I am always on the hunt for a memoir that keeps my eyes on the page, so I opened up Karl B. McMillen, Jr.'s Triumphs and Tragedies: A True Story of Wealth and Addiction this week.
Karl and Thelma build a life for their young family in California, growing their business and raising two sons close in age. The pull of the 1960's, however, is too much for their teenagers on a search for freedom from thought and from life. The drugs that are available to them are cheap and free-flowing, and soon Karl realizes that both of his sons are addicts. The next few decades bring struggle, heartbreak, and ultimately forgiveness to the McMillen family.
This was an interesting exploration of the pain that comes with loving an addict (or two, in their case) and the desperate search for help. Each person goes through their own journey in learning how to deal with the addict in his or her life, and this was one journey of many. What was the most interesting about it was the time period in which Karl's boys became addicts, which was the 1960's. It's a time far removed from my lifetime; I would have liked to see more of an exploration of the drug culture during that time.
I often found myself frustrated with Karl over the simple matter of enabling. It seemed throughout the entire book that he was the enabling force in his son's addictions; if they were arrested, he did what he could to get them out and save them from themselves. If they screwed up, he would seek answers for them. By the middle of the book I wanted to scream at him--could he not see that his willingness to right the wrongs of his addict sons was simply adding fuel to the fire? On one hand, no one can understand what having an addict as a child is like until it happens; I understand the desire to protect your child in any way that you can if the ability and means are there. On the flip side, however, I also understand that fixing things for your children (doing their homework for them or continuously bailing them out of jail) will teach them to never be self-sufficient or give them an avenue to learn to care for themselves.
Overall this was one man's story of his triumphs and tragedies, and I think it is wonderful that McMillen has gone to the effort to share his experience with others going through similar travails.
Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.