DEAR ANNIE: I need some advice on what to do about my daily journals. I keep a daily journal and have for many years — including during a time when my husband was an alcoholic. He’s been sober for 27 years. (We are in our late 70s.)
In those journals, I wrote about the times he got drunk — of his stumbling around in a drunken stupor, of his passing out in his lounger with our children sitting in the room, of his lying about going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and instead going to the club and drinking for hours. I wrote about all these times and more, describing the family’s embarrassment and frustration and adding my own angry comments.
Now that he’s been — so thankfully — sober all these years, I’m wondering what to do about those journals from the times when he was not. They contain not only comments about the difficulties I went through dealing with his drinking but also information about the family’s normal daily life — for example, children’s sports games. I’d like to save my journals in case my grandchildren or great-grandchildren would like to know, in the future, what their grandmother’s or great-grandmother’s life was like, but I wonder about the wisdom of making it possible for them to read about their alcoholic grandfather or great-grandfather. Should I leave the journals unabridged, or should I take only the good excerpts from them to preserve my husband’s sober image? His grandchildren only know him as a loving sober man. I don’t know whether our children have ever enlightened their own children about how their grandfather used to be before he stopped drinking. I have a hunch they have never said anything about it.
So, what do I do? At my age, I’m thinking that if I’m going to change anything, I’d better start doing it now. — Deliberating Diarist
DEAR DELIBERATING DIARIST: Your family’s struggle with alcoholism is not something you or your husband should feel ashamed of, and it might actually be helpful for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be made aware of it — when they’re old enough — as they may be genetically predisposed to the disease themselves. Even if they’re not at risk, they will inevitably face some hardships of their own. How special it would be for them to be able to look to the pages of your journal and remember their heritage of perseverance. You’re passing these journals down because you want your descendants to know what your life was like, so let them know what it was really like: thrilling, exasperating, challenging, fulfilling, maddening, awe-inspiring — not always pretty but ultimately still beautiful.