Intro from Jay Allison: This piece was produced as part of the Transom Story Workshop Spring 2015 session. Listen to more pieces from this Story Workshop class here.
Originally I thought I was doing a story on treatment centers for addicted mothers. I had read about one in particular, Angel House, in the Cape Cod Times and was immediately assaulted by the sounds of an imagined radio piece. Sounds of mothers getting their hair done for job interviews, discussing their various stages of recovery, and playing with their children in the expansive gardens that line the property.
The day before my scheduled interview at Angel House, their director told me that exposing newly sober mothers in this way might compromise their recovery, and that it wasn’t a good idea. Desperate, I contacted Deborah Heavilin, the Co-Chair of the Substance Abuse Pregnancy Task Force and facilitator of the Mothers and Infants Recovery Network. To my surprise, she offered me her own story. It turned out that Deborah herself was a mother, and in recovery — a state it took her years of relapses and detoxes to reach.
I met with Deborah at her house in Falmouth. There was a cozy clutter of blankets and magazines in the living room; light came through wide-leafed trees in the backyard and made patterns on the pale walls. Two dogs lay curled into each other on the porch, sighing in time. The story she proceeded to tell me, about hurt and isolation and guilt, was in such contrast to her warm, bright living room that I had to keep reminding myself it was Deborah’s own history I was hearing. Her life appears peaceful and rich. But Deborah can never take that for granted. Every day has its dangers — every day she has to make the choice to stay clean.
Realizing this, my piece changed from one about the difficulties of addiction to another about the difficulties of sobriety. And that was a much more surprising struggle than the one I’d expected to find. While it’s important to start an interview with a sense of what direction it’ll go in, be open to its detours. Essentially: fight for your vision but don’t try to wrestle unwilling material into something it’s not. I have a long way to go until I enjoy my own stories, but as long as each one is an attempt to expose some truth, I’ll know I’m doing the right thing.
Justine’s Sonic ID
I met Brian Laramy at Chapman Cole & Gleason funeral home in Falmouth, where he works. I had wanted to make a Creative Life piece about the artful aspects of embalming. It turned out that Brian wasn’t willing to share many details about his craft out of respect for the deceased and their families. Despite this, he agreed to talk to me for a while and I found his way of discussing death fascinating. He swung between being moved by the loss he saw every day, and seeing it as just that — everyday.