How does your new memoir fit with your other books?
It’s turned out to be the third book in a trilogy of memoirs. “Running With Scissors” describes my unusual life being raised by a crazy psychiatrist and how I get out of that. Then, lo and behold, I become a raging alcoholic in Manhattan working in advertising and then get sober, which is [2003’s] “Dry.” “Lust and Wonder” takes place during my sobriety, when I finally stopped drinking for good. I thought, once I dealt with my alcoholism, life should fall into place, but it didn’t. I made a lot of really bad choices when I was sober, choices that were just as bad as any I made when I was drunk.
What were the worst decisions you made while sober?
I was in a relationship for 10 years with someone I wasn’t compatible with. That was really difficult for me to write about, to be frank. It’s embarrassing, that I’d stay in a relationship with someone who was so obviously unhappy with me. That relationship, it should never have gone past a few dates. At the very longest, it should have stopped when we were walking back from the grocery store and I asked, “Are you as happy as I am?” and he said, “No, I’m not as happy as you are, no.” But I kept telling myself, “I can change. I can make him happy. He’ll learn to love me,” while, at the same time, adding another brick to the life that we built together.
Why did you stay in a bad relationship for so long?
It seems insane now, but at the time, I thought, “This is what normal people do.” I had such a weird, screwed-up childhood and then I was a raging alcoholic dating a crack addict from group therapy, so once I got sober, I decided, “I’m going to go and find someone who is very normal and sort of conservative and make it work.”
What finally made you realize it wasn’t going to work?
I realized that I was in love with someone else: Christopher, my literary agent. He had been there all along, but he was HIV-positive, and I was like, “Nope, not going there. I’ve lost someone to this disease before, and I’m not doing it again.” But how I felt about that changed. The fact is, he has been HIV-positive since the ’80s and has this incredible attitude about it. He’s a survivor, and that’s the one thing I value above all else. That’s something we have in common — we’re both survivors.
So is it happily ever for you and Christopher, and will that put a dent in your future writing?
My life has never really been “happily ever after.” I’ve always had conflict and disaster follow me around like a shadow, and I can’t really believe that will suddenly stop now that I’m happily living in Connecticut with three dogs. We’re just going to have to see. Sadie Dingfelder (Express)