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Biography & Autobiography Personal Memoirs

Drunk Mom

A Memoir

by (author) Jowita Bydlowska

Doubleday Canada
Initial publish date
Apr 2013
Personal Memoirs, Alcoholism, Women
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2013
    List Price

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Three years after giving up drink, Jowita Bydlowska found herself throwing back a glass of champagne like it was ginger ale. "It's a special occasion," she said to her boyfriend. And indeed it was. It was a party celebrating the birth of their first child. It also marked Jowita's immediate, full-blown return to alcoholism and all that entails for a new mother who is at first determined to keep her problem a secret.

Her trips to liquor stores are in-and-out missions. Perhaps she's being paranoid, but she thinks people tend to notice the stroller. Walking home, she stays behind buildings, in alleyways, taking discreet sips from a bottle she's stored in the diaper bag. She know she's become a villain: a mother who drinks; a mother who endangers her child. She drinks to forget this. And then the trouble really starts.

Jowita Bydlowska's memoir of her relapse into addiction is an extraordinary achievement. The writing is raw and immediate. It places you in the moment--saddened, appalled, nerve-wracked, but never able to look away or stop turning the pages. With brutal honesty, Bydlowska takes us through the binges and blackouts, the self-deception and less successful attempts to deceive others, the humiliations and extraordinary risk-taking. She shines a light on the endless hunger of wanting just one more drink, and one more again, while dealing with motherhood, anxiety, depression--and rehab.

Her struggle to regain her sobriety is recorded in the same unsentimental, unsparing, sometimes grimly comic way. But the happy outcome is evidenced by the existence of this brilliant book: she has lived to tell the tale.

About the author

Jowita Bydlowska was born in Warsaw, Poland and moved to Canada as a teenager. She has published two books: a bestselling memoir, Drunk Mom, and a bestselling novel Guy. She's had more than twenty short stories published in various magazines and journals. She lives in Toronto. 


Jowita Bydlowska's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“It’s really very intense, a very brave, very complicated story. It’s a difficult book, and I found my jaw on the floor, which doesn’t happen that often to me. I love the way that she approaches prose—I think it’s really beautiful.”
—Lena Dunham

“While the title suggests a simple autobiographical autopsy of motherhood marred by alcoholism, Bydlowska’s memoir delivers far more—a human portrait of the disease . . . the author and her addiction [speak] to each other in a tragic duet.”
The New York Times Book Review

"I am adhered to the misery memoir and can say that Bydlowska did it perfectly. She floated over her personal landscape like a drone and then dropped ordnance on herself. As for the why, she wrote one shattering page towards the end about human pain, hers. She’s a Canadian writer headed for even more greatness."
—Heather Mallick, Toronto Star

“It’s a bestseller in her adopted homeland Canada… brilliantly written but painful to read.”
—The Times (UK)

“[M]aternal tippling is a trendy topic on ‘mom’ blogs... But these chirpy, jokey accounts don’t touch the dark spiral of addiction Toronto writer Jowita Bydlowska relives in this riveting account... Bydlowska is an evocative, talented and gutsy writer who appears willing to confess all… Bydlowska writes of watching other upscale stroller-pushing moms and wondering: do they hide mickeys in their diaper bags too? With this bracing book, others will now be asking that question as well.”
‘[A] gifted writer, and a courageous one… Without glibness, without self-pity, knowing that she risks being judged, Bydlowska tells her story…. Luckily for those reading her story, she possesses a wickedly dark sense of humour.”
—The Gazette, Montreal

“It is a memoir that pushes at boundaries – what is private, what should perhaps be kept private, what we need to know, what we don’t, what is insightful or just exhibitionism. [O]ne of the most talked about books of the season... “ —The Globe and Mail.

“To understand this story in the guise of an addiction memoir is to misunderstand its worth…. Instead, this book is fresh within the context of a parenting memoir, one of a particular kind: A counterculture parenting memoir. [It] stands as an uncommonly perceptive chronicle of what it means to be an intelligent, urban parent trying to hold on to the rest of her life. As a writer she’s got some chops.”
National Post

“A compelling, raw look at her struggle with alcoholism, the addiction that swallowed [Bydlowska] after the birth of her son.”

“[She] eschews the touchy-feely language of recovery ... The cool yet raw efficiency of Bydlowska’s prose, a testament to her successful journalistic career, repudiates indulgence of any kind. This detachment is what makes Drunk Mom both a painful yet paradoxically effortless read.”
—Literary Review of Canada

Drunk Mom is a stunning, harrowing read. Why harrowing? Not just because of the dramatic story, of a new mother at the edge of her tether. And not only because of Jowita Bydlowska’s skill as a writer, and the crisp, original way she tells it. What’s most harrowing about Drunk Mom is that you can’t stop reading it—this, the dark, now-told tale that lurks in the shadow of every seemingly normal family.”
—Ian Brown, author of The Boy in the Moon

“A brave, brilliant and scathing self-portrait. Full of energy and insight. If Frida Kahlo had been a writer, she might have been compared to Jowita Bydlowska.”
—Patricia Pearson, author of A Brief History of Anxiety – Yours and Mine.

“Fearless and troubling, and so very humane, Bydlowska explodes the cutesy momoir genre. You'll read it in one sitting."
—Katrina Onstad, author of Everybody Has Everything.
"This is quite simply not just another addiction memoir. It's something truly special. I felt this book. It carries the reader. It whispers. It really is can't-put-it-down great!"
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, author of I'm Kind of a Big Deal: And Other Delusions of Adequacy.

“Jowita is matter-of-fact, funny, fearless, and irreverent as she lifts the veil to chronicle what it means to be a young mother when both baby and mother have their own bottles -- the shame and the inner voices, as well as the joy and relief. This book is for anyone who has ever struggled to make it through a day.”
—Laura Albert, a.k.a. JT LeRoy, author of Sarah, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, and Harold's End

“Jowita Bydlowska, to steal a phrase from Hemingway, writes hard and clear about what hurts. And man oh man can she write! …In my decades as a lover of books I've written only two fan mails. One of them went to Jowita Bydlowska. Thank you, Jowita, for Drunk Mom – for its rawness, for its clarity, for its bravery.”
—Angie Abdou, Fernie Fix
Drunk Mom is a discomforting read. Its bare-naked honesty about addiction and families will make a lot of people uncomfortable. . . . It’s by far one of the best memoirs that I’ve ever read, both for its candor and bravery and for her narration.”—The Frisky

User Reviews

Not a feel-good story, but a well told must-read

Stigma is still alive and well. OK, so we call addiction a malady now and not a moral failing. But what if you're a drunk mom? That, it seems, is still open season for righteous indignation. I have seen this book criticized for the candor of an everyday phenomena. Motherhood may have an elevated status in our society but alcoholism could give a shit if you're a mother or a unionized pipe-fitter. When addiction has you in its sights you're going to dance the dance of compromise, denial and terror, like anyone else. Not all of this book's readers are ready for this level of truth. And it's stark truth - courageous and unapologetic.

Jowita Bydlowska isn't writing this to win a popularity contest. Somewhere in her heart she felt this story had to be told; damn the consequences.

"Let's call stigma for what it is--discrimination." To discriminate against someone for addiction, like mental health is a cheap shot. It is bigotry at its ugliest. Nothing assuages our shame of our own shortcomings like scapegoating another. No one will notice my shortcomings while I point my finger at another, right?

This book isn't a clever idea, it's an inconvenient truth. I love a well told story and this is gripping. See how many women and baby strollers you notice after you read it. One in ten suffer from addiction; do the math. Drunk Mom is a sobering truth.

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