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Book Review: 'A Perfect Brightness of Hope' tells personal tale of overcoming addiction

Published: Sunday, Dec. 16 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

"A PERFECT BRIGHTNESS OF HOPE," by Phil Simkins, Cedar Fort, $16.99, 256 pages (nf)

In 2009, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 51.9 percent of Americans 12 and older had used alcohol at least once in the 30 days prior to being surveyed and 23.7 percent had binged (drinking more than five drinks within two hours). Statistics concerning heavy drinkers are startling. The potential for addiction is seemingly great, and it’s the topic of a heartfelt new book about an Mormon man's journey through the nightmare of alcoholism.

Phil Simkins is an admitted alcoholic. Raised in a small town in southern Utah, he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a father and husband, and he even taught seminary and religion classes at Brigham Young University. Despite being blessed with incredible talents to help other people, Phil didn't think he could help himself from becoming a hopeless alcoholic. He needed divine help.

It takes courage to put yourself out there as an addict, and in his book "A Perfect Brightness of Hope," Phil painfully describes his downward spiral into addiction that started during beer-filled teenage camping trips and continued to his days teaching a roomful of students while under the influence. It's one of the most honest accounts from an addict you will find.

Phil's addiction caused him to lose everything in his life: family, religion, jobs, self-respect and hope. He struggled for years to gain control but could not. His fear, guilt and need for alcohol kept him paralyzed, lost and fearful.

Fortunately this book has a happy ending. After Phil hits a breaking point, several things occur in his life that are simply miraculous. The book testifies that God doesn't abandon people even when they make foolish choices and wind up seemingly helpless. The myriad good people that came into Phil's life even when he wasn't ready to change help make the reader realize how acts of kindness can change the future.

Phil walks the reader through his entire story using excerpts from his journal. It's fascinating to listen to his thought process. To read his own words while he was right in the middle of trouble is fascinating. The reader learns the human soul's desire for light even when it is filled with darkness. This is definately recommended for anyone struggling with addiction. It also offers a candid peak inside the recesses of the human soul. The book comes with endorsements from Stephen Covey and Steve Young.

Ryan Morgenegg is a multimedia specialist for the Deseret News.

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