Jenn’s review of Everything I Never Wanted to Be by Dina Kucera

Everything I Never Wanted to Be by Dina Kucera is a true story of a family’s battle with alcoholism and drug addiction. The author came from a family of alcoholics. Dina herself is an admitted alcoholic and pill addict. All 3 of her daughters have struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, the youngest starting at 14 years old.

Not only is Dina trying to care for her daughters, she is the caregiver for her mother who has Parkinson’s disease and her grandson who has cerebral palsy. Their house is also an open door for other family members and friends who are in and out of work and rehab centers. Dina struggles to hold it all together while working at a job that she HATES and as a stand up comic, which she receives payment ranging from a small amount of money to a very, very small amount of money.

Intertwined are stories of parental neglect, rape, abuse, drug overdoses and numerous stints in rehab. She is constantly fighting for her daughters. She never gives up, even when pitted against the insurance companies who refuse to cover the cost of rehabilitation. It’s an exhausting battle that leads to a short stay in a mental ward when she can no longer handle the stress, guilt or enormous weight on her soul.

This book brings light to the frustrating lack of services that are available for addicts. She makes a valid point with here statement that our country is stuck in the 1980’s, when teenagers were sneaking behind the bleachers at football games, drinking cheap beer and smoking pot. No one wants to know that we have fourteen and fifteen year old IV heroin addicts. Crystal meth is completely taking over our communities. Drug dealers are now dealing more prescription medications than illegal drugs. These prescription drugs are resulting in fifteen year olds overdosing and dying all across our county…Teenage addicts have no place to go unless they come from some sort of money or their families have access to money.

She also brings more understanding to the chemistry behind addiction. I have read about this before but I really appreciated how she described it…how it sometimes starts. She talks about the child/teenager who doesn’t feel like they fit in. It feels like you are under water – that little bit of panic right before your head surfaces. You feel different, and not in a good way. You can feel the pressure on your skin. And you have to get out. Because you’re suffocating and no one has a clue. Then one day, you’re hanging out with friends and someone has something to drink or a drug. So you give it a try. Immediately you can feel your body coming up out of the water and you take a huge breath of air. You can feel the rush of relief. You can feel the warm sun on your face…For the first time in your life, you can breathe, and it’s (expletive) amazing…You don’t feel high – you feel like everyone else…And you never want to go back to the way you were…The brain chemistry of an addict or alcoholic is completely different. A drug or a drink is a life changer. It’s an awakening from a life spent in loneliness and fear. You have saved your own life. And once you’re awake, your brain will never let you forget it. From that moment on your brain says, “Get it, get it, get it, get more, get more,” and it never quiets. It is relentless. It is bigger than you. It’s so loud it’s deafening. To tell an addict or alcoholic to stop is the equivalent to saying, “Go back under the water.” But that’s impossible. An addict will do the most horrifying, demoralizing, immoral acts to avoid going back under the water where they will no doubt die.

So what do you do? You have to learn to live above the water without the drugs and booze – to feel the sun, and stretch your arms out and embrace and love life. You don’t have to go back under the water, but you must find that tiny flame that burns in each of us and help it grow so that the fire is so big, the stalking “get more” voice in your head shuts the (expletive) up. Until then, you must protect that tiny flame because at the end of the day, it will be the only thing to build a new life on.  

She deals with all the turmoil in her life with humor and rediscovered faith. She speaks a lot about your Divine Order. I believe God has a plan of each one of us. I say “Always try to move toward your Divine Order”. Move toward the things in life that are good and kind and loving. And that may be the best we can do. 

I found this writer to be so honest and brave. Her heartache is palpable. In spite of all the horrific events that happen to her and her family, she never gives up. It’s inspiring in many ways and I really enjoyed her use of humor to add levity to her story. It takes a special person to put her family’s issues in front of the world to see. It brings light to so many of our society’s issues and the need to address the epidemic of addiction in our nation. I am so glad that I read this book.