By Any Other Name

Coming Clean - Kimberly Rae Miller

Kimberly Rae Miller's courageous memoir shows how much addictive family systems have in common, regardless of the "substance" abused. Whether parents are obsessed with alcohol, drugs, sex, or, in this case, collecting stuff, the kids grow up confused and ashamed. If you grow up with a mother who passes out at the dinner table or a father who saves every scrap of paper he ever saw, the result is the same: you're not sure what normal is supposed to look like.


In Coming Clean, Miller bravely reveals a childhood lived in isolation, amidst the mountains of things her parents could not throw away. There was so much stuff clogging every room that Miller's family didn't even realize they had a squatter in their attic: the piles provided too much insulation for them to hear his comings and goings. Ashamed though she is, Miller holds little back.


It's less the horror of the hoarding, however, that intrigues. Instead, it's the way Miller honestly relates the ways she has tried to deal with her parents' problems, both as a child, and as an adult who still gets pulled into the codependent cycle time and time again. Each time she bails them out, Miller gets closer to finished with all the dysfunction, and it's inspiring to see her slowly get her bearings and make her own way in the world.


(I was also inspired to start cleaning out my basement.)