Addiction is not a choice

Photograph of Addiction is not a choice passage from One Hundred and Fifty-two days by Giles Paley-Phillips

I’m reading the most beautiful book by Giles Paley-Phillips. It’s called One Hundred and Fifty-two days and it’s just about the most beautiful thing I have ever read.

Giles is a children’s author but I wasn’t familiar with his books. Instead I came across him on twitter as he often tweets about positivity and mental health. When I saw he was promoting a book about grief I jumped on it. I’m desperately trying to find a way to make my nephew’s world feel ok after losing his dad and I hoped the book might help me in some way.

But it has helped me in more ways than I imagined. Since losing my brother I have fallen out of love with books. I buy them just as vigorously as ever before but I can count of one hand the number I have actually read. I’m doing ok with the continuation of living after loss but taking time out to immerse myself in someone else’s story always seems a step too far. I line everything up, the coffee, the cozy spot on the sofa, the kids safely tucked up in bed so I have some peace. And yet, the pages remain unturned.

Except for Giles’s book. I feel like he wrote it for me. Short poems or stories, I don’t know which, take you on the journey of a young man as he prepares for and ultimately loses his mother. It’s heart-breaking stuff, from the mind of a teenager, but it’s incredibly moving and just beautiful. I can’t stop picking it up and flicking through it. I’m reading it out of sequence so the love, sadness, loss and normality are all mixed-up but that’s part of it’s charm. Because when you lose someone your memories all become a jumble and it doesn’t really feel like anything happened in a linear fashion. It’s just a collection of things that lead to where you are now. And that is how I view this truly remarkable book. A collection of things that clearly and beautifully show the reality of living through grief.

But Giles covers another subject very close to my heart: addiction. The boys father is alcohol dependent and that colours his relationship with his father. The subtle observations about his dad make me wonder if my nephew, who lost his dad (my brother) to drugs, may feel the same.

Grief, love, loss, parents, being a kid – all of these are challenging in their own ways but sharing stories, in whatever form, always helps us see we are not alone. There is such value found in shared experiences, however painful.

I particularly love a page about addiction which references a poster in a waiting room which says “addiction is not a choice.” It’s a passage that speaks directly to my heart as addiction is so misunderstood. And it’s something I’m sure I will quote time and time again as I continue to do my bit to help change perceptions.

Thanks to Giles for writing something so beautiful and for reminding me how much comfort you can get from someone else’s story.

Learn more about Alison Kerwin’s book The Counsellor: A powerful true story about addiction, grief and love.

Available to buy now from: | | Waterstones |Barnes & Noble

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