Tuesday, September 29, 2015


post by Lynn 

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!


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


  1. Very nice blog, Lynn. I was fortunate to be one of those people who had a problem with alcohol and was able to stop drinking cold turkey, almost 30 years ago. But I've known many who have tried and tried and had trouble getting sober and staying sober. I have a dear friend, also a writer, who not only recovered but worked in an addiction center to help others. She throws the "one day at a time" at me every once in a while when I get wrapped around the axle with too much to do.

    I agree that the slogans that help those trying to kick alcohol or drugs can help all of us with life. And writers can certainly use those slogans. My favorite is "progress not perfection." At some point, kick the can down the road and find another can to kick.

    Thanks for the good words, Lynn, and good luck with your new editing job. I know you have the energy, skills, and drive to do it extremely well. TulipTreePress is lucky to have you on staff.

    1. Thanks, Art. I laughed at your suggestion to "kick the can down the road and find another can to kick." So true! Sometimes you just have to quit obsessing over a piece of writing and go write something else.

      And thanks for the encouragement with the editing challenge. I have a habit of throwing myself into jobs for which I am highly unqualified. It forces me to learn, sometimes as I kick and scream :-)

  2. Lots of wisdom there! So much we learn in recovery can apply to writing and to all of life in general. I especially need to remember to "do the next right thing." I'll keep it in mind the next time I panic realizing I can't get everything done, and just do the next thing and the next until I get somewhere. Maybe I won't get it all done, but I also won't throw up my hands in despair and watch Law and Order instead of doing anything.

    I hope your editing job goes really well! You will enjoy it. I'm sure.


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