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I'm Just Happy to Be Here: A Memoir of Renegade Mothering

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"A refreshingly raw, contrasting perspective on the foolproof idea of motherhood." -- POPSUGAR

"By turns painful and funny... A searingly candid memoir." -- Kirkus

"Far from your cookie-cutter story of addiction . . . [ I'm Just Happy to Be Here ] describes Hanchett's journey to recovery and sobriety in imperfect and unconventional ways." -- Bustle

In this unflinching and wickedly funny memoir, Janelle Hanchett tells the story of finding her way home. And then, actually staying there. Drawing us into the wild, heartbreaking mind of the addict, Hanchett carries us from motherhood at 21 with a man she'd known three months to cubicles and whiskey-laden domesticity, from judging meth addicts in rehab to therapists who "seem to pull diagnoses out of large, expensive hats." With warmth, wit, and searing B.S. detectors turned mostly toward herself, Hanchett invites us to laugh when we probably shouldn't and to rejoice at the unconventional redemption she finds in desperation and in a misfit mentor who forces her to see the truth of herself.

A story of ego and forced humility, of fierce honesty and jagged love, of the kind of failure that forces us to re-create our lives, Hanchett writes with rare candor, scorching the "sanctity of motherhood," and leaving beauty in the ashes.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published May 1, 2018

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About the author

Janelle Hanchett

1 book185 followers
Janelle Hanchett created the website "Renegade Mothering" in 2011 because she needed to know if the rest of the mothering world was crazy or she was. Writing after her kids went to bed and while she was supposed to be working, Janelle attracted an audience of hundreds of thousands of readers. She holds a BA in English from University of California at Davis and an MA in English literature from Sacramento State. She lives in northern California with her four children and husband, Mac, who thinks "getting dressed up" means shaving his forearm tattoo.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 365 reviews
Profile Image for Lea Grover.
Author 9 books12 followers
April 5, 2018
When I got my ARC I was ridiculously excited to get started, and I devoured this book in a matter of hours.

There is only one word that comes to mind just described "I'm Just Happy to Be Here": ruthless. This book is utterly ruthless.

Janelle Hanchett isn't just writing about alcoholism and addiction and motherhood and insecurity and faithlessness and faithfulness and love and tragedy and loss and redemption, more than anything this is a book about ego and hubris, and humility.

I'm not an alcoholic, I've never struggled with addiction, and I've never felt so personally called out by a book in my life. So often while reading this book, I shifted uncomfortably in my seat as Janelle ruthlessly turned a viciously incisive eye to herself, because I felt it too. I felt the entitlements, and self-importance, and self-assurance that deep down I've always known is rooted in bullshit. And while this story is one that needs to be in the world for all the people who do struggle with addiction and alcoholism, it's a must-read for anyone who also struggles with the kind of self-imposed isolation of always being ready to say "I told you so," of always being sure you know what's best.

Buy this God damn book.
Profile Image for Jena Henry.
Author 3 books328 followers
April 28, 2018
Sometimes we read a book for fun, such as a book we take to the beach. Sometimes we choose a book because we are in the mood for something scary, or we like to solve mysteries, or we want to learn more about ancient China. And there are times that a book calls to us. "Read me so you can witness a life that seems so different from your own. So you can see what torment and suffering is. And so you can learn to love more."

I'm Happy Just to be Here is a great title for a book written by a young woman who had lost her job, children, dignity, health, mind and respect, and almost her marriage. The memoir of her years as a drug addict is one of the hardest books I have ever read. Every page seems to bring unrelenting misery and hopelessness and horribleness. Fortunately, it has a pretty happy ending.

And it's also fortunate that it is well written and contains gems such as If God only gave you the things you could handle, what would you need God for?

One of the best parts of the story for me was when the author learned that her grandmother had written a newspaper column for young mothers, 70 years ago. As many readers know, these days author writes a successful blog about mothering.

As a mother, this book was hard for me to read. "What if this had happened to my kids?" I kept thinking. But, this is a book worth reading, because it's a book about life. Highly recommend.
Thanks to NetGalley and Hanchette Books for an ARC.

Jena C. Henry, March 2018
Profile Image for Colleen.
1,478 reviews44 followers
November 25, 2018
I feel really horrible for ditching on this one and giving it a low rating, simply because Janelle has obviously dealt with major addiction issues and (I assume) has finally found a way to tame those demons and find redemption. I’m very glad she has, and I wish her well. However, I found the book very repetitive and I reached a point where I just didn’t want to go through the cycle with her yet again: nearly lose everything through addiction, blame others, come clean, have a kid to encourage sobriety, succumb to drugs again after said kid is born, then repeat. I got as far as two kids and I think I saw that she now has four, so I envisioned going through this cycle at least two more times. And frankly, the book didn't deal with motherhood as much as I'd expected because she was rarely around to look after her kids. Which I guess is the point, but I thought there would be more actual "mothering" interactions in there. Maybe there is in the latter half.

She’s definitely incredibly honest in her writing and I’m hoping other people will be able to use her experiences to help themselves out of similar situations. Perhaps I cut out too early (she seemed to finally be on the brink of some sort of religious salvation), but I just couldn’t go any further on this journey. Good luck, Janelle. I hope you’ve found relief and happiness.
Profile Image for Ada.
1,711 reviews29 followers
December 19, 2020
***directly after reading***
I'm a bit emotional right now so this will be a mess. And I want to say I'll edit this at a later date... But I won't. So errors will be made.

I hate (and kinda despite) people who say 'this book wasn't written for me'. Mostly I hate those kind of people because it implies that an author was obligated to write something for everyone (I've seen this most with people who are part of a minority). But just because a book wasn't written with you as the target audience in the authors mind, doesn't mean you won't get something out of it.

I'm not a mother, I'm what Americans would be called Black, I'm not or ever was an alcoholic, I don't have kids, I'm not religious.

All in all this book was very much Not Written For Me.

But goddammit if I didn't get something out of it.

I started reading Hanchett blog when I was in my twenties and suddenly stopped reading all the blogs I followed. Now I'm in my thirties and somehow I could compare parts of this books to people in my life or even my own life. The Rage. The Judging. The Letting Go. The Acknowledging. The Hurt. The Love. Always the love. (What's up with the upper cases? IDK)

I don't even know what I want to say. I would recommend this to everyone. Which is kinda rare for me. I don't really believe in 'universal recommendations'.

I tend to not rate memoirs and such. It feels weird to rate a life. But I was fully engaged every time I sat down to read and with memoirs that's a rare thing. I was afraid this format wouldn't work after reading the blogs but nope. Different but still great.

I hope to see more by her. I hope her blogs would come out in book form.

But mainly I hope she will keep writing.

Also the acknowledgements. For fuck sakes, talk about love.



Oh one thing I did kinda missed was the day alcoholisme killed her. I would love to read more about that because I was a bit confused. I don't have to know the details but more information surrounding it would've been helpful. It felt to me like 'Here was my life as an Alcoholic.' and 'Here's my life as an Sober Person.'

Part of this could be me being a dummy and just not picking up on it.

***Before reading***
I have this weird thing of reading books by people who I discovered via blogging. Especially because I stopped reading their blog for some unknown reason. Reading blogs have always felt very intimate to me. More 'real time'. A book is something different. And you don't always know if the author can pull it off. Jenny Lawson, David Thorne or Hyperbole and a Half did it for me. But Sarah Andersen or Adam Ellis didn't really. It was fun but not something I would associated with reading a book.

Also I'm not a huge memoir/autobiography reader. I don't even know if I know for sure that I'm using those two genres right. And if it is by someone I hugely admire... That's a bit nerve-wrecking. What if this is disappointing?

But I'm finally starting this. I got the fancy hardcover because I recently discovered I'm a hardcover whore. So instead of reading this on my Kobo I can annotate.

Wait... I just realised I don't know what it will be about? Will I read the blurb? Eh, no. It will be fine.

***When I first discovered a book was coming***

Seriously I was waiting for this ever since I found her blog.
Profile Image for Lisa.
21 reviews4 followers
May 1, 2018
I was fortunate to read an advance copy of I'm Just Happy to Be Here. It is a beautiful, heartbreaking, and wickedly funny book. Janelle's is a coming of age story but also coming of family and coming of hope.

I read this book in one sitting.
Profile Image for Paige.
74 reviews9 followers
March 26, 2018
I am not a former drug addict. I am not a recovering alcoholic. I also don't have four kids. But somehow this book resonated with me on so many levels.

Having known Janelle since 2010, and having been a reader of her blog, Renegade Mothering, since its inception, I'm used to her blunt, often abrasive language. And that's one of the reasons I love reading her work--blog, Facebook post, or otherwise. She tells it like it is and it's refreshing. This book is reminiscent of her blog, but less in-your-face.

Let's be clear: this isn't an "I got clean and you can too and here's how!" kind of memoir. It's the story of a woman who, despite so many things, managed to pull herself out of the deepest of pits. If you'll let me be cliche for a moment--she had nowhere to go but up. She also had help from her family, which many don't. It was an ugly journey; one that is hard to tell people about. She tells us things that many would never EVER admit to, and that's part of what makes this book so heart-wrenching. There have not been many books in my life (if any) that have made me ugly cry, complete with snot running down my face. This book broke through my stony heart and made me feel so many things. The love of family, the desperation and heartbreak of losing them, and somehow finding the strength to change herself for the better.

I have a feeling that this book will end up on a bestseller list. Janelle writes in such a way that, no matter who you are, you get where she's coming from. You can relate. Shit gets real--literally--and she brings you right into her head. It's a messy place that I'll never completely understand, but it gave me a better idea of what addicts go through.

I can't say enough good stuff about this book. It will make you laugh and then ugly cry in the span of five pages. If you haven't already, pre-order this. Buy a copy for yourself, one for your best friend, one for your mailman, etc.

Profile Image for Mel.
696 reviews38 followers
March 14, 2018
Yo-yo-ing between bouts of sobriety & inebriation, but always depressed, Janelle is loud with hints of Janet Capron’s wild side and the harsh but oft sarcastic tones of Myriam Gurba. Here's a stellar self-deprecating memoir of mistakes while growing up, struggling under postpartum grief, and holding on to oneself (or not) while becoming/being a mother. Janelle’s stark skepticism, her innate ability to question everything (especially when religious leaders don’t have answers)— was highly appealing. Like she mentions several times about not having a place in any of the various existing categories of "mother", her admissions give me hope for the day I choose to have children, knowing that it's possible to not be a good mom while being a good mom, and it's ok to not love everything that's involved with parenting because, thank god it's finally out: PARENTING IS HARD and not (always) a joy.
Profile Image for Karen.
123 reviews
September 24, 2018
I really tried to be sympathetic towards the author and her addiction struggles, but I just couldn’t. Her better-than-everyone personality and the way in which she treated people made me not like her as a person. I felt like her writing was all over the place and that she kept repeating herself. I just wanted the book to end but needed to finish it because it was for book club.
1 review
March 27, 2018
I had the privilege of receiving an advance reader copy of this book and devoured it in three days. It is different than what I expected. Janelle is humorous and irreverent and sometimes even aggressive on her blog renegademothering.com, and that is why many of us fell in love with her writing and her online persona. But this book delves deep into her past and her mind and her addiction. It is delicate at times and raucous at others but it carries us through her journey in a beautiful and heartbreaking way. It is not a self help book, it is not a good mother’s guide to recovery. It is broken down and raw and searing and at turns it is joyful. It is a glimpse, no, a wide-eyed look into what makes us human. And whether you have suffered from mental illness, addiction, regret or simply have wondered at how difficult life can be some days, this book will make you look at things just a little bit differently. I finished it last week and it hasn’t left me. The images Janelle painted and the people she brought to us have stayed at the surface of my mind. I’m going to read parts again so I can keep them a little bit longer. Please read this book, buy it for your friend or your mother or your husband. It needs to be out there in the world.
Profile Image for Vikki Reich.
11 reviews5 followers
April 21, 2018
This book is one of the best memoirs I've read in a long time. Not only in the story compelling, but the writing is beautiful. Though this is a book about addiction and motherhood, it goes beyond that to the universal struggles we all face - finding our place in the world, figuring out who we are, being accountable for our flaws and mistakes, and learning to embrace the hard parts of life with as much grace as we do the easy parts. This book has stayed with me long after I finished it.

This quote in particular has stuck with me:

"I supposed some of us don’t have the luxury of neatly wrapped truth, of affirmations that rest on our tongues like peppermints. Some of us need to be doused in gasoline and set aflame, until the truth consumes us, and we have no choice but to recreate ourselves.”


Profile Image for Carli.
8 reviews1 follower
May 1, 2018
I needed this book. I didn't realize it, but I did. I needed its candor and darkness, its humor and shock, and most especially its sheer humanity. I am convinced that there is a piece of Janelle's story in all of us as mothers, daughters, addicts, and lovers of addicts. There were so many moments that I lost my breath and had to reread the line I had just read because I could have written it. There is something so healing in realizing that you are just not alone. I am not an addict, but addiction has played such a central role in my life that I feel like I may as well be. Janelle helped me to cross over that line of understanding and see things in a way that I hadn't before. I could see the helplessness and pain of the people in my life that I've held so dear, and that I've had no choice but to help carry through their darkest days. She freely invites us into her darkest moments as an addict and we know that it was her reality every single day. A reality that doesn't just disappear when the alcohol does. She is so honest about that.

As a mother, I have so many of those moments that I just want to apologize to my children for being all I can offer to them, while at the same time being amazed that I get the privilege of getting to help them make it through this phase of their lives. Janelle gets that, and put it into words for me. Because of the knowledge that I really am not alone in these miserable thoughts I sometimes have, I felt I could breathe out this breath of fear I had been holding in since the first time I felt frustration at my newborn baby son. The incredible love that Janelle has for her children is only rivaled by the all too real feelings of loss of self, boredom, frustration and pain. That is the truth of being a parent, and she wrote it down!! Hallelujah for that. I, for one, desperately needed to hear it.

This is a book about compassion, pain, and love. Things that every single one of us have experienced. I have absolutely no doubt that this book will resonate with you in some very real way. If you've haven't pre-ordered it yet, do so now. You will not regret it.

Profile Image for Stephany Snell.
131 reviews4 followers
April 22, 2018
I was lucky enough to receive an Advanced Copy of ‘I’m Just Happy To Be Here’ by Janelle Hanchett which is a brutally honest, raw and uncut story of the author’s struggles with addiction and mental illness and just plain adulting. She holds nothing back as she lays out her biggest mistakes and deepest regrets for us all to see and takes us down to the bottom while some how managing to still be relatable. I admit, I’m a sucker for a good hot mess story but, I think, what sets ‘I’m Just Happy To Be Here’ apart from other stories I’ve read is the author’s keen self awareness and her ability to take us in to her brain so that we really see what and how she was thinking rather than just scoffing at the actions that occurred as a result. I really enjoyed that different perspective and found myself feeling so connected to her that I sought out her blog because I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Rosenberg.
4 reviews7 followers
March 4, 2018
I knew nothing of Janelle’s story until now, but have become inspired by how she made it through and emerged in a place of love, honesty and gritty humor. All I know now is that I must find a “Good News Jack” in my life! This book gave me a lot more perspective on my family, sobriety and all of our journeys to find love and know ourselves, warts and all. I would recommend it to anyone who could use a good kick towards introspection and want to hear a story of real survival, but want the real version, not a self-help book.
Profile Image for Shelby.
3 reviews1 follower
March 8, 2018
I love Janelle’s blog and was excited to get an advance copy of her book. It did not disappoint. Her journey is an amazing story filled with sorrow and hope and desperation and thankfully there is joy too. Her writing is honest and sincere and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Grace O'Connor.
3 reviews5 followers
April 3, 2018
Janelle Hanchett’s I’m Just Happy to Be Here is an affecting, heart-breaking story of addiction and the familial ties that somehow manage to simultaneously constrict and save us. It is an unflinching account of a new mother’s plummet into drug and alcohol addiction.
Hanchett’s memoir is most arresting when she writes the awful truth of parenting while addicted. She describes her efforts to deliver her five-year old daughter, Ava, to a birthday party. ““Hey, Ava, let’s pick something out of your closet to give to your friend, and I will buy you another one tomorrow, I promise. We will go tomorrow. Is that okay? Can we do that?’ My words run together in idiotic cocaine excitement.” Her daughter agrees, and in her daughter’s closet, Hanchett settles on a silk rainbow streamer “because they went to a Montessori school and that would be a good hippie gift.”

"‘How about this?’ I asked. ‘Can we give her this?’ I held it up and tried to smile.
‘Okay, Mama,’ Ava said. She didn’t even look disappointed. She didn’t even look at me like I was shoving all my words together or stinking of cigarette smoke or scratching scabs on my shins because I couldn’t stop picking."

After delivering her daughter to the party, Hanchett returns to her car and does a line of cocaine on the back of a CD case.

Hanchett’s memoir is an emotional gut-punch underscoring the reality that addiction is a disease, not a choice. No one who has ever planned and hosted a child’s birthday party would choose to do so while coming of a two-and-a-half-day coke binge, as Hanchett did for her son Rocket’s first birthday.

I jest, perhaps inappropriately so, but humor is a constant thread in Hanchett’s memoir. On one occasion, Hanchett calls her eventual sponsor, a man she calls Good News Jack.

"One day, when the gleeful dust of new sobriety had settled, I was trying to make Ava and Rocket sandwiches but was somehow failing. I stood in my mother’s kitchen behind a cutting board, stating at bread and turkey, feeling like I might explode from restlessness. I told the kids I’d be right back and went outside to call Good News Jack.
‘I just feel like shit, Jack. I do not feel ‘good’ at all.’ I was angry and accusatory, as if his sobriety plan had already let me down.
Without hesitation, answered. ‘I never promised you’d feel good. I promised you you’d never have to drink again.’ . . . ‘What the hell are you doing right now anyway?’ he asked.
‘I was supposed to make the kids lunch, but I freaked out.’
‘Go fucking make them lunch and stop thinking about yourself.’ Then he hung up on me."

Hanchett’s humor is as much a coping strategy as anything else, and her eventual launch of a parenting blog that is by turns hilarious and heartbreaking provides a path to the sense of self Hanchett spends much of her memoir searching for. But her identity is as much daughter and granddaughter as it is writer, wife and mother, and great care is paid to her relationships with her parents and grandparents. In one particularly painful scene, Hanchett describes the good-bye she never had with a beloved grandmother who died when Hanchett was at her sickest.

As humans and as communities, we learn by looking pain in the face with honesty. Hanchett’s beautiful and brave memoir invites us to stare at her pain—and her triumph—in the hope that we may find a much-needed life-line, or offer one to those most dear to us.
Profile Image for Nancy Kho.
Author 6 books96 followers
March 31, 2018
What a read. Janelle's searingly honest, unflinching memoir of her life as an addict, a mom, the dark period of her life where those two roles collided, and her hard, courageous slog out is riveting. She unites self-awareness with deep, informed compassion for anyone who's gone through addiction struggles, and especially for the parents trying to be there for their children while fighting their demons. "I'm Just Happy To Be Here" is beautiful writing, and a story that will linger long past the final page.
March 26, 2018
I am not typically a reader of "mommy blogs", though I have followed Janelle's blog, Renegade Mothering, for years. I have always loved that she says what lots of us are feeling about parenthood. She knows what is feels like to love your children with ever fiber of your being and also be deeply annoyed, inconvenienced and disappointed about motherhood (plus she says the "F" word a lot and I can appreciate that when discussing offspring).

I'm Just Happy to Be Here chronicles Janelle's journey to emotional wholeness. It is DEEP and reveals pieces of a soul on a quest to help someone...somewhere...someday. The stories of the pull and power of addiction as well the desperation and desire to heal are riveting, educational and profoundly moving- if you are not teary by the end of this book, you have no heart.

I consider this ARC a gift I will treasure and I ended this book wanting more and more, feeling sad it was over, and jealous that she was blessed enough to find someone as truthful as Good Time Jack. I have so many passages underlined and plan to print them out on signs around my home to remind me I am not the only one and it's not crazy to feel the way I do... the way WE do.... thank you Janelle.
Profile Image for John Hanley.
3 reviews2 followers
April 18, 2018
I have followed the blog, @renegademothering, written by this book’s author, Janelle Hanchett, for several years now, and have found it to be a delight in its refusal to accept tired cliches about being a parent, even or especially to the point where she invites her readers to join her in “the fight against helpful parenting advice.” I mean, to my mind how can you not love an author who is that willing to call BS when she sees or hears it? And the fact that it does so in explicitly profane terms with liberal usage of the f-bomb along the way helps not a little in terms of the blog’s most appealing quality, at least to this humble reader — its deployment of voice in service of meaning.

And so, along with a large percentage of her readership, I warrant, I approached this book with its focus on addiction and recovery with some trepidation. Would it slip into the tired cliches of 12-step programs, in the process undermining the very attributes that I admired so much in her blog? In other words, would I have the respect for her work as book length product that I’d had for it in blog form? Well, I see now that I need not have worried as “I’m Just Happy To Be Here” is a fiercely argued, cunningly structured piece of intellectual as well as emotional property.

We see the fierceness of its argumentation at any number of points in the text — its lucid evocation of the moment when she decided she wanted to live after all comes to mind as do the pages in which she enters and then deftly exits the thicket of the role of a higher power in her survival. The cunning with which the text is structured is perhaps most on display in her clearly editorial choice to place the chapter in which she comes to terms with the role of her childhood difficulties in her adult struggles after the darkest moments of the text, so as not to imply a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy in which childhood trauma causes her later drinking. In fact, if there is a takeaway from this book, it has to do with the apparent randomness with which those who are stricken with The Disease suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives and how equally random the universe seems to be in picking “winners” and so how totally blessed she feels to be one who lived to tell the tale to the point where she got to make a book of it titled “I’m Just Happy To Be Here.”
Profile Image for Stephanie Jankowski.
Author 3 books33 followers
March 28, 2018
So, I really want to write something profound and meaningful that expresses how I feel about this book, about Janelle's story. I want to use exactly the right words that evoke exactly the right emotion, and leave no detail out, but truthfully? I'm having a hard time. Because how do you review someone's life? The bravery it takes to share the ugly underbelly of broken mental health and addiction and abandoning one's own children? This story is a gut-punch because it's so true. It's raw, and if you're not ready for honesty to stare you in the face, you're not ready for this book. I've read other reviews and people are actually upset with how "vanilla" Janelle's life was prior to falling into the abyss and to that I can only say: THAT'S THE POINT. Mental health issues and addiction aren't exclusive; there is no poster child for bipolar disorder or postpartum depression or cocaine addiction. Janelle could be any one of us--or any one of our family members or friends. The difference between the rest and Janelle is that she's telling her story instead of rotting in the ground because of it.

Rosemary carrots.
Motherhood fails.
Windshield wipers.
Whiskey benders.
Water births like the sunrise.
Abandoning your children.
Good News Jack.
Love, loss.

The dark humor juxtaposed with the severity of Janelle's situation made me laugh, then feel bad for laughing. I held on to the little glimpses of hope the way I imagine she and her family did, only to be fooled again and again by the ruse of sobriety. Even on the other side of addiction, she embodies this restlessness many of us have experienced in early Motherhood, and she doesn't apologize for wanting MORE. She loves her children and while she can finally delight in the seemingly small, like parent-teacher conferences, she makes no apology for lusting after intellectual stimulation, five minutes to herself, or a break from the monotony. What begins as a story like any of ours, morphs into something straight out of the movies, and eventually rounds out the edges, but make no mistake: the edges are still there.

A straight-talker, no-bullshitter, Janelle writes her blog in the same way. I highly recommend both Renegade Mothering and I'm Just Happy to Be Here if for no other reason than to read a woman who has been to the black, found her way home, and somehow continues to make us laugh as she exposes her darkest moments and most frightening thoughts.

(I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy of the book--it's not for sale until May, but you can--and should--preorder your copy today!)
Profile Image for Jen Renda.
32 reviews
September 22, 2018
I do feel a little bad about giving this book such a low review, but this is why. There was never a point in this book where I actually felt like there was a redeeming quality to her. The book told about all of the struggles that Hanchett had and at every turn she made the wrong choice or blamed others for the situation that she was in. We all have things in our life that kinda suck, but we need to do something productive to get through it. Drugs and alcohol aren't the answer. Blaming your husband for working and trying to provide for the family doesn't make the situation better. I'm sorry that she had such a rough go of things but a lot of the hurt could have been avoided by making better choices.
224 reviews3 followers
January 3, 2018
Unbelievable that author Janelle Hanchett was able to come out on the other side of her addictions, but she did. Fascinating memoir of her addiction, quest for sobriety and ability to pull her family back together. Janelle also has the website Renegade Mothering - more of her honest writing! Hard to read and to put down.
Profile Image for Rhiannon Giles.
1 review4 followers
April 25, 2018
I've been following Janelle's blog, renegademothering.com, for years. When I heard she had a book coming out, I was patiently-ish waiting the release date. And then I got my hands on an advance reader copy, so I did not have to pretend to be patient anymore.

I read the book in just a couple of days. And if you have small kids at home, you'll totally understand why that is quite the accomplishment. Side note: if you have small kids at home, you'll probably love this book. Unless you're the type of person who has pristine white couches and never worries about things like spills.

If someone was asked to describe this book in one word, I imagine most other someones would say, "addiction" (though I did just type "addition," which it is most definitely not about).

It's about Janelle and her addiction, yes. But it's also about losing and nearly losing everything that matters. It's about parenting when even "less than perfect" is a bar that feels out of reach.

And yes, it's dark and gritty. It's sad. Hilarious. Sometimes you'll find yourself laughing at something and feel fairly sure you're going straight to hell for finding it funny.

Look, I'm depressed* as f*ck right now and I still came over here to leave this review, because I want everyone to read it. Except the white couch lady.

(*side effects of this book do not include depression, I had to buy that separately)
Profile Image for Rita Arens.
Author 13 books171 followers
April 12, 2018

Janelle's story is a shocker, both for its rock-bottom and for its normal. I volunteered to be on the launch team for her memoir, I'M JUST HAPPY TO BE HERE, because after putting out a book about mental illness myself, I get how scary that is. Not only are you sort of laying yourself bare as a writer, you're exposing to the Instagram world what mental illness really feels like. Janelle's story is one of addiction and recovery, but I recognized in her writing a lot of the same rage I've felt at times in my life and the same mental pain that is so severe it feels physical.

What I've always admired about Janelle's writing: Her beautiful sentences. While I feel confident she could turn the mundane details of life into art, she's got some pretty compelling material to work with, and the result is truly important writing. A few of my favorite quotes:

I signed my daughter out, chatted with the receptionist, held my girl's hand to the car to make sure she was safe, and all these actions felt like tiny miracles. I gave the death glare to the woman when I saw her in the parking lot, because I was sober, not Jesus.

But then I would think of the inhumanity of my former life, of the morning I woke up and realized I could not exist among humankind, of the day I couldn't use the restroom properly, of the day I woke up alone in a hospital bed, and the day I spoke in the cracked dialects of the wholly insane, and I'd think, I am only human, and that is precisely the miracle.

And then, most disturbing of all, I got sober and realized I was still an asshole. I got sober and realized I still hurt people. I even resolved my childhood issues, and I'm still fucking bored.

My story wasn't untrue. It was simply unsustainable.

When I finished reading the book, I thought about all the ways everyone tries to self-medicate when we're still bored. I'm reading THE SHALLOWS right now, which is about how the Internet is affecting our brain circuitry and making it harder to focus. As pissed as I am at Louis CK right now, his ditty on how we can't stand to be alone with ourselves for even five minutes still deeply resonates. We joke about needing chocolate or a glass of wine or a Xanax, but not about another Oxy or some heroin, because dude, that is a serious problem. But isn't the real problem that we're bored? Janelle is no different from you or me: I've met her. She was making jokes and swigging water and wearing a baby. When I was unemployed, I avoided talking about it too much with people because I'd see the fear in their eyes that what happened to me might happen to them. I remember Stacy Morrison writing in her book about how her friends acted as if divorce was catching. What's truly terrifying about others' misfortunes is how easily they could happen to us.

What's amazing is that whatever misfortune befalls us, we can be resilient. It might take a try or twelve. It might take Good News Jack to overcome our three a.m. bad ideas. It might take getting over our egos or our childhoods or learning to sit with the shitty as well as the sublime. I've given all this a lot of thought in the past year with the lay-off and the cancer. Sitting with shitty is really hard. Learning to be more resilient is really hard.

Janelle has given us a gift with her honesty. We can't understand true resilience without seeing the bottom and hearing the mental monologue. This book is that.

89 reviews
July 11, 2018
This is NOT the book I thought it was going to be. Yes, there are parenting parts that we can relate to, however, this is about her gut wrenching journey with addiction, alcoholism and her ego driven ride that tells her “I’ve got this all under control”. She takes you by the hand and dives into her self-created hell and makes you feel the regret, the shame and desperation. Janelle takes the word vulnerable and puts it in ALL CAPS. I kept thinking to myself “she did not just do that”, and then “oh yes she did”. She is fierce, she is a badass and she so honestly owns her story. Just wow Janelle. Wait til Brene Brown and Oprah get a hold of this book if they haven’t already.
Profile Image for Keli.
6 reviews
April 8, 2018
This is the heart-breakingly beautiful story of motherhood through the messiness and disasters of alcoholism. It's the hero's journey that is hitting rock bottom and realizing that no one is going to save you except yourself, it is a memoir of "recklessness, rehab, and renegade mothering." It is balm for the soul and a reminder of our solidarity as women and mothers and humans in this messy life.

Here's an example of why I am in love with the way Janelle Hanchett writes:

"I suppose some of us don't have the luxury of neatly wrapped truth, of affirmations that rest on our tongue like peppermints. Some of us need to be doused in gasoline and set aflame, until the truth consumes us, and we have no choice but to recreate ourselves. A collision, as Baldwin says, when one must choose to live or die.

"I didn't want to feel better. I wanted to live.

"I didn't want the pain gone. I wanted it to mean something.

"When I found my voice, I didn't find answers--I found a purpose for every moment I had lived. I found power in every blackened room in my mind, every fear, every sad parent, every futile word and nightmare memory.

"Because it led me to you, to the place where we are the same, to the place where words draw a line from my bones to yours, and you look at me and say, 'I know,' and I look back at you, thinking, Well, I'll be damned. I guess we've been here together all along."

Not only is it an awesome book, it is brand-spanking new--you can get multiple copies--for yourself, your mom, your sister, your girlfriends--and get the word out about this beautiful work of love. You'll make your loved ones happy, and you'll help put an incredible rising author in a place where even more people will here her voice.
Profile Image for Brandy.
Author 1 book44 followers
April 4, 2018
This book moved me throughout the entire read. It also validated so much of my experience as a girl, wife, mother, and also as a human who feels wired a little bit differently from the rest of humanity. It was laugh-out-loud funny at the darkest parts, which I’ve learned is my litmus test for stellar writing – gut me and then make me laugh about the fact that I’m lying here bleeding to death. I am not an addict nor alcoholic, but damn if I don’t understand the inner-workings of these lost people better after having read this book. I’ve even got softness for them now – especially the mothers struggling with addiction who want their love for their babies to be enough to bring them to back to sober life. I had never delved into the mind of someone with addiction and the way Janelle Hanchett lays her life out there for us to oogle is a crash course on true vulnerability. You can read Brene Brown’s book “The Power of Vulnerability,” or you could just read Janelle Hanchett’s book detailing how she did lines of cocaine behind the craft store after dropping her daughter off at school. Honestly though, I’m sure Brown’s book is top quality, but Janelle’s is amazeballs.

I think what makes Janelle’s book so relatable, even for those who have never dealt with addiction or alcoholism, is that it speaks directly to the universal yearnings/prisons that motherhood brings. I had many similar feelings to Janelle, but I had no escape – or I chose no escape – so I didn’t numb out the hard parts. Sure, I didn’t almost lose my family and my life via drugs and alcohol, but I have been so effing present for every moment of motherhood and that in itself has been, well, a lot. It’s like Janelle and I are on two ends of the spectrum so far away that they start to bend towards each other and there we are next to each other, both grasping at straws – one sober, one not. For me, it’s “maybe if I get a part-time job, maybe if I get a babysitter more often, maybe if I meal plan better, maybe if I have a chore chart, maybe if I read Peaceful Parenting books and implement, maybe if I just TRY HARDER it will be easy and fun like thought it would.” We are all looking for a way out, in varying degrees, and Janelle’s book takes you through her stunningly written version of that. Some books make you want to go out and hike an Appalachian trail to find yourself. And other books, like this one, help you to see the tiny miracles in the most ordinary mom shit.
Profile Image for Bee Burkhart.
1 review
April 4, 2018
This book resonates. It resonates if you're a mom or an addict or your sister is an addict or if, when you listen to The Dead and Dylan, you feel that feeling deep in your soul. It's resonates if you're a human being with feelings (or a human being without feelings but they're really there, they're just buried down deep). It resonates if you've been to therapy or you've had a trauma or you've created a trauma in someone else.

This is a story of triumph but not your average fail once or twice, get back up, triumph story. It's about every day just showing up the best you know how in that moment. It's about evolution. It's about becoming. And it's f-ing brilliant.
Profile Image for Charlotte.
58 reviews1 follower
March 28, 2018
One of the strongest voices in my parenting journey has been that of Janelle Hanchett, the hilarious and profane author of the Renegade Mothering blog. The appeal of the blog is its fierce rejection of the beatific cult of motherhood and its earthy exploration of the realities of parenting. While that alone is enough to attract many readers, one of the more compelling aspects of Renegade Mothering is her past as a self-destructive alcoholic and addict, which gives Ms. Hanchett a humility that has created some of her best writing and created a devoted community of tens of thousands of readers.

I’m Just Happy to Be Here: A Memoir of Renegade Mothering is the background story of her life, beginning with the discovery that she was pregnant at 21 with a young man that she had only met a few months prior. Without harboring any doubts, she and her boyfriend keep the baby, who attends their wedding a year later. So begins her family, at an age that is unbelievably young by modern standards.

But – and here is the plot twist – Ms. Hanchett is in the beginning stages of a fight with addiction that will take her down some very dark roads that endanger the well-being of her first two children and the future of her marriage.

There is always a voyeuristic pleasure in witnessing a life that you wouldn’t lead, and here Ms. Hanchett certainly delivers. Her descriptions of the next few years, as her addictions grew worse and her lifestyle degraded into squalor, are the sort of thing that you really want to read from a distance. Yet Ms. Hanchett’s signature humor keeps the narrative from turning into a self-flagellation, as does her honest introspection about her motivations.

Her story is a rare narrative – the voice of the drug-addled mother – and it challenges our cultural assumptions about such women by telling the story in a middle-class context. Ms. Hanchett is helped by privilege – her white skin, a family that can hand over thousands of dollars for expensive rehab centers and take in her children, a completed college degree, an employer that was willing to to give her long periods of absence to address her addictions. And yet, while it could have easily turned into a Gilbertesque story of unaware self-finding, Ms. Hanchett doesn’t allow for it. She forces us to understand the women that she could easily have been, if she had been born into different circumstances. It is her confrontation and understanding of her failures despite her privilege that lead her to a place of pure humility and grace.

Readers of Renegade Mothering might be surprised to find that Ms. Hanchett’s voice is altered in her memoir, dropping the quick jokes that pepper her blog posts. And yet, this more serious tone suits the story, as an older Ms. Hachett narrates the realities of addiction for an audience that may not understand addictive behavior. For those of us with addiction in our families, her story will ring uncomfortably true, both in her stories of chasing the next high and in the recovery process. By the time Ms. Hanchett finds a lasting sobriety, we are battered with the brutality of the destructiveness of substance abuse and the failures of the health system to provide appropriate treatment, even to those who have the resources to navigate it.

Fans of Renegade Mothering will enjoy the novel for its deep-dive into the story that Ms. Hanchett has often referenced in her more personal posts. But those unfamiliar with the blog will also find a page-turning and addictive story about the potential of a young woman who lost her way for a time, only to emerge into the world of competitive mothering with enough self-knowledge to understand that it was time to build a community of her own.

1 review2 followers
April 4, 2018
This is truly a fantastic read!
One of those books that, once you pick it up, you just don't want to put it down.
I laughed, I cried, the writing is fantastic. I would recommend this book to women & mothers & people in recovery - but also, people who feel connected to the human condition of being alive & how we are all just trying to find our way through this thing called life.
Profile Image for Jordan Burnett.
1 review1 follower
March 27, 2018
Janelle’s account of the road to the bottom of alcoholism and the life that comes after is not only compelling but brutally honest. The moments she describes in the darkest places are palatable and transformative. The beautiful life she has built out of the ruins of addiction is infinitely inspiring. As a seasoned reader of her blog the stories were familiar but I found myself falling in love with the people in her stories all over again. The power of losing your ego and the strength you can find is beaming off the pages. I look forward to sharing this with every person I can, regardless of place on the spectrum in life anyone can find a kinship in her utter truth. This writing has changed my life and I’m forever indebted to this great work.
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