Genetic Predisposition

So, I’m writing a book.

Literary non-fiction. The story of a man, a woman and their little boy. They were a family but the ties did not bind. I guess it’d be more accurate to say they bound for a little while, but unraveled.

Ell was 25 and Victoria, 19, when they fell in love and married in the autumn of 1931. For their honeymoon, they piloted a houseboat christened


down the Mississippi from St. Paul to New Orleans.

A glimpse through the eyes of newlyweds at the start of the Great Depression. A look back in time into the heart, soul and psyche of a man already deep into alcoholism and his young bride on its cusp.

A seat on the bow of a houseboat making headway on a course plotted due south.

Jim Matson,

née Champ. Wichita, 2015.

Ell and Victoria were real people who were born, grew up, met each other, lived, loved and died. They led impulsive, obsessive, self-driven lives. For a finite period of their separate Earthly chronologies, they loved one another. Their only son, Champ, is my father.

Champ subconsciously planned his escape from the madness for years. Twenty-four hours after graduating Plainville High School, he joined the Navy and changed his name from Champ to James. Jim Matson’s 83 and for the last few months I’ve been interviewing him about his troubled childhood – which in itself is pretty revealing (another blog).

So why tell their story? Why me?

I share Ell and Victoria’s name, genetics and tendencies. Call it working knowledge, or better yet, insight, into my grandparents’ choices and decisions. I’ve made the same ones. I inherited their alcoholism.

I’m fortunate to have experienced a few moments of clarity in my recovery. One of them is the realization that I owe something to the next generation of our family. My son, niece and nephew. And eventually, if the trend holds, their children.

Will the illness prompt loss in their lives similar to mine, Champ’s, Vic’s and Ell’s? Because I love them, I hope not. Honestly, I’ve learned not to sweat it. For one very simple and compelling reason.

There’s nothing I can do to prevent it.

But I


share my experience and the history of our family, warts and all. Armed with knowledge about the insidious dysfunction wound tightly around and embedded deep within our DNA, will they make better, more informed decisions?

Can knowing the truth lead to solid life choices, peace of mind and happiness?

Champ, Vic & Ell. Spokane, 1938.


ere on Father’s Day 2015, my book consists of a working framework and three or four dozen pools of word vomit, fluctuating from varying degrees of omigod this is absolute crap to hey, that’s not too bad if I do say so myself.

Plus, I guess I figure if I telegraph the move here, it’ll provide impetus. If I’ve said out loud that I’m writing a book, a layer of motivation gets added. It’ll also provide blog content along the way. Everybody wants to read about an author’s trials and tribulations, right? Or maybe no one cares about the labor pains. They just want to see the baby.

Non-fiction because there’s much I know about them. When, where, what.

Literary because I can apply my experience, not only in spiritual recovery, but everything that preceded it. I approach this effort fully armed with understanding and knowledge of alcoholism. How and why.

Ell did not have that. Victoria did, but only after the damage was done. Champ doesn’t

drink, but look up Adult Child of Alcoholics.

The characters are not only real people, they’re my family.