Content warning: One Good Reason contains some open and honest revelations about sexual abuse and addiction. You may want to be careful reading it if this kind of subject matter is difficult for you to handle.
Launched just last week, One Good Reason: A Memoir of Addiction and Recovery, Music and Love is the memoir written by Great Big Sea co-founder Séan McCann and his wife, Andrea Aragon. The book was published by Halifax-based Nimbus Publishing on April 14th, 2020. I recently finished reading it four days ago, tearing through it a lot faster than I anticipated.
It’s a short read (just 240 pages), but it’s packed with a lot of information I definitely didn’t know before. In fact, it’s pretty accurate to say I really had no idea about Séan McCann’s life at all, and the only name I knew from Great Big Sea was Alan Doyle. But One Good Reason changed all of that, and I learned quite a bit.
I was also quite shocked by a lot of the truths in the book – mostly to learn that McCann was sexually abused as a teenager by his priest. This life-changing abuse is what led him to become, as he describes, a functioning alcoholic. If I knew little about McCann, it’s safe to say I knew nothing of his wife, Andrea Aragon.
That part of the book was rather interesting. In the first part (and there are five parts to the book), both of them describe their youth from their own perspective. As you get into Part II, you start to get descriptions of their life – both how they met, and then again of them together – and it’s fascinating to read about events from each perspective. Some of their observations are similar, but they both provide different layers to the stories.
The chapter that caught my attention the most was “Mental Marketing”. Without diving into spoiler territory, I have long felt that the drive for mental health awareness in the media is much too “corporate”. While it is a positive movement, I feel like the corporations that push it (such as Bell’s “Let’s Talk” day) receive far more benefit than those suffering from mental health issues.
It’s a little validating to learn that McCann feels the same way. In this chapter, he describes in frustrating detail how hard it is to genuinely raise awareness and help those who need it. In particular, this quote on page 193 caught my attention:
“The truth is “#mentalhealth” is an industry and it runs on money.”Séan McCann, One Good Reason, pg. 193
I don’t think I’ve seen it better described than that. But it’s not all negative. He mentions a couple of people in particular that have told their story and fight for awareness in Clara Hughes and Sheldon Kennedy. Séan views those two as close friends as well as heroes, and I agree with him.
There were several other pieces in the book that spoke to me and I found to be quite relevant. On page 205, he describes anger as “the enemy”; and in the chapter “Addiction Goes Digital”, he talks about how people are attached to their screens (especially his children). I thought that chapter in particular is a great read, especially during this pandemic.
One Good Reason is full of eye-opening truths, some of which are hard to read; but I highly recommend it even if you don’t personally relate to everything in the book (I’ve never been abused nor do I have any addictions I struggle with). You might be surprised at what you pull from the book that you can apply to your own life.
I rated this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. You can buy the book from Indigo and likely most places books are sold. You can also go to Séan’s website (https://www.seanmccannsings.com) to hear his music.
I forgot to mention that he provides lyrics to his songs from his album Help Your Self in between some parts of the book, so I recommend listening to that album as you read through One Good Reason. You can also find it on Spotify.