By TERESA HAMMOND
The title quite simply says it all, as first-time author Janelle Hanchett’s story is told in “I’m Just Happy To Be Here: A Memoir of Renegade Mothering.”
It is raw, riveting and extremely honest as she shares her struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. The book was first released in May of this year by New York based Hachette Books.
“The book I had in my head, was not this one,” the author said via telephone from her Sacramento area home. “I think sometimes we choose our work and sometimes our work chooses us.”
The wife and mother of four began her blog Renegade Mothering in 2011 as more of a hobby and a way of reaching other mothers, an honest reflection of the struggles of being all things to all people, while maintaining some sense of sanity (or attempting to). Early on, the author shared, the topic of addiction and recovery were not something she shared via the blog.
“I started realizing maybe I could help people with my story,” she said, noting she began to feel as if she was not sharing enough.
In 2014, shortly following the death by overdose of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, Hanchett penned a blog entry “We Don’t Start With Needles in Our Arms.” A piece she shared, where she really got honest with her readers. An honesty which took her blog from a very modest and almost non-existent readership to thousands of viewers, as well as shares.
“I wasn’t hiding,” she said of not sharing her journey prior to the 2014 post. “It just wasn’t the focus of my blog. When I felt compelled, I did it. I just went for it.”
That simple act of “just going for it” one year later led to Hanchett being contacted by a well-known Beverly Hills agent expressing an interest in her story.
“That was the book that came out of me,” the author shared of “I’m Just Happy To Be Here,” admitting to first penning a very rough draft in a month’s time, prior to being contacted by her agent. “I really tried not to hold back.”
Using that as a springboard, she worked for the next year and a half on fine tuning the story to what it is today: A recounting of her journey through addiction, from her multiple attempts to ending her affair with alcohol on her own, to her stays in varying rehabilitation centers, all while being married and mothering children.
“I stepped foot in probably five and completed four,” she said of rehab facilities during the course of two years. At the time, she had two children, ages six and 15 months. “Plus, the outpatient mental institution.”
Hanchett penned the book offering an honest account of some of her lowest points as she battled addiction. Her honesty takes the reader through her trials and tribulations as she shares the intent to be well, as well as the selfishness of an addict.
The author shared she never wanted to die, though her lifestyle, mixing alcohol and pills, drugs and reckless behavior, would argue the contrary.
“I was dying,” she admitted. “I just didn’t know.”
Now, nine years sober, a book deal to her name, as well as a script she’s currently working on for 3 Arts Entertainment, the “mommy blogger” describes it all as “surreal.”
“I never expected any of this,” she confessed, adding feeling most proud of her commitment to sharing the uncensored truth of life as an addict.
“I was not writing this book for shock factor,” she continued.
Hanchett shared she wrote the book for a specific audience – the addict, the families, loved ones of addicts, the ones who know the true side of ugly and struggle.
“I wanted them to know you can be in that condition and recover,” she said. “I needed to keep it real.”
And that she did.
“I’m most proud of sticking with what I knew to be the truth and not what might be more marketable and successful financially,” she said of the memoir.
And, as one might suspect from a “mommy blogger” turned author, she is incredibly proud of her children: Ava, 16; Rocket, 12; George, 7; and Arlo, 4.
Speaking of her children, most notably Ava, who was old enough to recall the rough years of rehab and addiction, brings emotion to the author. A relationship has been rebuilt and nurtured with her oldest and all four children are extremely proud and supportive of their mother’s latest endeavor.
“I’ve always been in awe of the resiliency of children,” she said of the grace and pride she has in her children. “I think I really learned how much they’re watching.”
“I’m Just Happy To Be Here” can be found at book stores nationwide, as well as online at amazon.com.