In a realm where you can be presented in any way you fancy, ‘why label yourself an addict,’ one might ponder. Luxuries glorified on social media may be admirable, but such content offers followers a false perception of consistent bliss when happiness is only one of many emotions we experience. So why do many of us limit ourselves to showcasing only one? A society that idealizes Utopia is reason why such raw honesty is necessary. Under pseudonym, “The Poetry Bandit,” Jon Lupin introduces himself as an alcoholic in recovery, a husband and a father of three, and uses his writing abilities to heal himself, as well as others who feel wounded by addiction. In his latest collection of works, “My Sober Little Moon,” second edition, the Canadian poet teleports us to late 2014 and early 2015 when he struggled most with sobriety. During this journey, he also whirls us through his recent diagnosis, obsessive compulsive disorder (O.C.D.).
It doesn’t take 121 poems for Lupin to convince his audience of his will to live; only one. He begins his story with a poem titled “Inkling,” in which he articulates his quench for ink in a battle with Leviathan, a biblical sea monster. “Ink. I needed ink. And I knew, without it, I would die.” These words most accurately reflect Lupin’s determination to remain sober by the book’s end, despite his “obsessive” brain and “starved” heart in poems to follow. Most importantly, this first piece dictates his inexplicable need to write to survive. Though his struggle to avoid alcohol’s temptation is present, Leviathan’s ink represents his ability to surpass his desire.
Much like “Inkling,” the early stages of Lupin’s passages embody his yearning to drink versus his need to maintain sobriety for the sake of his family, his friends and himself. To refer to his internal confliction, Lupin compares the good—sobriety, and the bad—intoxication to religious beliefs of Heaven and Hell: “the path you’ve chosen will define/if you’ll bathe in smooth blood wine.” Despite this revelation and the liquor-less road Lupin chooses, he places certainty in poem, “Burning Man” that he’ll spend an eternity in Hell: “Either way, I’m destined to be a burning man.”
Above all, many of his words are dedicated to his wife, whom his excessive drinking pained greatly, but whom also receives immense credit for his savior. What began as a means for her to cope, outlined in his poem “The Urn,” transformed into an outlet for Lupin when she one day handed him a typewriter: “She sat at an old desk/made of oak,/writing old words/about an old lover.” While he notably captures her feelings, he reflectively conveys his own as he realizes who he became is no longer who he was. With that realization escaped the truth—his alcoholism left a strain on his marriage.
Though he does not speak of a tortured love like words written by Emily Dickinson, nor does he quite match the romantic dramas of Lord Byron, Lupin speaks of a love that is tested; a love that rekindles again and again despite unknown forces of the universe yielding them apart from all directions. “We held sparklers/on a humid summer’s night/and watched/as our love fizzled out/one more time.”
Unlike other works about addiction, mental illness or relationship hardships, “My Sober Little Moon,” second edition, resonates with a broader audience due to its unfiltered, fearless descriptions of distress, frustration, guilt and other raw emotions often experienced and rarely discussed.
With “Parting Words,” Lupin ends his collection: “Don’t give up on yourself;/you’re still in there,/somewhere,” with the hope that one day, you’ll unleash your inner you.