They can come from anywhere.

Mr. Donut has no idea the inner turmoil he’s causing me!

When I was a kid, we had this cat. (Not this cat, this cat is Mr. Donut.) I’d tell you her name except that it might compromise several of my passwords so let’s just call her Kitty. Kitty came from the shelter on an impulse of my dad’s, as I remember it, and was brought home on the bus. She had a lot of problems throughout her life, including it being the seventies when shelter spaying wasn’t common, so there were two litters of kittens along the way.

Anyway, it being San Francisco, fleas were…


Some thoughts about minimizing childhood trauma & experience

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I was chatting with some friends recently about family stuff, and one friend said, “I didn’t grow up in a dysfunctional home, but…” and went on to describe some dynamics that made others of us say, “Yes, actually that is a dysfunctional home.” That got us onto the ways we’ve all perceived our various situations as “not that bad.”

There have been lots of times in my own life when I thought of my own childhood as “not that bad” in the course of wondering why it affected me the way it…


It can be complicated.

Photo by Emily Rose from Pexels

“Denial is the glue that holds together a dysfunctional home. Family secrets, ignored feelings, and predictable chaos are part of a dysfunctional family system.” — BRB, pg 22

I wrote about this quote from the Big Red Book a little in my journal the other morning, and it got me thinking that though the word and concept has become very familiar in general conversation, the experience of it can be extremely complicated.

In my family, for example, I don’t ever remember a time when we were in denial that my dad was an alcoholic. …


What I talk about when I talk about ACOAs.

Photo by pawel szvmanski on Unsplash

Several years after starting it, I thought I might finally introduce my little publication, Adult Child, a bit more properly.

I use the publication as a place to hold a number of my pieces about growing up in dysfunction via an alcoholic-codependent family system. I often use the tag ACOA, which stands for Adult Children of Alcoholics, also sometimes referred to as ACAs.

Adult Children of Alcoholics / Dysfunctional Families is an official twelve-step group designation; I’ve been a part of ACOA groups in the past but am not right now…


My reasons for writing now are different than they were when I started out.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

The early dream

When I first started pursuing writing for publication, I was twenty-five and deep in a quarter-life crisis. I’d made it through a challenging childhood and adolescence, through a six-year struggle through college to get a B.A., and was even happily married.

The stability of my marriage and having gotten college finally checked off my list meant I was no longer living in the survival mode that drove my early life. That made space for the realization that, actually, I was kind of miserable.

My job was…


I’m moving on, and taking Jesus with me.

A shot from Paul Schrader’s film FIRST REFORMED

On January 6, I sat in my car outside a laundromat and pulled up Twitter to see how the certification of the election was going. Not good.

I’m sure I don’t have to describe the sick ache in the pit of my stomach, that bizarre mix of “this is both utterly shocking and completely predictable” that has become a hallmark of the Trump era. The familiarity doesn’t make it any less traumatizing.

Aside from and in addition to everything else I’ve felt since then, there’s a major realization for me that the…


Misconceptions and assumptions are rampant, and almost killed me.

Photo by Mykenzie Johnson on Unsplash

November is National Diabetes Month, which means it’s a good time to cut through the jokes (“Just looking at that cake is gonna give me the diabetuss har har”) and the misinformation (“Cinnamon and turmeric can cure you!”) and talk about what it actually is.

As a type 1 diabetic (also known as “juvenile diabetes,” which is a potentially dangerous misnomer ), I’ll going to focus on that and the things I find myself repeating over and over to people who don’t understand this disease but think they do.

  1. It’s an…


I had issues with the original Freewrite; will I send up selling the Traveler, too?

Astrohaus Freewrite Traveler

I am a sucker for writing gadgets — especially anything that taps into my aesthetic pleasure center. Why would I write with a ballpoint pen I got for free at a motel when I could spend $80 on a fountain pen? Why use a drugstore composition book when there’s an entire world of French paper to explore? My credit card is often smoking from orders of pens, paper, ink, journals, apps, keyboards, and my stockpile of now discontinued Alphasmarts.

When a gadget promises a distraction-free…


A careful reading of the NXIVM story reveals some familiar truths.

Photo by Alex Eckermann on Unsplash

A few years ago while my husband and I were fully absorbed in Leah Remini’s A&E show, Scientology and the Aftermath, I turned to him and said, “And so what? Why do we care about this?”

Fair question, and one I’ve also found myself sometimes asking about the HBO docuseries, The Vow, about a small group of escapees from a cult or community or group or company — depending who you ask — called NXIVM. …


Figuring out celebration when you grew up in dysfunction

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

“Many of us who grew up in alcoholic or dysfunctional homes had little time or opportunity for play. Faced with adult chaos, much of our early life was spent in survival mode.”

This is from the October 5 meditation in this little book of daily affirmations published by the Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service org. It comes two days after my 50th birthday, a big one in terms of life milestones.

I spent it all by myself. A few days ahead of the Big Day, I drove the 700 miles…

Sara Zarr

I’m a novelist and I also write about writing (and writing-adjacent topics), personal growth, and growing up in an alcoholic family system. sarazarr.com

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