MERIDEN — In 2017, city native and author Candy House was faced with a gut-wrenching dilemma.
In between attending parenting co-ops, and her writing schedule, House needed to have a conversation with her 10-year-old son Atlas prior to the release of her first book.
How was House going to tell him she had been an addict on and off for seven years?
“If I didn’t tell him soon, it would become a lie by omission, a distance between us, a secret that might leave him feeling like he doesn’t really know me,” House wrote in her newly-released memoir, “Mother Noise.”
House introduces her unique dilemma in the lead paragraph of “Mother Noise,” published by Simon & Schuster. After that, the memoir weaves House’s memories of her childhood in South Meriden and Cheshire, her debilitating depression and anxiety, her years as a college student and addict in Chicago and current life as a critically acclaimed author and parent living in New Haven.
House will be the featured speaker at an author’s forum sponsored by the Meriden Public Library on Sept. 24, at 2 p.m. at the Augusta Curtis Cultural Center.
House will discuss “Mother Noise,” her personal story told in essays and graphic shorts about life 20 years after recovery from addiction.
In addition to being an essayist, short story writer and artist, House is also a regular opener for author and performer David Sedaris on his tours across the country. She studied at the School of Art Institute in Chicago, where Sedaris was her instructor, mentor and friend, even during her struggles with heroin and alcohol.
“He saved my life,” she said during an interview Thursday at Hubbard Park.
After many stints in rehab, House went on to earn a master’s degree in Fine Arts from Lesley University in 2017. She has been sober for more than 20 years.
In her book, House recalls a meeting with Sedaris in 1989 that she clung to during the many days of “sweating through withdrawals in scratchy hospital sheets,” she wrote.
David and I sit in an empty classroom to have our final meeting for the independent study I am taking with him. “You could go to any grad school you wanted,” he says to me. “You can go to Iowa if you want to. Your work is that good. You’d get in.”
At that time, neither or us had any way of knowing that I would need to hold on to that moment for decades, seeing it in my mind ... We couldn’t know that I would close my eyes and replay it in hospitals and halfway houses for years, that it would become all I had left.
“Mother Noise” has also received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews, as well as from Bill Clegg, author of “Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man.”
“The scope of Cindy House’s knowledge is as remarkable as her humor, her depth, and her great skill as an essayist,” Sedaris writes on the book jacket. “This is her time.”
In a chapter called The Tell, House uses graphic drawings to share how she braced for sharing her uncomfortable past with Atlas. She used a rat video about an experiment that showed that a rat alone in a cage would self-administer drugs from a water bottle until he died, but rats in a cage together with their needs met, would not choose drugs.
I told him I was showing him the video because I once used drugs to cope with my depression.
Dead silence, then laughter.
I thought I’d planned for every reaction he might have but I did not see myself having to convince him that it wasn’t a joke.
It’s true, I said.
I watched him take it in. The angle of the bright ray of sun shifted across the dining room table. We sat there, witnessing the new versions of each other that had been uncovered.