“Drunken Angel” by Alan Kaufman— Getting Over Addiction

Kaufman, Alan. “Drunken Angel”, Cleis Press, 2011.

Getting Over Addiction

Amos Lassen

Alan Kaufman is the son of a French Holocaust survivor who drank because something was missing in his life. His life was a mess and he seemed to ruin everything and everyone he touched. To make it even more interesting, Kaufman is a poet and a fine writer and acclaimed by critics. Here we see a different side of Kaufman; a man whose life was dominated by alcohol so much so that we was very close to death and almost mad. He was brought back by love by his daughter and two mentors. He was 37 when he began rehab and he claimed full responsibility for ruining his own life, for destroying his work and good name and for hurting so many that he loved. He tells us his story honestly and candidly and we see his life as one of self pity, self-hatred and guilt. His story is the story of a life that was once lost but managed to be reclaimed. He raises our consciousness as he raises his own and he looks at the mind of the addict he once was as we get a surreal view of the man. His story reads like a myth that feels true. He goes from self-destruction to recuperation to coming of age and we are with him along the way. He grabs us by the collar and tells us to read and he holds us captive until we close the covers—not when we are ready but when he is ready for us to stop.

I did not associate Kaufman as the author of “JewBoy” although I should have since I have read that book twice. I suppose this new book was so over powering that I just did not link the two together. Yet some of the things that are in the new book were also covered in “Jewboy” but I just did not realize it was the same man. His childhood was one of abuse—his mother teased him about his weight and his father seemed to want to make his son feel small and miserable. With the drinking he lost his wife and his daughter, he became homeless and began to live on the streets and was headed for the bottom of society.

On one occasion, he sat with another drunk who had AIDS and this was the turning point, the place that Kaufman realized that he had to do something. He joined a 12 step program that got him out of the alcoholism. Kaufman has managed to retain his writing skill and he uses it as he bares his soul to us. When redemption comes we rejoice with him and we are ecstatic that he survived. He went to hell and returned and he lived to tell us about it. We are very lucky for that.

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