Monday, October 20, 2008

Personal Growth

"Do one thing every day that scares you."

This is a line from a song I remember from awhile ago and I think it's appropriate to recovery. It's important for addicts to stretch their wings. When I speak to groups about recovery, one question that is always asked is: What do you do to fill all your time now that you're not using?

Being an addict takes a lot of time. From looking for drugs, to doing drugs, to trying to figure out how to get more's a full time job. Just the ritual of using consumes huge amounts of time. So what do you do when you find yourself sober with vast chunks of time on your hands?

Here's what I tell the women who ask me this question, since it's typically women I'm speaking to. Think back to your childhood - the time in your life before you started using. What was it that made you happiest? What did you spend most of your free time doing? Maybe it was reading, or drawing. Maybe it was riding a bike or other sports. Or what have you always wanted to do? It doesn't have to be some grand undertaking. It does have to be something that makes you happy, and it should be something that challenges you.

For me, it's writing. I've always loved to write and even in the depth of my addiction, I kept journals. When I was flailing around in early sobriety trying to find ways to fill my time, I experimented with different things, but it was always writing, and reading, that I came back to.

At first it was mostly reading. I've been reading since I was four years old and it's been a life long passion. As a meth addict, though, it's almost impossible to read a book. The concentration just isn't there. So when I finally got sober, I read voraciously - two, three, four books in a week. It was like I was trying to catch up on all the reading I had missed.

Writing was harder. My brain was still healing and the words didn't come as easily as I wanted them to. But I kept writing anyway. I think I wrote myself sober.

So when I asked myself, at the prodding of my therapist and people in my recovery groups: What would I do if I could do anything I wanted? The idea was to answer without fear or insecurity. Two things came immediately to mind and one of them was to be a professional writer. (The other was to be a stand up comedian, but that's a different story)

So I decided to do it. I had been sober for about three months when I wrote a fairy tale and sent it out to eight agents. All of them rejected the story, but four of them gave me specific feedback instead of the standard, "Not for us" note. Specific feedback is a rarity and I was thrilled! I made my own book out of the story and it sits on my coffee table in the living room. It's not the best writing I've ever done, but the book is beautiful and it represents the first book I've completed - let alone having the guts to send it "out there".

So I began writing more. I've entered a national contest, which I didn't win, and have entered another recently. I've completed the outline for the book I'm writing and I've signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year. The goal is to write 50,000 words toward a book during the month of November. I have high hopes. There are social events related to the challenge and I'm really looking forward to getting started.

All of this scares the hell out of me - but I'm doing it. There are times (a lot of times) when I'm filled with insecurity and doubt about my writing - but I'm doing it. I may never win a contest or be a published writer - but I'm doing it. I'm doing it for me and that's what matters.


  1. I'm not sure if I would enjoy writing a book but you have inspired me to try it and find out.

    Many thanks!

  2. Nice! Remember, it doesn't have to be writing a book. Just something that you love.