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Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly
Themes of Healing, Recovery, and Transformation Reflections
Thomas McGovern - NPR Talk Show Host
The courageous and inspiring personal stories of Poniarski…..
Poniarski is a painter who provides a rendition of her lifelong struggle with mental illness in a copy of an acrylic painting which graces the cover of her book. We see two figures embracing each other, one tired and worn and the other at peace which reflect the two selves of the author. One is a picture of the disintegration associated with her illness and the other a representation of her integrated self. Her memoir recounts lifelong episodic experiences of paranoia, anxiety, and insomnia triggered by the ingestion of a hallucinogen as a young adult. Her narrative of her struggle to achieve balance in her personal and professional life is recounted with admirable openness and honesty. Her relationships with her parents, friends, and partners are related with an amazing candor and openness. The spirit of gratitude to all who have helped her in her life’s journey is a constant theme. Particularly poignant is her description of the kindness of a stranger who befriended her while she wandered the streets of Athens in a lost, disoriented, psychotic state. Her efforts to find the perfect partner, in the many relationships that she describes in her narrative, are told in a most moving and touching fashion. Equally enlightening is her understanding of her illness as it unfolds in her many visits to hospitals, her encounters with the law enforcement personnel, her relationships with her psychiatrist and other health-care professionals and, above all, with her parents. Without bitterness, she recounts the efforts of others to treat and stabilize her condition even though their efforts were often ineffective and misguided. She describes her dad as her rock of undying concern and her mother as a loving parent who strives to understand a condition that she finds bewildering. She finally finds medication and a psychiatrist who enabled her to achieve a huge measure of stability. Her recommendation to all who suffer from mental illness is to find the right doctor, effective medication and therapy and a knowledgeable support system. She encourages that one seeks hope in the midst of despair and “sailing between the two worlds” (of active illness and stability) in discovering who we really are.
In a poem which serves as an introduction to the book, the author shares under the title “Journey of the Self” the following lines,
I sail between two worlds
Between the one that I know
And the place that I fear
In search of a passage
This book captures this voyage between the two worlds in a most convincing fashion. Recovery and all of its transformation, and all other interrelated aspects are captured in this memoire of an artist and offer hope to those who suffer and to all who seek to help in that journey.