Book Reviews

Feed the White Wolf: A Poetic Battle with Alcoholism and Mental Illness Review

By Patrick Lahey

Published by iUniverse


138 pages

$13.99 Paperback


Book reviewed by Kavita Khajuria.

“I am a survivor Of this I am sure”

‘Feed the White Wolf’ reflects one answer to a question that stems from an ancient Cherokee parable. With a tribute to ancient wisdom, this book embarks on a poetic journey of a childhood pathway to alcoholism, compounded by the afflictions of bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. 
Shifts in mood and intensities may strike the reader as unpredictable, occasionally confusing, yet frequently touching. Brazen release of mental states range from the tortured and conflicted – to ambivalent, sad or grateful. The second half of the book conveys more sequential clarity  – and the reader hears the questioning of childhood rage. Alcohol consumption from the age of twelve is vividly described, “ripping my mind and body apart” – followed by the turbulence of juvenile delinquent behaviors. Loss and futility follows – “completely lost, drinking until I fell…” “…nothing but hell.” Void and lack of purpose communicate, “lost and empty, feeling confused…” “lost in a rage,” and by age 20 “walking nowhere, head in a haze,” with moments of “raw and blinding pain.” The reader is also swept into the roller coaster of “Bipolar 2,” compounded by chronic depression and moments of paralyzing anxiety. Other mental states convey anger, disillusionment and split states,  “black and white,” “Love or hate.” The reader can feel the pain and loneliness, yet hear subtle observations, inquiries, and occasional apologies. Some moments translate as personal messages to unknown persons, some to old flames. Sadness and struggle transpire though a majority of the book, yet in spite of suicidal ideations or frustrations in recovery, a yearning for freedom entails. Most notable is a resonating gratitude in spite of it all – the poem on ‘life’ insightfully inquires as to what really matters in the end. The strength of this book lies in the courageous communication of mental states and behaviors, and may leave the reader wondering more about the road to recovery.
Alcohol use disorder affects many, with a higher prevalence in males than females, although the gender gap is narrowing. The answer to the question from the ancient parable – as to which wolf to feed – may have more implications to consider, given that alcohol use disorder is known to run in families, with genetic influences believed to account for up to 60% of the risk. In psychiatry, co-occurring disorders tend to prevail, and those with substance use disorders often have one or more co-occurring psychiatric and medical conditions. Luckily, the majority of those afflicted with alcohol use disorder tend to have positive outcomes, despite the common notion that it’s difficult to treat.