I remember when I heard that George McGovern’s daughter Terry had died from drinking and falling down, frozen in the snow, in 1994.  I had ten years of sobriety then, but before I got sober I had my own could-have-died experience in the snow when I pulled off the road, too drunk to continue, and snow quickly covered my car.  AA friends found me and likely saved my life that time.  They took me to the hospital for detox but when I got out of the hospital, I continued drinking.


Terry’s story is like that but obviously, ultimately, much worse.  She was a life-long journal writer, and her father went through those journals after she died, and he uses many of her own words in the book.  He was not an alcoholic, but he tried hard to understand alcoholism and to explain it to us.  Some of the passages he uses from her early journals show what we would call “alcoholic thinking,” and he does a great job tying them to her inability to maintain sobriety through many, many years of trying.


It is certainly a tragic story.  Terry had, it seems from the outside, just about everything, and her family supported her financially and spiritually and even left her to herself when it seemed best to do that.  Terry had education and brains and two great children.  She went through literally years of daily psychotherapy, and she spent years in AA.  She went to expensive elite rehabs and she got committed to hospitals against her will.  They were just about to commit her again when she chased the drink as far as possible, and she died.


I highly recommend the book.  I feel it is very well done, and it adds insight from the unusual perspective of a father informed by his daughter’s own writings.  When Terry died, I knew that it could have been me.  I knew that it would be me, if I was lucky, if I started drinking again.  It reaffirms for me that I am one of the lucky, lucky, lucky ones, just for today.

One thought on “Terry

  1. I keep a stack of these on my bookshelf all the time because I give it away to just about everyone I meet when comes into AA for the first time.

    I covered the McGovern presidential campaign as a journalist and was quite impressed with the man — not as a political figure, of course, but very much from a personal perspective.

    I wept when read his book, having had no real idea of his loss, and am grateful for his candid portrait of the anger, frustration and ultimately grief the family experienced at Terry’s death.

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