on addiction and writing and recovering

December 1, 2012

I wish I would have thought to write down every good thing that hit me in the gut that I’ve heard at recovery meetings. I haven’t. I would love to leaf through that notebook, to be reminded of all the simple truths spoken there. Many of them I’ve heard so many times, but on certain days, I finally really hear them. It would be so nice to look in my notebook, at a date in a corner, to see when I first “got” something and to ask myself if I still have it.

In reality, I have no way to do that, except to keep going back. That’s how I’ll be refreshed, I think. When complacency or pride slips in, I can hustle in the door and it will slam behind me and everyone will turn to see and then I’ll sit down and hold my coffee and be changed.

All the truths are walking around inside me, like cells, like they’re trying to become part of my DNA and it’s like they split and grow, split and grow, the more I stop to listen. They’re becoming muscle, to move my hands and feet and then forming into the very beat of my heart. I hope.

One of the first things I heard when I showed up there was that not very much had to change when you quit drinking–just one thing–everything. Ha ha, good one, I thought. But I didn’t really get it. I got it and didn’t and that’s why after hearing it many many more times, I’m finally ready to experience it. My next plan of action would therefore be to fix all the things and change all the things at once, overnight. Get it done. Like the twelve steps in treatment. Bang ’em out. Done. Forever. Good. See you later.

That’s not how it works. It’s an ongoing and forever kind of thing because even if it gets easier and I don’t think about drinking all that much, my addict subconscious is going to beg to drink, it’s an ongoing and forever kind of thing. So it’s been almost three years and not everything has changed, but I’ve gone to enough meetings to have heard about 1,000 times–progress, not perfection.

Let the truths move your arms and legs forward. Surrender to the truth that you are powerless over so much, especially over your own life. ba boom ba boom ba boom, that’s your heart, the strengthened muscle. It got its workout through the stories of other people and yours, held up with no shame and accepted with no pity and heard with ears that connect to minds and hearts with hope written all over them.

It’s not like those inspiring sayings on Pinterest and Facebook. Those are true and good a lot of the time, and maybe a whole bunch of people are seeing them at the same time as I am, but I can’t see them nodding so it’s just not the same.

We all like a lot of those same sayings though. We may not all be addicts of the chemical variety, but we’re all walking around trying to believe we’re going to walk far enough that we’ll achieve something that feels finished and shiny and polished like perfection. Like we’ll be so self-actualized that we’ll finally know peace and contentment like never before. We’ll have no dissonance or lies, no unsettling subconscious recognition of the mistakes we’ve made. We’ll finish therapy and couple’s therapy and reading all the self help books and inspiring quotes on the Internet and then breathe deeply our own wisdom and become the guru we were always meant to be, once the work is done. And then we’ll maybe write the most amazing book that’s ever been written, because we’ve “made it” somewhere, but I don’t know where. No one has ever actually been there.

Take my writer self, for instance. Can I do this right? Is begging people to Just Write, to let go of the critic and free write…right? Maybe not, really. Maybe there are 3,892 ways to write. So free write or don’t, just write, in whatever process that is yours and then keep talking about it. Listen to other writers because it’s like a meeting, you have writing in common with them and no matter how different you are, they’re going to say something that sheds light on your journey when you turn it over like that stone in your hand and look at how it fits in your piles. They might put their stones on a shelf and you might throw yours across the room and I might put mine in my pocket for just in case.

My friend Schmutzie said on Twitter one time that writer’s block isn’t real because if you can speak a sentence you can write a sentence. I believe that’s true and I love how she put a shape with letters in it for something that hadn’t become a muscle for me quite yet. Now I can flex it and share it and other writers will remember that sitting there feeling like there isn’t anything to say if it’s not going to come out right isn’t writer’s block. Maybe it’s ego. Or perfectionism, because a person could write and write

and write and write and re-write and edit and re-write forever and ever. It would never stop because there are so many words and so many ways to twist them, to tell a story, the same story, in so many different ways. none of them are wrong and none of them are right and that’s what’s so hard sometimes.

Ego is not always entirely bad but usually our egos are made up of unformed muscles, like insecurity and resentment, pride and arrogance. False humility. I’m only saying this because I’m so familiar. I can only work on it. Progress. Not perfection.

I have to walk through life with other people’s word stories as muscle and I have to write like I believe that however the story ends up telling itself, it is the right story for that moment in time with these tools that I have, today. And that it will ring in the ears and hearts of the people who read it, maybe even just two people, on just the right day for them to feel it turning over inside of them from cells to muscle. Every time I write I have to fight the temptation to go back and over it and over it and over it and starting Just Write in this space is saving me from my perfectionism because somehow people tell me my words were their story and said in just a way that made sense to them in that moment, even if maybe a hundred other people just half nodded and clicked away. Another day, maybe a word or two of mine might hush the clamoring in their minds and ring a deep truth, but not every time. Sure, I want that to happen to everyone, I want to be just that brilliant or something, but that’s just as impossible as believing there’s only one way to say things. Or one way to live things out.

This is about acceptance. Most things are.

I just wanted to tell you that. And also, did you know that Megan had a good thing happen to her? You should go see. I love her honesty about her process and the way she tells it. And then on Twitter, that thing happened, in which another writer said, Yes. Me too. Every word. I get it. I thought I was alone. That sort of thing. Oh how I love me a ME TOO.

It’s good to be here with you.

Happy weekend, friends.


MidnightCafe December 1, 2012 at 8:04 pm

“All the truths are walking around inside me, like cells, like they’re trying to become part of my DNA and it’s like they split and grow, split and grow, the more I stop to listen. They’re becoming muscle, to move my hands and feet and then forming into the very beat of my heart.”

I LOVE this. Thank you for saying it just this way.
MidnightCafe recently posted..Candles – A reflection for lighting the first candle of Advent

Kim December 1, 2012 at 8:24 pm

This makes me happy and I needed to read it. I’ve written very little the past few months and I can feel that yucky tiredness that comes with writing-muscle atrophy.

Thank you. And Me Too.
Kim recently posted..a hole in the cold: #FortnightofFlash

Varda (SquashedMom) December 2, 2012 at 5:02 am

Love you and love this and love your words and love your not-words and love your process and me too, too! Me too! Me too! (xoxoxo my friend)
Varda (SquashedMom) recently posted..November Round-Up: What I Loved on OTHER People’s Blogs

Varda (SquashedMom) December 2, 2012 at 5:04 am

Oh also wanted to tell you (and here is as good a place as any) that your extraordinary blog conversation with Vikki made it into my November round-up post of what I loved on other people’s blogs!
Varda (SquashedMom) recently posted..November Round-Up: What I Loved on OTHER People’s Blogs

Stephanie Precourt December 2, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I wrestle with it, I do, but I am so glad it’s there fighting with me. If it’s real we both win.

Stephanie Precourt recently posted..Open to Close

Heather December 3, 2012 at 11:14 am


“If it’s real we both win.”

There you go again with your brevity. Saying it all in so little. I love it so much.

Misty December 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I’m a faithful reader (lurker more often) and have been for a long time now. To this- and to so much that you wrestle into words most beautifully, I say “Yes! Me too!” Oh so grateful for you.

Heather December 3, 2012 at 11:09 am

Oh I’m so grateful, too! Thank you for saying your ME TOO. Thank you.


Kerstin December 2, 2012 at 8:02 pm

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one” C.S. Lewis
I love this quote, which my friend Kimberly used in a post on her blog Sperk*. It sums up this feeling of Me too!, which you make possible for us to say, Heather. Because of your writing and your honesty you give people the feeling that it’s safe to say Me too! to you.
Every week with Just Write you have bloggers all over the place thinking (and saying out loud) Me too! – thank you for that.

Heather December 3, 2012 at 11:10 am


I LOVE that CS Lewis quote. And for all that you’ve said here, I’m just so grateful. I really am. Thank you.


Tabatha December 2, 2012 at 8:31 pm

I don’t know how you knew exactly how to speak to my heart.

But there it is.

Again, and always, I am sosososo very grateful for you and your kindness and just you.

Thank you.
Tabatha recently posted..It All Comes Down To 27lbs Of Poultry.

Heather December 3, 2012 at 11:11 am

Does anyone call you Tabs? Tabby?
Just curious.

I heart your face off. Thank you. I LOVED your post about all of this and I’m so glad to have met you in person. And here. Thank you.


Erica@PLRH December 3, 2012 at 9:27 am

My Mom is a recovering alcoholic. I’m recovering from PTSD. In trying to understand what I’m going through, she related that the recovery for each one is an ongoing, lifelong commitment.

Your words sum up my original approach to PTSD treatment:
“My next plan of action would therefore be to fix all the things and change all the things at once, overnight. Get it done. Like the twelve steps in treatment. Bang ‘em out. Done. Forever. Good. See you later.”

A few years later, I understand, progress, not perfection.

Also, I’ve been blogging for several years… just stuff. Nothing earth shattering. But now I feel the words wanting to come out and I’ve got to admit that it feels a little scary.

Anyway, I want to say thank you because your words let me know that you and others do understand what this recovery thing is all about.

Heather December 3, 2012 at 11:13 am

Knowing that I can choose progress, not perfection has saved me BIG TIME from myself. And it MUST be on-going, because if I figure I have it figured it out, it’s at that very moment that I completely forget and take 3987 steps back, as if I’ve never learned a thing. I need a constant refresh button, so I go to meetings and I keep talking to my friends and reading and writing. I must. Since I’m so human.

Thank you for your words.

Lady Jennie December 3, 2012 at 2:11 pm

My alcohol recovery was buried in my spiritual conversion (it happened shortly afterwards) and it does almost feel like a “done, thank you, later” at times because my husband and I don’t drink, we fought to have alcohol-free wine in our Parisian congregation (where France = wine), and everyone knows the deal with me because I’m very open about it. It doesn’t mean that I don’t ever dream of a dark and smoky bar or anything, but it’s not a strong pull with me.

My ongoing is the constant effort to become Christlike – overcoming my core temptations (greed especially), trying to grow in humility (HA) – well, you know, the list goes on. That is the forever work in progress for me (and which can at times be so daunting). And I should add that I don’t think myself beyond the temptation of alcohol – it’s just not worth it to me to deny who I’ve been for the last 15 years.
Lady Jennie recently posted..Friday Night

Galit Breen December 6, 2012 at 8:10 am

Your honest and your raw and your real are breath taking.

You give me Hope. {For real.}

Galit Breen recently posted..Joining the Moonfrye Team!

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