“Nana, Do You Believe In God?”

Memoir Excerpt:

“Xavier and I had spent a lot of money on rehabs. But it didn’t matter. I’d already hurt my health, ended my career. But none of that mattered to her. The only thing that mattered, the only thing, was her willingness to do what was necessary to get well.

If she had had cancer, and the doctor said she needed chemo to get well, she would have needed to go for her chemo treatments. If she’d had diabetes, and needed insulin to stay alive, she would have needed to take insulin. She held all the cards, all the passports, to a healthy life, the life her parents had dreamed for her when she came into the world. But could she do it alone? I didn’t believe so. Some addicts recover without having faith in something outside of themselves; they rely on willpower, among other things. Faith in God or any “higher power” is, for many addicts, a difficult idea to embrace. And Angie, ever since she was little, had been a confirmed atheist.

In 1987 when Angie was eight, she was visiting my mother in Massachusetts. She adored her Nana, and confided in her things that I didn’t know about. During one of these chats, Angie said,

“Nana, do you believe in God?”

“Well, of course, Angie, don’t you?” my mother responded.


My mother, before she died, used to love telling me that story. She was tremendously amused by Angie’s stubbornness and independence. But now, at this point in her life, Angie needed faith more than anything, because whatever she was using up to this point was having no lasting impact on her recovery. In the Program, they define insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again, and hoping for different results.” Well, flooding your brain with dangerous drugs clearly does make you crazy, temporarily or otherwise. Angie needed to change course if she was going to get well. She needed to do things differently. But what I realize now is that what she chose to do and how she chose to do it was/is out of my hands.”

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