Charlestown’s Jack Kelly has become very well known for his activity in politics, and also for his very public acknowledgement of his life as a person in recovery from substance abuse.
His story has been inspirational to many in the Town and beyond, but so many times when he heard others tell the story, he said it just wasn’t exactly how it should be.
Now, he has taken up the pen and taken control of his own story, he said this week in anticipation of his ‘Sharp Needle’ book release and tour that starts at the Charlestown Library on Monday, Oct. 22, 6:30 p.m.
“I don’t look good in the book,” he said. “I don’t want to look good. I’m not a hero. There are a lot of things I put in there I am uncomfortable with. I’m not a cool convict in it. That’s the most important part of this book for me and I think for everyone else.”
Kelly has been very forward for a long time about his battle with drugs and how he recovered from that lifestyle, now being sober for 15 years. In that time, he has run for citywide office, served as a staffer to Councilor Bill Linehan, climbed Mt. Everest and run Triathlons.
But every day he wakes up and faces the same trauma and temptations that bombard someone in recovery. He said often someone else gets to tell the story of a person in recovery, and they miss the fact that it isn’t all over and wrapped up in a nice package. Instead, it’s a messy business that is constant.
“I was really messed up by that lifestyle,” he said. “I’m going on 15 years sober and three years ago I started having panic attacks, PTSD and feeling a lot of trauma. I had to seek help for it. All the trauma returned. There’s nothing glorious about it. I really wanted to destroy the myth that there was something glorious about this. Even when I spoke publicly, people would say that I turned my life around. In my head, I would think, ‘I did?’ I was content to go along with it. I built that brand. The book is about shattering that and describing what it really was.
“I want to let people know there is more to me than recovery and turning my life around,” he continued. “I’m not here only to inspire everyone. I still do things that aren’t so great. I’m a human being.”
Part of the book delves into his run for Council at large some years ago, and the non-stop tempo of a major political campaign for a person who is in recovery and taking one day at a time.
It was that campaign and some of his other numerous activities that drove Kelly to want to write a book that told an unvarnished truth.
He said he wrote the first part a few years ago, but then put it on a shelf as he struggled to get the right words to tell the difficult story.
However, after he climbed Mt. Everest earlier this year, he was ready to get the story on paper.
“Climbing Mt. Everest compelled me to start writing again,” he said. “After I got back, I was able to finish it in about six months. I just hit a lot of momentum. I was on a roll. It all just flowed and came out just right.”
Kelly said he chose his hometown to start the book tour, and he chose the library because it’s a very important place to him.
“I am going on a longer book tour, but it was important for me to start in Charlestown and it was important for me to do this at the Library because I really believe in the Library,” he said. “I don’t know if anyone else does anymore, but I certainly do.”
The author talk and reception for Kelly’s ‘Sharp Needle: A memoir’ will take place on Monday, Oct. 22, at 6:30 p.m. in the Charlestown Library.