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Almost Famous—Until I Got Sober - Page 2

By Molly Jong-Fast 05/29/12

After growing up in the shadow of her mother, Erica Jong, whose best-seller Fear of Flying made her a household name, the author yearned for fame of her own. She almost had it too—until she stopped doing drugs.

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Early days with a famous mom

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It’s been more than fourteen years since that November trip to Minneapolis. I’m still sober because I do everything that AA tells me to do. I have a sponsor. I go to a ton of meetings. I still work the steps and I still have sponsees (not so many right now). I do this because this is really the only way we have to treat the disease of alcoholism, a genetic disease that I have. 

I have gotten older. I had a sober twenty-first birthday. I had a sober wedding. And I gave birth to three children while I was sober. I didn’t do this because I’m such a great person. I was driven by necessity, not by virtue.

In early sobriety, the fame urge still lingered. I longed for the green rooms and the car services of my youth. In some ways I saw my mother’s experience at that time like the only possible solution to the spiritual sickness I felt. I wrote my first book, Normal Girl, at nineteen; I was six months sober when I sold it to publishers and just two years sober when I was promoting it. On the road at twenty-one, with just 24 months clean—talking publicly about how I didn’t drink or take drugs one day at a time. It was another miracle that I didn’t end up drunk at Oktoberfest as I found myself promoting my book, translated as Ein Ganz Normales Madchen, in Munich, a city soaked in beer. I carried my German meeting book like a bible.

When I was 23, I married into a family that didn't care to have the details of their lives dissected on the Internet. I married into a family that didn't ache for fame. I was still mystified: How could anyone not want to be famous? It seemed insane to me. Isn’t fame the whole point of life? But as I started to accumulate sober time, certain things dawned on me: For instance, writing about myself is a very lonely business. Also, contrary to what I'd always thought, people don’t necessarily love you for exposing your many neuroses for all to see. I used to think that things only mattered if they were done out loud, in the New York Post, on Donahue. Could I actually live in the "civilian" world?

I went to meetings, and therapy, and built up my self-esteem. This is not to say that I didn’t want to write. I love writing. And writing gives my life purpose, but my kids give my life more meaning than my writing, and since my kids are little, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to spend more time with them and less time staring at the computer.

I also don’t really need the world to know me. I don’t feel I have to make my mark. Maybe I have no mark to make. Maybe I’m a supporting actor. Maybe I’m "the mother of" or "the wife of." If the choice is between a struggle for fame and attention, and being home with my charming twins and my older boy through the fleeting years of their childhood, it's not much of a choice.

Did I get too sober to be famous? Who knows if I ever would have been famous even if I had had the drive? Odds say no. There are many more talented people than I who have not achieved the fame they have worked so hard for. But I am glad that I have been staying home with my kids. Selfishly, if nothing else, these years that I have spent focusing on them have been the happiest of my life. There is no way that reading to ten people in a dimly lit bookstore in Ohio can complete with the joy of watching my little girl master a ballet move or my little boy build his first death ray. I’m kidding about the death ray. Sort of.

Molly Jong-Fast's most recent book is The Social Climber's Handbook. She lives in New York City.

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Molly Jong-Fast is a writer and editor living in New York City. She is the author of, The Social Climber's Handbook. You can find Molly on Linkedin and Twitter.

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