Buddhist Recovery Network book review
“Hi, I’m Bill and I’m Old: Reinventing My Sobriety for the Long Haul”
Hazelden. October 13, 2008.
ISBN 1592856632, 978-1-59285-663-3
Paperback. 180 pages.
School/perspective: Buddhist-turning-toward-Christian roots
- Reverie: Oblivion
- No Escape
- Two Truths
- The Downward Slope
- Old Is Good
- We Are Addicts
- The God of Time
- The End
- Naked Burial
- Growing Down
- The Mind of my Grandmother
- Rocking Chair
- Big Mind
- Reverie: The Mind of the Hermit
- About the Author
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Rev. Alex Holt, Yakima, WA -
Well written books on the topics of addiction and recovery aren’t for the faint of heart. That’s even truer when the dreaded word “old” is added into the mix. Fortunately, this latest offering from Buddhist-turning-toward-Christian roots William Alexander cheerfully and gently invites us to immerse ourselves in a flow of insights about getting old and despite ourselves gaining wisdom.
It’s helpful to read Bill Alexander’s prior books and in particular “Cool Water”. Bill’s first book on addiction and recovery points the reader in the direction of this last book and sets us up for a shocking beginning. This reviewer had known Bill’s deep commitment to sobriety and clarity from the first book and his spiritual practice in Buddhism. How astonished I was to read the very first page of the first chapter when he describes sitting alone in a darkened room, curtains closed against the night, no sounds and smoke from a cigarette drifting toward the moving fan on the ceiling. And then these frightening words, “I am drunk. After twenty-three years without a drink, I sit in my brightly painted den...and I drift into oblivion.”
My very first thought as I read that first page was “oh, no, how could this have happened.” And then I kept reading and to discover much to my relief that it was an awakened dream and much more. This dream of oblivion leads us into a multitude of stories focused on the hardest of human conditions: we are born, we live, we grow old and then we die. That’s it.
Bill Alexander artfully weaves a multitude of sub-plots together as we read and experience his reflections on aging, remembering and forgetting. Be forewarned, however, that this book requires one to read it at least three times. Bill sees himself first and foremost as a storyteller and the reader will find ample cause to read slowly and aloud as each story speaks to that reality of aging. There is grace, a healthy measure of humility mixed with ah-ha moments, and at the end a recognition of where home really resides.
This book is not an easy read nor should it be. It is a mirror that unerringly is in front of us and it’s our choice whether to truly see what is before our eyes.
This fall Bill Alexander will move to Marine On St. Croix, Minnesota, to practice his craft and whittle the carvings of his stories. I am honored to have met him again in this book.
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