William D. Holland’s memoir And the Blind Shall See is a story that scans six decades. Throughout his first nine months, William was blind. He had passed through nine different foster homes, during which time he had experienced little by way of stimulation or love, causing him to suffer Failure to Thrive Syndrome. Finally, a couple adopted him and offered him all the love, security, and stimulation he needed, which resulted in him gaining his sight.
As can be the case with adopted children, there is often an underlying insecurity and propensity towards self-destructive behaviour, even when they are in receipt of much love and reassurance. William’s adoptive parents raised him to know right from wrong, have good manners, to care for his neighbour, help the underdog etc. Consequently, he grew up wanting to help other people, whether in his work or in a voluntary basis out in the community. But he was never able to shake off an underlying melancholy, which erupted into uncontrollable grief over the sudden death of his father. It was then that he turned to the bottle and started his courtship with that self-destructive demon, alcohol. What followed, was a battle that lasted several decades, destroying relationships, losing him jobs, until finally he managed to swear off drink permanently, with the support of his wonderful current wife.
What I loved the most about this book is that the author has made no attempt to paper over the cracks as he lays bare the devastation his addiction to the bottle reaped upon himself and those who cared about him. We read of a man who had regained his physical sight but was still in effect blind. He had been rejected at birth, which meant he could be rejected again, and again, and again. This fear drove him to the bottle. The bottle gave him false confidence and hoodwinked him into believing himself clever, witty, popular, desirable, when in fact it was having the reverse effect and destroying his relationships, his career as a teacher, and his mental health.
On a personal level, this book gave me an insight into something that had puzzled me for many years and enabled me to lay to rest one almighty ghost in my own life, which in turn has led to forgiveness. Although I understood why people might hit the bottle when they had nothing to live for, I could not understand why they would do so when they had everything to live for. Furthermore, the whole notion of high-functioning alcoholics baffled me further. Thanks to William’s testimony, I now know the answer to these questions. Alcoholism is an illness and needs treating as such, just as heart disease, or cancer are illnesses. Alcoholism reaps havoc not only on the sufferer but upon their families and loved ones.
If you want to get a real good look inside the head of an alcoholic, whether you are an alcoholic in denial or a victim of that alcoholic, or a therapist working with alcoholics, this is the book for you. Even if you are none of these things, this is a mightily moving and inspirational memoir, written by a wonderful human being. William D. Holland, you are officially a hero.
A former teacher, former business owner, former fill-in-the-blanks with dozens of other jobs, William D Holland (Bill) can now be found in Olympia, Washington, writing, gardening, walking his dogs, and living a very simple life with his wife, Bev.