Monday, November 29, 2010

Everything I Never Wanted to Be

"I do remember her weeks in intensive
care. . .her seizures and vomiting. . .her stays in detox and rehab. And I remember watching her when she was psychotic from meth and cowering in the corner of the dark laundry room because the helicopters were coming to get her. A ninety-pound stranger. Watching and feeling that I had lost her. The "her" she was--my beautiful, beautiful girl--now someone else, something else."

~Everything I Never Wanted to Be, Dina Kucera

I can't say that I enjoyed Everything I Never Wanted to Be: a memoir of alcoholism and addiction, faith and family, hope and humor by Dina Kucera, because I don't enjoy reading about the painful struggles of others, although the book is laced with humor (and made me want to sample the food of Albuquerque, and Hatch green chili). In fact, this book was quite difficult for me to read. As the parent of teenagers, I know that there are a lot of dangers out there, drugs and alcohol, and other things that I don't even know about. It's a scary time for teens as well as for their parents. I've had my share of sleepless nights, and I'm sure I'll need to endure more.

Everything I Never Wanted to Be, published in 2010, is a truthful memoir. The author, who lives in Phoenix, grew up in Albuquerque in an alcoholic family ('alcoholismrunsinthefamily'); both her grandparents and parents were alcoholics, and Dina is a recovered alcoholic who has also struggled with addictions to pills. The cycle of substance abuse continued with Dina's own daughters. Perhaps her worst nightmare of all began when her beautiful daughter, Carly, started using heroin at age fourteen. Not pot. Not cocaine. Heroin. The hard stuff. Her other two daughters, Jen and April, also suffered from substance abuse and related problems.

I must admit that this book held me captive from the very first page. The prelude includes statements such as "I share needles" written by Dina's youngest daughter, Carly, then age sixteen, that are extremely affecting and heart-wrenching. From a young age Carly is self-aware and reflective, and the title of the book comes from another statement written by her. In the book, Dina works as a grocery store checker and is also a stand-up comic. Her honesty and repeated efforts to help her daughters are nothing short of remarkable, a testament to her deep love for them. She doesn't give up but battles the "family inheritance" with strength and tenacity, with the help of her supportive husband, John. I admire Dina's great courage, openness, and ability to find humor in even the darkest situations, and for sharing her story with others.

"In my house we talk freely about alcohol, heroin, meth, coke, pot, OxyContin, and other drugs. We also talk about sobriety, rehab, hope, God, and faith. We make constant jokes about drugs and alcohol because it takes away the pain of the thing."
~Everything I Never Wanted to Be, Dina Kucera

Carly is also honest about her drug use and has been through detox and rehab numerous times. It is my sincere hope that Carly will realize her great potential and be able to achieve her dream to become a lawyer, or another type of professional, such as a psychologist or substance abuse counselor.

Special thanks to Trish from TLC for sending me this book. Please visit the other stops on TLC's Everything I Never Wanted to Be book tour for additional reviews. If you're interested in reading this riveting memoir, you can get a 30% discount off Dina's book at by entering the coupon code "Dina" at the checkout.


  1. This book sounds really sad but I love reading memoirs, so I'll keep this one mind.

  2. I like memoirs but this seems extremely tough. Tanks for sharing your thoughts (it made me cringe).

  3. The memoir is a true depiction of what's the latest thing these days, heroine! Very sad, I see and hear about more of it each day.

  4. this sounds like a very worth while book

  5. Wow, what a sad story. Hopefully Dina and her daughters will figure out a way to end the cycle of substance abuse.

  6. This sounds like quite a harrowing book, and like one that would really make an interesting read for me. Like you, I don't really like to read about people suffering, but it sounds like this book has an important message that it is trying to impart, and I for one would be really interested in learning what that message is. Thanks for the excellent and sobering review, Suko.

  7. Some memoirs are so painful to read and yet done in the right way I think there is sometimes much to be learnt from them. I dislike it when there is no substance to them though, when there is just a lot of sensationalism if you know what I mean.

  8. Thank you Suko for the beautiful review!!!! I hope people read my book and for you all, a little extra info... we are all clean and sober, including Carly. She had been clean well over a year and a half! Life is amazing, but we did have to walk down a long, long road. It was worth every step! I am getting a new grandson from my oldest daughter Jen and he should be here in about a month! It is so fun to celebrate life!!!! Love you all and have a great holiday season!!! Dina Kucera

  9. Wow! Sounds very sad but it's an intriguing topic to me and I'm adding it to my must read list.
    Natalie :0)

  10. I must admit, tough memoirs like this can be quite difficult to read, but I do enjoy them (I don't think that's quite the appropriate word to use for these types of sad stories). I felt much the same way when reading Gillian Flynn's fiction novel Sharp Objects -- at times, it was so graphic and disturbing, but the shock of it all kept me reading. Especially if it's well told, then I like it even more. (again, I'm not sure if I should say that for these tough descriptions of people's experiences). I will keep an eye out for it if I come across it in the bookstore. Excellent insight and review!

  11. Violet, thanks for your visit.

    Diane, this one is tough, but definitely worth reading.

    BookQuoter, I know. Sadly, drugs are everywhere, and our culture seems to push alcohol use--and abuse--at every opportunity.

    Mel, yes, it is worthwhile. Thanks for your comment.

    Kathy, Dina's family is doing well now, thankfully.

    Zibilee, the book shows the devastation of drug and alcohol abuse, but it's also hopeful (and quite funny at times, as I've mentioned). On the author's website, she has links to valuable resources for families affected by substance abuse.

    Petty, thanks for your comment.

    Dina, thank you for your courage; sharing your story will help many others in many ways. Your book made me think about my own children, drugs and alcohol, and even addiction in a general sense. It's wonderful to know that your family is doing well. Please tell Carly that I am rooting for her (as well as for Jen and April). Congratulations on your new grandson! Moses will have a playmate. Thanks for your comments, and have a terrific holiday!

    Natalie, thanks for your comment. I hope you do read this.

    Coffee and a Book Chick, this memoir is well told. Thanks for stopping by.

    More comments welcomed.

  12. I must say your honest review was a shocker in itself. I know for a fact that I will never be reading this book, it sounds way to sad and depressing for me. I have trouble reading about addiction problems. I don't know why, it just seems such a foreign subject to me. I grew up a country girl, very poor, and never heard of drugs and alcohol addictions until I was older. As I always say, I lived a very sheltered life, and when I read how other peoples lives were so sad, I'm glad I was sheltered from all the heartache and sadness.

  13. This sounds like a hard memoir to read but these are the ones that I like to read the most for some reason. We've had plenty of addictions in our family and I find it interesting to see how others have dealed with it, etc. Thanks for the review Susan.

  14. I know what you mean when you say you didn't exactly "enjoy" this one - I know I can't enjoy reading about such horrific and heartbreaking events, especially when they are true. But it sounds like this was still a very worthwhile book even if it wasn't pleasant to read.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  15. I don't usually choose to read books with painful subject matter. Occasionally I will. And while not enjoyable to read, it's encouraging to see that people have the strength to keep trying to eventually overcome something so difficult like drug addiction.

  16. Gigi Ann, sadly, many families suffer from addiction problems, and this book offers a great deal of hope.

    Darlene, thank you for your comment.

    Heather, thanks very much for having me on this tour. I'm glad that I read this memoir, which deals bravely with a difficult subject.

    Leslie, you hit the nail on the head. I appreciate your comment.

  17. This sounds like an intense read Suko, I dont know if could get through it.

  18. I am so scared for The Girl to become a teenager, but I think that's normal. All we can do is try to lead them in the right direction. I know, easier said than done!

    Not sure I could read this one. I grew up with an alcoholic parent, so I think it would be tough. We certainly couldn't make jokes about it, especially when my mom almost died when I was a teenager, but if that works for them...

  19. Glad to see in the comments that they are clean and sober. That's wonderful and best of luck to them!

  20. Naida, it's a difficult but very gripping memoir.

    Anna, the important thing during the teen years will be that The Girl knows you are there for her, no matter what. It's the best news that Dina's family is doing well. Thanks for your comments.

    Additional comments welcomed. Please "check out" Dina's website for more info (link in review).

  21. This sounds like a tough but worthwhile read. I shy away from memoirs at times for just this reason..I worry that I will relate to much. I have 3 young ones at home and know that at some point in the future I will have to worry about all of the dangers that come with being a teenager and young adult. Great review!

  22. I just can't being myself to read books on Drug abuse and this sounds like a very sad story!

  23. Kucera's brutal honesty and humor made this one really gripping for me but oh so painful to read.


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