A Review: “Letting Go of the Thief: A Ninety Day Journey Inside the Thoughts of an Alcoholic” (Pamela Pesta, Outskirts Press)

When I got sober I bought sobriety books like I used to buy alcohol – obsessively. In the first few months I rapidly built up a little sobriety library, very few of them were ever read completely, many more not touched at all, but I somehow felt that owning them would make me better. Then it turned out that what I needed was connection; connection to real, living people who had been to that same dark place as me and were now sober. For someone that has always kept people very much at arms-length, this was something of a revelation, but the books that I read, whilst illustrative of a drunk to sober journey, just didn’t make that deeper connection to my experience.

That was until I read Pamela Pesta’s Letting Go of the Thief.

This is a different kind of sobriety book. Taking us on a journey through ninety days of alcoholic thinking and the hope found in a new way of living, Pamela does not hold back from the despair that she experienced in those darkest of moments. She brilliantly articulates the alcoholics’ persistent internal dialogue, familiar to many of us; the promises to stop, the pleading for help and the scheming for more.  She describes perfectly the deepening chasm between who she truly was and the person she became when she drank.

The ‘thief’ in this context is the bottle who stole a mother of twin boys away from her family and drew her down into a lonely despair where she felt she would die:

“My anguished screams echoed from the cold cement walls with humiliating intensity. I looked down at the shattered remains of emptied bottles scattered beneath my feet. I could feel my clothing clinging to my skin, reeking of destitution and sweat. The rotting odour of emptiness permeated my senses” (Pesta, 2018: p5)

Just like that, Pamela takes us to the heart of it; her rock bottom laid bare, every word on the page aching with the pain of that moment when she finds herself at the crossroads between life and death.

Then there is the hope, the “opening door” as Ms Pesta would have it, where the sober Pamela guides her past self through the passage to sobriety. You cannot help but be moved as she describes her own rebirth, both physical and spiritual. You find yourself willing her on – in fact it takes all your effort to stop yourself from jumping into the book and carrying her over the threshold, such is the hope that she describes as lying beyond it.

But do not make the mistake of thinking this book only talks to the alcoholic. Letting Go of the Thief can offer an insight into alcoholic thinking for friends and relatives or professionals in the field; each chapter taking you through the pain of active alcoholism to the miracle of recovery, not to mention all of the hard-won steps in between.

The strength of this book lies in Ms Pesta’s willingness to openly share her personal vulnerabilities, seemingly with the desire that it may offer solace to some, explanations to others and hope to many. She reaches out through every page of the book, such is her honesty, and illustrates brilliantly that it is possible to achieve fulfilment and inner peace even from the most desperate experiences. 

Letting Go of the Thief has become my constant companion; a reminder of where I was, where I am now and how I got here.

@SobrietyMatt 2020

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