Kelly Bookamer’s life looks like anything but that of a victim. In the last year, she self-published a book of poetry, appeared as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show and began working as a life coach, spreading the word about the “law of attraction.”
But according to Ms. Bookamer, before her father died, things were much different.
“I thought I was supposed to be the victim,” she said during a recent interview at her mother’s home in Quogue.
Suffering from the fallout of her father’s alcoholism, Ms. Bookamer said she has been on anti-depressants since college. And although she went on to become a wife, a mother and a second-grade teacher at Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School, she was living in a state of utter turmoil and confusion.
“Letting go has been the most effective anti-depressant for me,” she writes in the introduction to her book, “Dear Dad: Life Through the Eyes of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic.”
More than a year after her father, Sidney Phillips, died, the 30-year-old says she’s finally forgiven him and has transformed her life using the “law of attraction.”
Last winter, shortly after her father’s death, Ms. Bookamer read “The Secret,” a book that she credits for much of her transformation. Written by Rhonda Byrne, the book focuses on the theory of the “law of attraction” and gained popularity after being promoted by Oprah Winfrey. Reading it encouraged Ms. Bookamer to accomplish the one thing that had always been in the back of her mind: publish a book of her poetry.
“Only when you release your story can you really start the healing process,” she said.
For years, Ms. Bookamer said, she had wanted to write a book and people repeatedly told her to publish her poetry, which she had been writing since she was a child. The closest she had come was when her mother, Sheila Phillips, sent one of her poems to the columnist Dear Abby. But after reading “The Secret,” Ms. Bookamer said she decided to self publish a collection of her poems about how her father’s alcoholism affected her.
Soon after, she hired Texas-based life coach Kate Corbin as a coach and a mentor. Ms. Bookamer said she wanted to learn how to coach others and learn how to achieve what she wanted in her own life.
When using the “law of attraction,” Ms. Bookamer explained, people choose a list of goals they believe they will achieve. The trick is to truly believe you will achieve these things, she said. “It’s like fake it till you make it.”
Ms. Bookamer’s first goal was not to make $1 million or to land her dream job; it was to be on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Farfetched, maybe, but still, Ms. Bookamer listed the goal on her “vision board”—a figurative platform similar to a bulletin board for highlighting goals and aspirations—and the universe took care of the rest. The next thing she knew, her life coach was asking her if she wanted to be on a segment of Oprah that was going to highlight the “law of attraction.”
“You get what you’re thinking about,” Ms. Bookamer explained enthusiastically.
Shortly after she had shared her new goal with Ms. Corbin, the life coach had received an e-mail from a friend about the Oprah show looking for life coach clients with success stories to share.
Quickly, Ms. Corbin put Ms. Bookamer in touch with her friend and she submitted her story.
The next thing she knew, Ms. Bookamer was on the phone with Oprah producers.
“They called me,” she said, explaining that she had never queried or contacted the Oprah show prior to that.
Since discovering “The Secret,” Ms. Bookamer says her life has transformed for the better.
“It’s the most powerful tool you can imagine. You get what you think about,” she said with a smile brightening her face. “It’s just like gravity.”
While she did not discuss her book on the show, which aired in January, Ms. Bookamer said publishing her poetry was the catalyst that jump-started the rest of her experiences this year.
“After I decided to go for it, within four months it was published,” she said.
In the last few months, Ms. Bookamer has also been invited to speak to students at a school in Rye, New Hampshire, and has been interviewed by a few East End publications. And although she admits she hasn’t been writing recently, she says this entire experience has helped with the sales of her book and has been life altering.
“So many people can relate to this,” she said, discussing her book.
After she spoke to eighth-graders in New Hampshire, a photo of Ms. Bookamer appeared on the front page of the local newspaper and she was sent heartfelt letters of gratitude from the students.
“They were really into it. I told them two things: writing is very powerful and write like no one will read it; and there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Ms. Bookamer spoke those words from personal experience. As a teenager, she said she would turn to writing when she felt there was nowhere else to go. “I wrote out of desperation. I felt like there were bullet wounds in my soul,” she explained.
Candid about her experience growing up in a house with an alcoholic, Ms. Bookamer said she had spent her entire life blaming her father.
“Now I’m thanking him … I forgave him after he died. I like who I am now. My life is completely fantastic,” she said. In addition to her professional life, Ms. Bookamer said she is grateful for the support of her husband, Bryan, and her 2-year-old son, Charlie.
Today Ms. Bookamer is still teaching and working part-time as a life coach.
“I’m reminding people of what they already know,” she said about her new role as a coach. “I love it.”
Still, Ms. Bookamer explained that coaching is no replacement for therapy.
“Therapy is delving into your past. Life coaching is different. It focuses on your future. It has nothing to do with your past,” she said.
As for her future, Ms. Bookamer said her vision board is constantly evolving and changing. Although she hasn’t been writing poetry, she said she is planning to write children’s books about dealing with alcoholism.
“What I really want is for people to learn from me, specifically adult children of alcoholics. I want them to know that they can turn their lives around, to know that they can have control over their own lives and that life’s not controlling them.”
“It’s been like a whirlwind,” she said. “You can be and do anything you want.”