Being able to express myself freely through the written word is the greatest gift borne out of my recovery.
If you had told me seven years ago that I’d be a full-time freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon, I would have said you were crazy. Back then I was circling my rock bottom, feeling like the world was about to end. I had nothing to live for and zero hope for the future.
Three months later when I got sober, my life invariably got a whole lot better—mostly because I’d stopped slowly killing myself by drinking four bottles of wine and smoking two packs of cigarettes every day. It wasn’t easy, though. I remember feeling so completely lost. I felt this out-of-body experience: Who am I? Why am I here? What is this place?
Not knowing which direction my life was going and feeling alienated from my body and who I was, my first sponsor suggested I pick up my pen and begin journaling. I had no clue what to write or where to start. She gave me a few prompts:
The last suggestion had me flummoxed. “What have I done right?” I asked. At the time, “doing something right” was a strange concept to me. But my therapist was trying to help me begin a practice of developing self-esteem. I started by acknowledging simple facts: I’d cared for myself that day by showing up, had fed myself, and kept myself from drinking. And those all meant that I had performed great acts of self-love. I was beginning to see that I was doing something right each day.
Perhaps most profoundly, though, writing was the catalyst to connect my physical body and my mind. Before I started writing, I felt like I was drowning in an ocean of emotions I’d tried desperately to numb. Through writing, I opened up. I took a good look inside, and I was able to start unpacking what made me tick.
Before long, my daily entries were pages long. I couldn’t stop writing. It was as if someone had opened up the well of feelings and traumatic experiences I’d been repressing. Through writing, I started processing the things that pained me and woke me up at night. I also became aware of my inquisitive and creative nature and began exploring what interested me.
I started to look forward to the ritual of writing each day. I’d make a cup of tea and sit at my desk in the early hours with a pen and paper, connecting to my innermost thoughts. Its gifts were endless, but the one I’ve enjoyed the most is the sense of peace that comes over me when I write. Even if I feel my words come out in a flurry, before long I feel grounded and in the present moment—even if just for a few minutes.
Writing has been my most powerful tool in maintaining my recovery.