In 2009, I needed an escape from my out-of-control life. I didn’t see a way out of the gripping sense of responsibility over my alcoholic mother, my co-dependent father and my young sister. I had to keep going. But I couldn’t smile anymore. For the first time in my 26 years, I finally realized that I couldn’t fix Mom and I couldn’t cover up my sadness or disappointment in how grownup felt. It was my rock bottom. Only then did I start my healing journey.
As a girl, I loved writing stories. So from that rock-bottom point, I enrolled in a community college creative writing course for fun. Out quickly came a story of a girl named Easter Ann with an alcoholic mother. Writing the story was cathartic. I felt more hopeful and more like the grownup me I hoped to become. I felt free-er.
My instructor Jane Ratcliffe said, “Keep going. You really must keep going.” She asked me to read the first chapter aloud to my classmates. A young man, dressed all in black and seemingly angry at the world (and having to go to class) said: “I totally connect with that character. Brings me back to what I had to go through with my dad. This story must be told. That’s a book there.” If not for their encouragement, this story may have been a forgotten homework assignment.
Before long, I had written the full Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool manuscript – the kind of story I wish someone had written and given to little-kid me. I discovered very few books for kids that included anything about parental alcoholism. Alcoholism and addiction in families affects several children in every classroom, in every city, in every country. How could there be so few books about it?
For that reason, I felt Easter’s story had to be a real, live book. I joined local writers’ groups and national associations for children’s book writers. I edited and attended workshops. The story was rejected by dozens of publishers. The NYC-based agents and editors said the topic was “too niche” and suggested that I downplay the parental alcoholism element and focus more on the bullying and friendship themes.
They didn’t believe in the message or the mission. I almost gave up but my sister encouraged me. I wanted to set a good example for her so I kept trying. Finally, in 2012, a small publishing company just got it. Scribe Publishing Company published Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool, a middle-grade novel for ages 8-13. I am forever grateful for their belief in the message and in me.
Various news outlets and bloggers kindly spread the news. I heard from people around the world who shared their personal stories and gifted me encouragement to continue writing about my experience as an ACoA. “It’s so needed,” they said.
Over the last five years, I’ve met thousands of young and adult children of alcoholics around the world. In school visits, I’ve spoken with kids about writing, my book and my experience growing up with an alcoholic mother. All those kids were inspiring but one visit left a mark on my soul. I went to a school for kids who’d experienced trauma; “emotional challenges,” the principal said. A bright, bubbly 9-year-old girl told me all about her love of writing, reading and her plans for grownup life. She was the most mature and enthusiastic 9-year-old girl I had ever met. Then she leaned in and said, “I never want to leave school, Miss Lamb. Every day, when I get off the bus, my stomach hurts. I don’t know how my mom and her boyfriend are going to be. Because before when they were not good, they hit me. But when I get older, I don’t have to worry about that because I’ll have my own house and life.” She said it with the kind of confidence, determination and hope that I know with certainty she’ll make a great life. I think of this girl every time I think I’ve had a bad day.
When there are people like her in the world, how can you ever lose faith in the power of hope? I am so grateful for the people connections that have come from this book.
After five years, Scribe Publishing Company decided to focus on their non-fiction titles and graciously returned the rights to the book to me. This week, I’m celebrating the re-release of Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool through my own publishing company. I am so excited.
After a difficult few years after my loss of my father, I’m thrilled to be actively contributing to this cause again and making strides in my ACoA journey. I’m currently writing the first of several non-fiction books that I intend to make available for free to my fellow ACoAs.
Thank you so much for your inspiration on this journey.
Take good care.