Drinking Stories
Literary novel chronicles one lesbian's addiction and recovery battle
By Christopher John Treacy
Published: Thursday, September 30, 2004
"Minus One"
by Bridget Bufford
Haworth Press
There's no way around the unfortunate stereotype that exists about the amount of drinking and drugging that goes on in the gay and lesbian communities, and who could expect the picture to be different when our central "cultural venues" have traditionally been bars and nightclubs? And while that fact may slowly be changing, (i.e. we're finding new and interesting ways of meeting and communicating with one another), the relentless partying continues.

Likewise, if you've had the enlightening experience of watching an associate or loved one 'get sober,' the unpleasant truth that often emerges after a brief period of bliss (twelve-steppers refer to it as something called a 'pink cloud'), reveals that despite their having put down drugs and/or alcohol, a lot of the unfortunate personality traits that characterized their partying careers remain fully intact. Such is the plain truth about this disease of alcoholism - it exists before, during, and after the alcohol. The changes occur in how the illness presents itself.

Let the doubters bury themselves between the pages of Bridget Bufford's new novel "Minus One," for further education on the matter. Bufford has accomplished the tricky task of combining a woman's story that's very obviously rooted in true to life events with a spiritual journey of recovery and discovery that doubles as a lesbian love story - and it's a bona-fide page-turner, though definitely a literary step up from novels that normally file under that classification.

Bufford's protagonist, Terry Manescu, is all the proof needed to believe that alcoholism isn't a disease of weakness or indulgence, but more so an illness of the spirit. Despite treatment and putting together some sober time, Terry is furious about her situation and bitterly angry at the world around her, mainly because putting down the drink isn't enough to coerce her disease into a remissive state. She has to undergo a series of painful and dramatic personality changes before she will be able to enjoy her sobriety, and this is what Bufford's book is built upon.

There's a fair bit of good humor peppered into Manescu's narrative, and that keeps the heaviest parts of her story from seeming hopeless and morose. Bufford begins each chapter with a twelve-step related quote, and as the plot develops, Terry slowly begins to realize that she must heal her past, and there's an awful lot of wreckage there, in order for the present to become more bearable. Along the way she begins to learn how to rightly relate herself to the world around her without the "aid" of alcohol and takes the plunge into the difficult world of recovery. (An important differentiation is to be made here between this process and the mere state of physical sobriety). She learns to trust a sponsor that helps walk her through the rough spots, and eventually lands herself in love - a state of being that possesses all the same addictive qualities that alcohol does.

"Minus One" is not a novel geared only toward those either in recovery or what one might call "recovery-curious," however. The lessons learned through the story are really about coping with the hand that life has dealt you, and better aligning yourself to "how the other half lives." It's a much more peaceful and serene mode of living, as opposed to waging a willful war against any part of society that does not think and behave the way we would like them to (in order to suit our own needs and desires). Terry Manescu is on a noble journey, and one that all of us could surely stand to learn something from, alcoholic or not.