New Memoir Explores How Recovery Is Like Remodeling a House

New Memoir Explores How Recovery Is Like Remodeling a House

After putting herself and her family through years of hell, Hope Andersen found the faith to put her life back together.

In How to Remodel a Life, reality makeover shows become the innovative model for helping a person find a sustainable path to long-term recovery from both destructive drinking and mental illness. A graduate of Wellesley College (B.A) and Yale Divinity School (M.A.R.), Hope Andersen came back from the brink to publish her first novel at the age of 60. Moving beyond her struggles with alcoholism and bipolar disorder, she found a way to put her life back together and express her inner voice.

Wanting to help others struggling with the same challenges, Andersen constructs her new memoir as a how-to guide that looks at the recovery from a hopeless, three-fold disease as if a run-down house were being remodeled. The key is to return to the house’s bones and find the beauty of the original build. After putting herself and her family through years of hell, Hope Andersen found the faith to put her life back together.

In the epilogue to How to Remodel a Life (PipeVine Press), Andersen expresses a vibrant sense of hope when she writes, “Whatever your path, remember: you are never too young to start the journey; you are never too old to ask for help; it is never too late to start remodeling your life.”

After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her early forties, Andersen’s life went off the rails. The chaos of the diagnosis sent her into a tailspin, and she began drinking hard and popping pills. Despite being in a loving marriage with grown children, she jumped into a maelstrom of sexual promiscuity and abusive relationships. Looking for anything to quiet the fear rising within, she came to the brink of suicide.

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What brought Hope Andersen back from the brink? Strangely enough, it was her husband’s brush with death that opened her eyes. Despite being given little chance to survive when he was diagnosed with stage four liver cancer, he received a new liver that came to them like a medical miracle. She was so grateful not to lose her beloved.

Realizing what she almost threw away and what she could still lose, she chose to ask for forgiveness and remodel her life in a loving fashion. Embracing recovery and sobriety, she realized that she needed to rebuild her life. Stripping everything down to the bare bones, she had to look at herself honestly. It was time to take the reins of moving forward away from fear and rely on hope and faith.

As Andersen writes in her new guide to recovery, “When you remodel a home, you must reach the point where the old structure simply does not fit your needs anymore. In rehabbing a life, the same is true. The first step to changing your life is recognizing that your old way of being is seriously flawed, non-functioning; you need help from someone, somewhere to create this new version of yourself.”

Although recovery memoirs have become a dime a dozen in the 21st century, Andersen’s book stands out for two essential reasons. First, it speaks to older people in recovery that are finding a new path after middle age in the second half of their lives. There are not enough resources out there for these people as they embrace the path of recovery that often comes with more responsibilities and more complex avenues of shame. Hope Andersen’s volume is valuable because it is such a resource.

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Second, rather than being focused on just substance use disorder, including alcoholism, or just mental illness like bipolar disorder, How to Remodel a Life is a perfect example of the newfound memoir that’s entrenched in co-occurring disorders. Once referred to as dual diagnosis, co-occurring disorders are as common as apple pie in the church basements of 12-step programs and rehabs across the country. Smoothly moving back and forth between her dual challenges, Andersen shows that recovery from both is possible at the same time. It’s a crucial message that is needed. 

And Hope Andersen’s challenges are only just beginning. After publishing this latest book, she found out that she has third-stage kidney disease. Most likely, her doctors believe it was caused by the lithium she takes daily to manage her bipolar disorder. She realizes the only outcomes for her moving forward are dialysis, a transplant, or death. Suddenly, she has to apply the lessons she offers in her book to her health crisis.

When the Coronavirus hit, she came to realize that her challenge was a reflection of the challenge being faced by the world. In the end, we all come together and remodel the microcosm of our individual lives and the macrocosm of the greater world, or we are doomed to perish sick and alone. Bravely, she moves forward, a spiritual warrior queen fighting for her life, family, and community. We wish her success and good health.

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