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Reviewed by William Phenn for Reader Views (5/07)
Donna Bailey-Thompson is a battle-scarred veteran of three tragic marriages. From the first one to a selfish man who cared little for her feelings, up to and including the last two which led her to write this book. Donna wrote an article for the “Hartford Courant” which they featured as the cover story of their “Northeast Magazine.” This book is the result of that article.
This woman’s determination to be a survivor and not lose the battle to her choices for mates makes for very informative reading. The struggles she endured were monumental -- from the rejection she received from her first husband (who did not want to father children), to the other two who were abusive alcoholics. Her gripping account of the many hardships she overcame and the violent physical abuse she was lucky enough to live through -- all this turmoil in her life and she still maintained her sanity.
She tells of husband number two as being very loving one minute and then an evil beast the next. She compares his moods to that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and recounts many instances that she uses for examples. With every instance, she began to feel the strain upon herself and she mentions the path she took for her own sanity. Steve was an officer in the US Air Force and as such, ruled with the same commanding authority at home. Thanks to the help of her good friends and supportive people around her, she managed to rid herself of this menace.
But then she wound up with a similar alcoholic. Though this one was not into such physical abuse, he was into womanizing and was more verbally and emotionally abusive than the last one. Donna relates many intimate details in her book, many straight out of her personal diary which she religiously kept current. She mentions all the times he would drink, embarrass her and make a fool out of himself. But rather than divorce him, she would fall for his lies and keep giving him second chances.
“Stark Raving Sober” is a great book and I recommend it highly to anyone that has gone through or is living with an alcoholic. It is a true account of a woman’s plight for sanity in an insane situation. I have given it my highest A+ rating and assure you it is well worth reading.
E-mail from Rita Marks
September 8, 2008
"I am in awe of your profound generosity in sharing your story. To be so honest and trusting with the spiritual growth you've undergone, at a brutal price I might add, is a precious gift. If ever there were a more striking example of making lemonade from lemons, your life is it. From my experiences as a psychiatric nurse--and a human being--your courage, self-awareness, and insight are rare."
E-mail from Robert E. Carter
December 8, 2007
As a recovering alcoholic of 25+ years, I highly recommend this book as reading for both the alcoholics and their families. I also believe the book can be very helpful for the professionals who work with alcoholics/addicts. Stark Raving Sober proves that although the drinker/user is affected physically, mentally, and spiritually by the disease, so are the sober family members. Further, this book demonstrates the fact that the disease of addiction is progressive but with treatment, the recovery is too.
E-mail from Melanie (MA)
November 23, 2007
Because of the intensity of the subject, it's not appropriate to say I "enjoyed" it. But I have to say that I loved it. My mother read my copy and is ordering two copies -- one for herself and the other as a gift.
Reviewed by Marjorie A. Sullivan, founder and president of Maggie Sky Foundation, Inc., which is dedicated to breaking the cycle of domestic violence.
September 5, 2007
Stark Raving Sober may read like a novel but because it is a true story, it is a hard read and in many places, so difficult that I had to set it aside. Some of the events Donna describes can stir up memories; some of mine were triggered. Men who have read parts of my copy of SRS were appalled at the behavior of Donna's husbands because they would never dream of raising their voice or hand to a woman.
Many people believe that domestic violence occurs primarily in lower class families whereas these crimes are committed in all types of homes regardless of education or economic status. Nowhere is that more evident than in shelters for abused families. From the well-to-do to the destitute, there are women who return, time and again, to the perpetrator because they believe his empty promises: they haven't grasped the reality that not only is domestic violence cyclical, the explosions become progressively worse. I believe a copy of Stark Raving Sober should be available in every shelter because Donna’s story may inspire the women who really want to change to free themselves; and for the fence-sitters who are so emotionally hooked into the abusers that they tell themselves lies (known as denial), this book can serve as a reality check.
Donna does not sugar coat her story; she gives truthful in- depth information that can help victims as well as therapists have a better understanding of the complicated domestic violence "dance" -- another reason Stark Raving Sober belongs in shelters.
I encourage all to read this book.
[Full disclosure: Donna serves on the Advisory Board of the Maggie Sky Foundation.]
S.L., a reader, writes . . .
Stark Raving Sober is a riviting story about a survivor who made her way back from abusive, degrading, alcohol-ridden marriages, and regained her life, her dignity, and her self worth.
Book Review by Darlene Oakley
When I learned the subject matter of Stark Raving Sober, I was immediately intrigued. The book's contents did not disappoint.
As a fiction writer/editor, I looked for flow and the general quality of the writing while considering how effective a tool this book could be for those who are coping with debilitating marriages or who have struggled free. From more than 30 years in the Salvation Army involved in a variety of social work and counseling situations (including alcoholism rehabilitation and family services), I know Donna's marital history is not unique. Because she writes candidly about her personal experiences, I believe Stark Raving Sober can be a source of education and great encouragement to others. (I have recommended Donna's book to a woman who recently survived an abusive marriage.)
In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a fan of true crime writings. I find the stories too disturbing, thinking that these things are too bizarre to happen in real life. Describing today's societal and familial issues from the viewpoint of a fiction writer is much safer than being an eye witness participant.
Through her fluid writing style and knack for choosing just the right word, Donna bridges the gap between "true crime" and the ease of reading "fiction." She states categorically that her story is true, that she fabricated nothing. She confronts her plight as an abused wife and mother and knits it into a form of writing (and reading) that is easily readable and, at least in that respect, enjoyable. It is sometimes difficult for those writing from personal experience not to sound doctoral or preachy or judgmental towards others, but Donna keeps the focus on her experience without any pretense. This book is the next best thing to having a very candid heart-to-heart with a woman who has suffered and persevered.
I heartily recommend Stark Raving Sober as a stepping stone for anyone seeking counseling for their current relationship or for perspective insight into a failed relationship. Often reading about someone who has gone through the same thing and lived to tell about it can help towards answering unexpressed questions.
Darlene Oakley is a short story and book editor of Magazine of Unbelievable Stories. She lives in Ontario, Canada.
POSTED ON AMAZON.COM
POSTED AT AMAZON.COM
Chained by love to alcoholics, May 25, 2007
Donna Bailey-Thompson is a battle-scarred veteran of three tragic marriages, from the first one to a selfish man who cared little for her feelings up to and including the next two which led her to write this book. Donna wrote an article for the "Hartford Courant" which they featured as the cover story in their "Northeast Magazine." The book is the result of that article.
May 23, 2007
If I didn't know it was a true story, I'd call this book one hell of an adventure novel. It's a movie waiting to happen -- a thriller. The author is a brave woman who brushed death at the hands of a succession of obsessed husbands, who dares to relate not just the fear and despair, but the whole rollercoaster of hope, love, passion and co-craziness. For more than 400 gripping pages, I lived vicariously through the author/heroine as she pulled herself out from one damaging union after another, never giving up on her struggle to teach herself how to identify a healthy relationship. Most of all, I admire her ability to stay off the pity pot. Her victory has inspired me.
POSTED AT BARNESANDNOBLE.COM
Claudia Harriman, A reviewer, 04/07/2007
I Couldn't Put This Book Down!
Stark Raving Sober is one heck of a book! Donna really knows how to keep her reader turning the pages and soldiering on. It is a very graphic book. You are right there with Donna and her children as they try to make sense out of the craziness of life with an active alcoholic and also as they continually try to change and 'get along.' I found myself wondering 'why on earth did she stay with him?' But I was caught up completely in the action and then I found that the answer to my question was 'because she loved him!' Donna was also gaining support and insight by participating in Al-Anon. As her chaotic life was draining energy from her, she was finding help so she could cope and learn. Donna had developed a lifetime habit of journaling, so she was able to give us a day-to-day account of her story. Going through all these notes again and again must have been exhausting. But she did it. She is a strong, brutally honest woman, and she has given us a powerful read in 'Stark Raving Sober.'
Handwritten note from Jacquelyn Pierce, International President, General Federation of Women's Clubs
21 March, 2007
Dear Ms. Bailey-Thompson,
Several weeks ago you sent me a copy of your memoir that does, indeed, read like a novel: "Stark Raving Sober."
This book has been shared with the members on the GFWC Domestic Violence Committee and all agree -- your empowerment has touched each of us.
Please accept my most sincere gratitude for sharing your story with us.
Friday, March 2, 2007
(Worcester MA) TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
Worcester native Donna Bailey-Thompson has written an account of her miserable marriages to two alcoholic men. In “Stark Raving Sober” (PublishAmerica, $24.95), Bailey-Thompson pulls no punches about the horrors of alcoholism and her own determination to survive. “I sat for hours in a dark living room, quietly, and I thought logically, planning how I would murder my husband …With each bout of drinking came another volley of diabolical meanness, outbursts of violent verbal attacks, punches and slaps and threats of bodily harm to the kids, even my elderly mother,” she writes.
During the 1990s, Bailey-Thompson, a graduate of Classical High School, published a national monthly magazine called Challenges. It was directed at anyone in recovery from “anything,” as she puts it. She ceased publishing the magazine in 1998. As for marriage, the third time was a charm. Bailey-Thompson, now a widow, had a peaceful and fulfilling relationship with a man who had no alcohol problem.
Posted at amazon.com & barnesandnoble.com
January 8, 2007
“Stark, Raving, Sober” by Donna Bailey-Thompson, is a spellbinding, engrossing tale of one woman’s courage and persistence to maintain her sanity and her self. Being unfortunate enough to have picked a controller and then two alcoholics in a row to whom to be married, she finds herself constantly battling the demons of alcoholism.
Ms Thompson writes with clarity, emotion, and some humor, as she relates, year by year, her trials and tribulations, until finally she breaks free. In telling her story of how she tried, first, to fight it by herself, and later, with the help of some re-hab clinics and Al-Anon, held my attention constantly, brought tears to my eyes several times, and made me laugh out loud occasionally.
I can commend this book to anyone who has an interest in individual development, or is in a family situation that has an alcoholic in it, or who is a person with an alcohol problem themselves. Reading this book can only help any of these. Please, avail yourselves of this opportunity to learn how it can be done, to get yourself out of the morass, and onto the road to health.
-- Walt Hartfield, Santa Barbara, CA
Posted at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com
December 13, 2006
Excerpts from a letter
Stark Raving Sober was a long and sometimes grim read. Hopefully it has ... provided constructive guidance to all those trapped in addictive relationships. Ironically, I was still engrossed in the book when I read about Nicole Kidman's unravelling marriage with Keith Urban about whom she was sufficiently informed to cover herself with a "pre-nup" that protects her wealth and her departure from his addictions should they recur. Of course they have recurred, and were she to read your book, it makes clear how long the odds [are] that she could ever overcome them. It's one thing to be beautiful; it's another to live beautifully with an addiction (i.e., Mr. Cruise's Scientology, Mr. Ubans' alcohol and cocaine addictions).
-- New York State
December 5, 2006
A note from "A Librarian" where Stark Raving Sober is in circulation
I read the book and found it to be very honest and forthright, a useful first-hand account of [her] experience with the disease of alcoholism. I recommend it as a good story and a self-help item.
Excerpts from an e-mail
...I found what she was writing almost unbelievable and I held my breath.... What an accomplishment to have survived what she lived through and now to have finished writing a very revealing and educating memoir which, whether on purpose or by accident, has turned into a terrific book.... If ever a book might give direction and advice and consolation to people who suffer from abuse, I think Stark Raving Sober will do it.
-- Barbara Bernard
Posted at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com
Stark Raving Sober, October 30, 2006
Anyone who has made mistakes of the heart that threatened their happiness, walked on eggshells to keep the peace, or questioned their sanity will find this book invaluable.
From Denial to Recovery for a Spouse , October 16, 2006
For 37 years I have provided counseling to individuals, couples
and families. Addiction is commonly involved in problems brought to
counseling. Many of my clients have been either addicts or their family
members in various stages of denial or recovery. The family members of an
addict tend to be at least as damaged by the addict's behavior as the addict
by his or disease. In her memoir, Donna Bailey-Thompson depicts her
experiences with two abusive, alcoholic husbands with excruciating
openness. Her painful emotional dependency on these men over many years
is at great cost to herself and her children.
How to Contact the Author