particular, takes up much of Becker’s narrative, and I was surprised by the conclusions she came to about her and how she developed them. To say that she has quite the insight as a therapist is an understatement.
Not everything about the book was good, though.
I didn’t like how Becker would speed through certain parts of her life while lingering on unnecessary details. While I did like the look into her career and what that meant for her patients, I felt like some of the details were repeated unnecessarily at times where they only served to break up the pacing of the book.
Further to this, the book does need some editing. While it was generally written well, there were still dozens of little errors that peppered the pages. They’re not unforgivable errors but, between them and the repetition of details, I was distracted at times.
Still, I liked this book a lot. Becker clearly knows what she’s talking about and her emphasis on alcoholism and bipolar disorder is educational. I’m giving it 3 out of 4 stars because I think it can be useful to many. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about these topics, and I hope people pick it up.
Happy reading, everyone!
It began with Huntley Drinkley
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