The Painting and the Piano, by John Lipscomb and Adrianne Lugo hit very close to home for me. In this book, the authors each tell their own stories of abusive mothers, addiction, recovery, and finally love, in alternating chapters that captured my attention and held it until the end. I think that every addict and alcoholic, recovering or not, will find John and Adrianne’s stories relatable and full of hope. I know that I did.
I love a good memoir — and if it’s about recovery, it’s even better. So I was excited when I was asked if I would read The Painting and the Piano and write about my thoughts about it. It’s like reading two memoirs that seamlessly come together at the end. Technically, it’s well written and engaging. But enough of that, I read books for the way they make me feel, not the technical junk. And this book made me feel…well, a lot of things.
At times, the stories were disturbing. Adrianne’s detailed the abuse she suffered from her biological, addict mother after being torn from her foster parents, who had raised her. Every strike that she wrote about made me flinch. John’s feelings regarding his alcoholic mother were heartbreaking and sad. While my own mother was neither physically abusive or an alcoholic, our relationship was always contentious and emotionally abusive, so I definitely feel for what they went through. It also caused me to think about what it must’ve been like for my husband, who grew up with an alcoholic mother and a father who covered for her, similar to John’s parents. John’s feeling of helplessness when he says, “I have no control over the adults in my life — especially Mom — or my fate,” really says it all, doesn’t it? Both John and Adrianne grew up feeling like they couldn’t control anything. I get that, for sure.
“My loudest wails and greatest despair is for the young son and daughter who’ve escaped me for all the same reasons I wanted to escape mother.” ~John
“I can’t believe I’ve become the woman I’ve spent my life hating.” ~Adrianne
Both John and Adrianne became addicts despite the fact that neither of them wanted to be anything like their mothers. The difference between them and their mothers though, is that they sought help. They wanted to live differently than they were, and they did something about it. Sadly, neither of their mothers were able to do the same.
The descriptions of addiction that John and Adrianne share are so true to me. When Adrianne opts to make a trip home to get her pills, while her daughter writhes in pain, instead of going straight to the hospital, I understand what that felt like. Addiction is priority, even over those we love. Adrianne’s guilt and shame triggered memories in me so much that I had to stop and say a prayer of thanksgiving that I no longer have to live that way. John describes alcoholism like this:
“It was slow at first, barely noticeable, but alcoholism is a progressive disease. It’s like a storm gaining strength, spinning faster and faster, its center tightening and accelerating, pulling me deeper into it, away from my life.”
That’s just how it is! I couldn’t have said it better.
The two separate stories become one when John and Adrianne meet and embark on a friendship that slowly evolves into more. It’s a beautiful story that reminds me of my husband and me. We met in recovery and have built a life together that we never thought we would have.
I won’t give anymore away about The Painting and the Piano, but I will say this: whether you are in recovery or not, you should read this book. It’s heartbreaking but inspiring, and it allows its readers to witness the miracle that recovery from addiction is.
Buy the book here. I really hope you do.