September is National Recovery Month, a celebration of the reality of recovery from addiction. During this month people in recovery, their family, friends and allies go all out to celebrate, educate and be the voice of hope for those who are unable to speak from their addiction.
First, a little background
My sister, Laura Griffith, is a person in long-term recovery from alcoholism. She hasn’t had a drink for over 12 years, and I thank God every day for her recovery. I can speak openly about her alcoholism because she does, and because she has made helping others find long-term recovery her mission.
About five years ago, Laura founded a nonprofit called Recover Wyoming, which serves people in and seeking long-term recovery. RW also provides information and services to the broader community – family members, employers – basically anyone whose life has been impacted by addiction.
Laura’s decade-long slide into alcoholism was hell for me and my family, I won’t lie about that. But I grew along the way. I learned a lot, and those lessons have helped me in my own life. I also became familiar with various aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous, including the slogans that members of this twelve-step family share with each other constantly.
I think Recovery Month is a good time to think about how AA slogans can apply to the writing life. Starting with…
One day at a time
Affectionately known as “ODAT”, this slogan is a bedrock one for many people in the fellowship. It speaks to the issue that it can sometimes be too difficult to imagine being sober for the rest of your life, and it’s better to focus on remaining sober one a day at a time, even one hour at a time. It also reminds people that addiction is a disease, and like any disease, it must be treated daily.
I invoke ODAT frequently when I get impatient with my writing progress and when my ambition gets ahead of my skill set. I must manage my writing life for the long term, but I do it one day at a time.
Just do the next right thing
Trying to stay sober can be overwhelming. When people are rebuilding their lives from the chaos of addiction, they are often dealing with health, legal and financial issues as well as the mending of relationships. It’s easy to fall apart under the stress.
Just do the next right thing is a mantra that leads to productive progress in the right direction.
Writing can also be overwhelming.
This slogan comes in handy when I feel myself starting to get frantic. When I have too many projects, deadlines, demands on my time, I can end up running in circles. Just do the next right thing reminds me that the only way I’ll get anything done is to take it one task at a time. Thinking about the next right thing to do ensures that I’ll check in with my priorities, because often the thing that is clamoring for my attention in the moment may not actually be the most important one for the development of my writing.
Progress not perfection
This slogan is pretty self-explanatory. In A.A. meetings people will pull this one out when somebody is being too hard on themselves or has unrealistically high expectations. They know that too often perfectionists take a “if I can’t do it perfectly, I’ll just give up” mindset that is not compatible with sobriety.
I use this one a lot. For me, it’s a slap up side of the head that says: “Stop it, Lynn! As long as you are learning and improving your writing skills, you are on track.”
I’ve learned that when I get hung up on my still-not-perfect prose, I stall out and that’s no good.
Fake it ‘til you make it
This one is all about attitude. For people seeking recovery, it addresses the “imposter syndrome” problem, when somebody might not really feel like they have earned the title of Person in Recovery yet.
They are encouraged by members of the A.A. fellowship to “act as if…” and do the things that sober people do. Longtime sober people know that acting is all part of the deal, and eventually your self-image will catch up to the reality.
For me, fake it ‘til you make it means that I should not get hung up on whether or not to call myself a writer. I should ignore those pesky questions in my head, like “Do I qualify?” and “Is it presumptuous to call myself a writer until I publish something big?”
Instead, I should just act like a writer, which to me means that I write daily, read a lot and study the art, craft and business of writing. I also keep submitting my work for publication and accept rejections as they come along as growing proof of my status as a working writer.
If you keep going to the barber shop, eventually you’ll get a haircut
This slogan is basically a warning to those seeking recovery that if they hang out in the same places with the same people as they did when they were using/drinking, they’ll relapse. It's also one of the reasons that places like RW's Recovery Center (1603 Capitol Avenue, #405 in Cheyenne) are so important--people newly sober can go there and be with people who are very serious about their own sobriety. It's kind of a recovery barber shop, you could say, where people get the right kind of haircut.
I think of the slogan in positive terms as it pertains to my writing life: if I keep showing up at the computer, ready to write, something will get written.
This pays homage to the importance of creating writing rituals. For me, morning journal-writing and regular sessions in my writing room is where I create the writing habit. It also encourages me to hang around people who are serious about their writing, and participate in writing groups and organizations like Wyoming Writers, Inc.
There's wisdom there
I hope you’ll find some of these slogans to be useful in your writing life. There is wisdom there for us all.
Oh, and if you are curious about Recover Wyoming and would like to learn more about what this organization does, please visit www.recoverwyoming.org.
While I’ve got you here, I want to announce a new project. I am going to serve as editor of an anthology. All the pertinent information is spelled out below or you can visit the publisher’s website at www.tuliptreepub.com.
If you are a person in recovery (or a family member of one), I hope you will consider submitting. If you know a writer who is in recovery, please share the information with them.
This will be my first time editing an anthology, so I’m going to have to fake it ‘til I make it.
Wish me luck!
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
TulipTree Publishing is currently accepting submissions for:
“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save;
they just stand there shining.”
- Anne Lamott
This anthology will include stories and poetry about recovery, written by people who have lived it or witnessed the journey of a loved one.
Submissions must be received by January 9, 2016. Contributors will receive a free copy of the anthology.
No anonymous entries will be accepted. If you have questions about protecting Twelve-Step Program anonymity, visit www.facesandvoicesofrecovery.org and read their brochure on “Advocacy with Anonymity.”
Proceeds will benefit Recover Wyoming, a Recovery Community Organization based in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
For additional information, visit www.tuliptreepub.com.
Note from the Editor:
We are looking for quality writing from all points of view. The focus is on recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Family members are encouraged to write about their own recovery journey.
Our goal in gathering these stories is to allow them to “stand there shining” and show the world the reality of recovery.
--Lynn G. Carlson