Audio Book Review: Glorious Rock Bottom by Bryony Gordon

Glorious Rock Bottom

 

I really enjoyed Bryony Gordon’s book about her mental health struggles, so when I saw her new book about alcoholism had come out, I actually purchased it (a rarity for me!).  Having recently discovered podcasts to listen to in the car, I thought I’d give Audible a go again (I dabbled some years ago but never got into it) – and because I like a plan, thought I’d do ‘non fiction’ audiobooks in the car – and leave the fiction for books at home.  Interestingly at a recent bookclub Zoom, some of the other members have non fiction downstairs and fiction upstairs – so it’s clearly ‘a thing’ to differentiate!

Here’s the blurb about the book:

“Bryony Gordon is a respected journalist, a number-one bestselling author and an award-winning mental health campaigner. She is also an alcoholic.

In Glorious Rock Bottom Bryony opens up about a toxic twenty-year relationship with alcohol and drugs and explains exactly why hitting rock bottom – for her, a traumatic event and the abrupt realisation that she was putting herself in danger, time and again – saved her life. Known for her trademark honesty, Bryony re-lives the darkest and most terrifying moments of her addiction, never shying away from the fact that alcoholism robs you of your ability to focus on your family, your work, your health, your children, yourself. And then, a chink of light as the hard work begins – rehab; twelve-step meetings; endless, tedious, painful self-reflection – a rollercoaster ride through self-acceptance, friendship, love and hope, to a joy and pride in staying sober that her younger self could never have imagined.

Now, I had high hopes for this book and really wanted to enjoy it and find it helpful in my own relationship with booze – but initially I didn’t. I found Bryony sharing her rock bottom really disturbing. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for oversharing – the whole village knows about my piles – but this was really disturbing stuff. Sexual encounters with almost strangers, being repeatedly unfaithful to her husband, endangering her child – and it upset me both to read it – but also to think of them reading it. It felt really intrusive and things that no child should ever read about their Mum (I guess I’m more careful of this now – when the kids were little I’d share with wanton abandon, but teenagers are sh*ts – and my daughter’s ‘friends’ would find photos and info off this very blog to take the p*ss out of her, and so I’m more careful – and thus was worried about Bryony’s daughter Edie in the future.) It felt like it was being deliberately written to shock – which I guess it was – but it felt like I was a voyeur for listening to it…..

However, I persevered, and I’m so pleased I did.

The love Bryony has for her family is clearly what ‘saved’ her along with her determination not to let drugs and alcohol take everything from her – probably including her life. This shines through in her writing – and hearing her read her own words, and her voice catch with the emotion a few times, was deeply moving.

Her description of rehab (private, as a day patient) and the 12 step programme – without breaking confidences – was still really informative.

The end of the book had me totally weeping buckets and I arrived at work having to explain why my mascara was all down my face!

This is not a self help book, this is alcoholism and drug addiction from Bryony’s personal point of view. It is not preachy, it is not expecting everyone to give up booze, it very much distinguishes between alcoholics and people who can consume alcohol at a sensible level. I will sometimes have a ‘non-alcoholic’ beer, just because I don’t want the fuzzy head of a couple of beers, but the chapter where Bryony has a non-alcoholic beer binge does highlight the fact that non-alcoholic drinks are for non-alcoholics – a distinction I hadn’t really considered before.

After my initial reticence I did enjoy the book – and I’m sure Bryony’s husband was completely supportive in her writing it – and they will deal with Edie being told about the contents in an age appropriate and loving way in the future and I shouldn’t have got all worked up about it.

At the end of the day, their loving family unit – and their conkers – have helped Bryony conquered her demons.

Book Review (and confessional): Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

Mad Girl

I had seen ‘Mad Girl’ reviewed a number of times – and knew of Bryony Gordon from her newspaper and magazine writing – so wanted to shoe horn this in to my Reading Challenge!

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Bryony Gordon has OCD.
It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.
A hugely successful columnist for the Telegraph, a bestselling author, and a happily married mother of an adorable daughter, Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humour, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.
Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.”

People often comment about my husband’s OCD – and whilst mostly this is in jest (as he’s a neat freak) I do wonder if it’s quite so innocent, as I know when he’s stressed by external factors (work, family, health) he will bleach toilets and hoover excessively. Bryony’s OCD isn’t neat freak – it’s about imagining she’s done things and forgotten about it, or rituals or phrases she has to repeat to ensure bad things don’t happen.  Now this is something I totally empathise with (although would never have considered it OCD) – doesn’t everyone have to make sure the light switches are facing the right way before they go to bed?  Or check the children at bedtime in ascending or descending age order?  Obviously if the light switches are out of sync or the kids are checked in a random order, something bad will happen over night?  But I’d already been made aware of other people’s experiences with PROPER OCD – counting things being the major one (tiles in a classroom ceiling then turning into number of times they’d swallowed in a day etc)  and knew this could be really debilitating – and Bryony’s OCD definitely falls in to the latter category.

The book charts her experiences and how the OCD has effected life from a child, through teenage years, early 20s and working life.  It is interesting throughout – and really feels like you know what Bryony went through – but it’s done in an amusing and self deprecating way,  It felt like I was in the pub with Bryony having a chat as I read it (although with less booze and illegal drugs than Bryony had when she was in the pub at some points in her life, so at least I could remember it afterwards).

Half way through reading the book,  I was reading my monthly Red Magazine – and came across a letter written by Bryony to ‘lovely Red reader’ – which clearly was written just for me!!  I ended up sobbing reading it on a plane (which slightly freaked out my 5 year old daughter who also commandeered the magazine to read – but preferred the pictures of pretty clothes!)

Red Mag On Plane

Partly it was the spookiness of it (I had weighed myself that morning – and weighed EXACTLY the weight that Bryony had got to when she’d been eating away her pain (although in my case this wasn’t the peak, the peak had been a stone further up a few weeks before)).  I Tweeted Bryony about this and she replied ‘I may be heavy but I am also strong’.  This was JUST what I needed to hear.  I should be proud of my body – it’s borne me 4 beautiful children (admittedly so have Victoria Beckham’s and Heidi Klum’s!) – and heavier people are harder to kidnap and all that?!

Bryony also talked both in the magazine article and in the epilogue of her book about how running has helped her mental health – which was something I was already very familiar with as a friend who is bipolar credits running with keeping himself sane – literally (http://www.runningformylife.uk/).  For me, it’s boxing.  An hour of boxing drills and sparring leaves me energised – and aching – but feeling strong and powerful too.

I think it was clearly meant to be that I read the magazine article whilst reading the book – as motivation to me to stop feeding my issues (literally) and do something about them.  I’m lucky that I don’t have OCD, it hasn’t caused me additional issues, like it did for Bryony – but I need to take care of myself and my own health – not just that of my family, friends, staff etc.

I think the perfect end to this blog post is to quote Bryony directly:

“All I want to do is let you know that if I can do it, anyone can. 
This is how you become more powerful than you could ever imagine,  You become unapologetically you on full beam, turned up to 11, you with the mega wattage,  Like a summer house boarded up for the winter, the sockets turned off, you have always had the power,  Not you just need to go and switch it on.”