Right Road to Recovery

Right Road to Recovery

How Writing Can Help in Recovery from Drug Addiction

Recovering from addiction presents you with challenges to say the least. You have to give up your drug of choice, which can be scary, literally painful, and sometimes, even sad. It’s the sadness, or rather the emotional side of addiction that I want to address here.

All addicts have underlying emotions that they suppress: Their drugs often act as a form of self-medication to dull the pain. Once the drug goes away, the pain and sadness that they’ve held back for so long comes rushing back. Dealing with this requires the addict to address these long-entrenched behaviors and to develop new skill sets so that he/ she doesn’t relapse.

That’s where writing, particularly journaling can be a huge help. It was for me. It literally helped me write out my pain, my confusion, all the things that caused me to turn to my drug of choice in the first place.

In this post, I want to talk a bit more in depth about how writing and journaling can help you cope with all the new things coming your way.

Emotion Management: 101

According to Thai Nguyen, writing for The Huffington Post, you’re emotionally intelligent when you can perceive and manage your own emotions and perceive the emotions of others. However, as I’ve already mentioned above, emotions can be tricky for the addict. It’s probably fair to say that we don’t often know how we feel. Or we’ve learned that it isn’t safe to express our emotions, even if we do know how we feel. Journaling can help this by helping us manage our emotions. Here’s how.

For the sake of example, imagine that you’ve decided to keep a reflection journal – that’s a journal where you record what happened and how you felt about what happened at the end of the day. For example, if you lose your keys and blame your wife for it, only later to find out that you had your keys all along, you’d write about that incident in your journal. You’d write your response – Did you get sarcastic? Did you yell? Did you apologize when you discovered your mistake?

Once you know what your response was to your feelings of frustration, you could use your journal to decide how you might approach a similar incident in the future. This allows you to do some role-playing so that you can learn what emotions trigger you and what you’ll do to change your behavior once they do. I used this technique quite a bit during my recovery. Still do.

Getting to Know You

Often, our emotional triggers are not immediately obvious to us. These are the triggers that put us in a tailspin and keep us tied to our addictions. However, as the University of Rochester points out, keeping a journal shows you who you are and how you react over a long period of time. Write down your feelings and responses long enough, and a pattern of your triggers will begin to emerge. Once you can see this pattern, you can take steps to change how you respond to these triggers.

For example, if your interactions with a certain friend always leave you feeling upset and stressed, this will eventually come out in your journal. From this starting point, you can then address how each incident triggered you. Did your friend say something negative? Did he/ she call you names? Once you can identify these issues, you can reflect how you can respond differently in the future. However, first, you need to know how you routinely respond before you can do something about your feelings.

Stress Reduction 

There is a corollary to the passage above. Stress can make you act in ways that are not conducive to recovery if you don’t know how to handle it. And it’s typically those negative emotions we’re experiencing when we do stress out. These emotions can cause us to use if we get too overloaded.

Journaling can help with that, too. According to Psych Central, writing out your emotions can help you work through them and reduce and release the intensity of them. This allows you to lower your stress levels, which in turn, can help you manage the emotions that come up during addiction recovery.

Putting It Together

Writing and journaling about drug and alcohol addiction can be a huge help to the addict, no matter where he/ she is on the path to recovery. This blog post gives you some ideas about how to manage the situations and feelings that inevitably crop up during the process.

Paige Taylor

Paige Taylor is a life coach from Orlando, Florida, specializing in addiction. She strives to help those who battle with substance use disorder, and she occasionally writes about recovery.

She also works as an Awareness Advocate at The Recovery Village

 

Theme for April Could It Be True?

could it be true

Theme for Writing Club – Could It Be True? 

Could it be true

Noises from the room next door woke Sophie, she lay there no longer trying to wipe the sweat away. Since she stepped off the plane in Bangkok the muggy heat had soaked its way in, until it now felt normal. She listened to the mosquitoes buzzing around. The whiny drone pulsed around the room and each time she heard the sound close up she batted the air near her face. She lit the lemon scented candle by the side of her bed and swatted a mozzy she saw coming in to land. Direct hit. 

Her mind gently moved to more peaceful things. How she loved the atmosphere of the guest house, so friendly and with the smell of sandalwood and Jasmine everywhere. Best of all, she had found the place all on her own – and got here straight from the airport in an official taxi. Yes, she felt rather pleased with herself and ambled downstairs to make friends. 

Someone shouted, ‘The riverboat’s leaving. Quick.’ She was invited along and not wanting to miss out, joined them as they made a mad dash for the jetty and jumped aboard. Sophie elbowed her way past fellow passengers and found herself wrapped in the orange robes of a Buddhist monk, who tried to pull back from her, but not fast enough by far. His wrist-watch had somehow got caught up in one of her big dangly earrings. One of the guys shot over and unhooked her as everyone covered their mouths in horror. It was at that moment she learned two things. A woman must never ever touch the clothing of a Buddhist monk and definitely not get wrapped up in his robes, almost caressing his skin. However, if you do screw up, it is just like the adverts say: ‘Thailand, the land of smiles.’ Fantastic.  

Obviously, she felt bad, but she also thought it was no mean task to avoid each and every monk that formed part of this city’s hustle and bustle. There were monks everywhere. She said this to the group and it turns out many guys become monks for a short while at least once in their lifetime. It makes their mums very proud. She laughed at this news – it went a long way to explaining the sexuality some of these monks exuded. She said, ‘Forced celibacy for 3 months’ of their life shouldn’t be that hard.’ Everyone laughed thinking she meant the pun on words. So, she pretended she did and hoped they couldn’t see her blush.  

She wasn’t going to let her cultural glitch spoil things. Her first time on the Chao Phraya River was a great moment for her. It didn’t matter that every monk gave her a prodigiously wide berth as she jumped off. She waved at them all and was delighted that they were all smiling and waving back.  

‘Bet they’re mighty relieved’ said a fellow traveller. Her cheeks grow hot. The guy who had helped her nodded then winked as he made eye contact with her.  

Yikes, she thought, could it be true? 

 

Tracy Thomson

I am a Racehorse in Drag

This piece for Sotogrande Writers was themed ‘And the Winner Is . . .’

He was an ex-boyfriend, which constitutes an ex everything in my eyes. He knows where the mole on the arch of my foot sings, the secret stash of sugar I hide at arms-reach. It’s strange to think he can’t recognise me now. I wonder why? Surely, I’m in a dress, my make‑up taking away the obvious, I’ve managed to cover the lines under my eyes, a gift of my late father, the acne scars and although they are faded now, they feel furry and new like mould. In all my contoured construction, my limbs are mine. My legs trump those of a gladiator. I am a winning racehorse in drag.

There’s a red light on the stage, and I know it jumps off my cheekbones and makes me look like authority. It takes me back to our first date. Twenty-two, two ripened minds discussing William Blake as if we were competing with one another. My dissertation was better than yours. Better, is too strong a word, perhaps, it was more convincing. I mean you never really did want to do an English degree, did you? I didn’t have much confidence back then. My quick wit was protective clothing. It came off when I watched you laugh. I owe everything to Kenneth Williams.

Even then, I flirted with your mystery, it smelt dangerous, like a match. The fire, its sharpness and how quickly it burns the wood. A race. We were always interested in that race, we wanted to start fires, but now we know that starting fires means burning things down.

The bar is full. The crowd looks tiny here, round black heads and stick drawings for bodies like a Lowry landscape. The other two people at my side don’t appear to be nervous. I would be if I were them. Make-up can do wonders, it can trick, it can get you out of any situation, but somehow, it can’t cover up a beard. I hear the crowd growl; their dark heads and spotlight smiles begin to cheer. Their feet stamp. The banging, it resonates. My heart isn’t in my chest, but strapped to me and next to a loudspeaker.

My eyes are on him, but my mind is on you. Your sanguine face, always smiling. It needs no fanfare. Your dimples, even at forty-five years of age your frown hasn’t surrendered to the demands of your job. Goodness, if I were you, my skin would look like a rotten piece of fruit, perhaps a banana. Blotchy, but good on the inside and so you feel reluctant to throw me away.

‘And the winner is’ says Madame Butterfly. Whose large face and deliberate separation of the words makes her as loveable as a carpet burn. Her roughness, her voice is smoky and she looks over cooked.

As soon as my name is called, the audience stands. I feel my face tighten, my eyes closing and my stallion heart amplified. For the first time in my life I felt masculine. I felt masculine even though I stand here in drag. I’m a winner, I’m a winner in drag. What is a winner in drag? I get off the stage and feel your hands grab mine. I knew you’d embrace me, I knew you’d treat me like a champion.

I was alone, taking off my make-up, slipping out of this shell and putting my own skin back on. My bearded ladies came and congratulated me. I loved the sense of brotherhood. I may have won, but somehow, I still had a sensitivity which didn’t discount my racehorse status. Recognition? He must have left by the time I was me again.

So, I lit a cigarette with the last match in the box.

By Liam Anthony

Liam is a Mancunian raised on a diet of pet shop boys, William Blake and plenty of Oscar Wilde. As well as being a teacher, he is working on his first book of poetry. Liam used to sing and write in a band called Motorway Slow Dance. He lives in Malaga with his partner and their two cats.

If you’d like to join us, but do not live near, submit your writing – or an excerpt – approx. 500 words – to be read out at our monthly meetings.

 

No Time Like The Present Theme for March

no time like the present

Below are two very different examples from our theme for March. It’s always fun to write something and to let loose your creativity.

Sumo Gnome with Tie
Culture Crash

No Tie Like The Present

Karneval is the German religious celebrations leading up to Lent. Karneval starts on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and runs through Rose Monday, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday on into Lent. The idea was to give up eating anything fatty, especially meats (Carne!) but more importantly, nowadays, it is a time to let your hair down – especially for the women on Frautag, that first Thursday. Apart from women being allowed to kiss any man she meets – if she wants to! – she will also be allowed to cut off the lower end of his tie. Offices are strewn with trophies won by the girls, particularly in Rhineland.

Off With your Tie – Soh dess nay

I happened to be in Germany some years ago, accompanying the Director of Toyota Europe as he visited our factory in Koblenz, this prior to Toyota opening their massive car plant in Derby in 1989. We would become one of their suppliers. I admit timing did not take account of religious celebrations nor the wild women of Koblenz. As the director stepped out of his car, along with his chief engineer, two stunning young ladies, each a good 15-20 cm taller than them, responded politely to their oriental bowing, and promptly cut off their ties – and believe me, they were not cheap ties! The two visitors were utterly horrified. Not a good start to the day’s discussions. It’s a funny thing, but the German factory never did get any orders from Toyota.

Allied Shame at Karneval

On a more sombre note it was on Shrove Tuesday that British and American bombers wreaked havoc on Dresden in 1945. In the following days, the bodies of children were pulled from the ruins still wearing their Karneval costumes. Even in wartime, those traditions were upheld.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Delight

Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, meanwhile, takes over as the focal point of the same celebrations in many countries of Catholic and Anglican background, where all the fats and butters saved through the winter are used to make rich foods before the traditional fasting of Lent. Most of us are aware of the extent of celebrations of Mardi Gras in Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans, and even Sitges in Spain, where anything goes – song, dance and food. The lot!

And in the UK, we make pancakes!

Sotogrande – Too Close to Home

In Sotogrande, the local Anglican minister declared he was going to give up all cakes, biscuits, sweets and chocolate for the Lenten period. He was the first to admit he could lose a few pounds or even kilos, and Lent would be a good time to do so. So the Church Fund-Raising committee arranged to cash in on his decision, and from last Sunday, invited the congregation to guess what his weight would be on Easter Day – a prize of an Easter Egg to the winner. That should stiffen his resolve to complete his self-imposed challenge.

On closer examination, the minister was more than a touch outside the limits of a healthy Body Mass Index. Well, I thought, am I any better? Perhaps I too should go on a diet, maybe give up all those goodies as well. But when should I start? Lent has already started. Is it too late?

No. No time like the present!

Geoff Morgan

Ronda Gorge No Time Like The Present
Seat of the Moors and the Christians

No Time Like the Present.

Here am I standing proud and tall, rooted in history. Much could I tell of these lands, of the flora and fauna, of people’s lives and the language of their tongues.

Showboating or Bon Viveur

Why, it was not so long ago that Latin invaded the hills, to the sounds of iron on flint as legions marched on by. Then came the Moors with their strange guard-dogs that were not dogs and are still around today. Christians spoke with trembling voice about those monsters and their powers. Three-meter long devils disappeared into the shadows of camp-fire chatter. People staked their lives on what their eyes beheld and kept listeners spellbound in the power of their words. Call it showboating or bon viveur but not flaneur, too soon for Baudelaire.

When the Sun Orbited the Earth

But what were these creatures that lived when Sun orbited Earth, when Man knew the world was flat? When people rose and slept with daylight. Yes, I talk of a time before sins could be paid for in advance, still in the ever-present truth of wicked Eve and guileless Adam, but with marauding Islam perching on these Christian shores. Bridges could have formed had those followers of Allah and Mohammed not also brought cruelty and chains. For were they not wonderful vintners who traded symmetry and spice, science and secrets?

Myth and Infidel

The first time one of those mythical-creatures was seen was when the sun was setting and tired bodies ached for slumber. Once more these lands had been disturbed by strangers keen to settle and survive. Prepared to trounce all who would dare to send them back across the thirsty seas. Try or Die for what was Life if not pain peppered with pleasure and instinct. Then, as ever, all were gifted with laughter to help them on their way. A lucky few were blessed with time to reflect. It was not they who saw the monsters. Witnesses of those long black serpents were life’s troubled pawns, mouths opened wider than eyes to see snakes float at half the height of a man’s shin. Very Important People could daydream – goblet in hand, shading blurred eyes from the sun whilst drinking red wine gained in trade with enemies. They were genteel in their praise and marvelled at the safe encampments of the Moors whilst trembling from within at knowledge of how cruel could be the fate of the despised infidel.

Boughs for Vows

One such man sat beneath my boughs as almond blossom wafted in the breeze. He grasped at life like an autumn leaf before a windy day. The Moors sought to proselytise and he was quite a prize. He looked with care about him, seeking his chance to flee. It was then he saw the many legged serpent; it was a moving family of mongoose in an unbroken line. At that moment a chink of Hope appeared. Myth became Legend and later generations laughed at their grandfathers’ fears. Through this new found space the unchained man did flee, proclaiming, ‘No Time Like the Present’.

Tracy Thomson

no time like the present
no time like the present

 

 

You’re a Writer – Not an Interior Decorator!

A Writer shows a stack of stones, balanced perfectly, set against a backdrop of a blue harbour
Show the reader everything tell them nothing
Writers Take Them There

Good writers don’t stop the story while describing. Snapchat is here to stay. Twitter, Facebook and What’sApp are immediate and quick. Carpe Diem Writer Dear. 

We want it all and we want it now. Immediate scenes take place before the eyes and are not recounted to a patient audience. We’re still polite, but . . . writers, please.

We reach for the camera on our phones whenever something is worthy of it, sometimes we video it, sometimes click static photos. But that is the test. If we can film it then, by definition, it is immediate.

Sol Stein said: ‘Narrative summary, if written well and briefly, can transport the reader from one immediate scene to another, though this isn’t always necessary. Fiction and reporting have now borrowed a film technique called “jump cutting”, moving from one scene into the next with no transition for time to pass or locales to change. If the scenes must be linked, brief narrative summary can do the linking. How brief?

          Martin double locked his door and went to work. In the office…

“went to work” is narrative summary.’ In short. Get rid, writer.

Editors reject books overladen with static description and narrative summary.

What does “action” mean? Hemingway said, ‘Never mistake motion for action.’

Spiked dialogue is action.

Just as we  don’t put our own thumbs in the photos, (gulp) so too do we need to keep our own voice out of the story. Either it is natural for our characters to say it and the information moves us forward or it is not needed. Do not interrupt the reader by reminding him or her that there is a writer behind the words. They are not reading because of you; they are reading because of the characters you created.

Writer: Cue Action

‘Thibaut Courtois is so tall, he stoops into the room as if expecting the beam to hit him.’

Nanci Kincaid in Crossing Blood  lets the reader experience Skippy’s bravery through action:

Skippy will pick up a snake as quick as he will a cat. He will let one crawl on his neck and down his arm, a black snake, until Roy and me go crazy watching him. More than once he let Roy and me hold one, which we did, but we had to practically quit breathing to do it.’

Add a DumPster FuLL of Stylish ExaGGeraTioN

Kincaid:

‘The worst thing about George, though, worse than his nasty mouth, full of missing and broken teeth, worse than his fleas and sore spots, was the fact that he was missing one eyeball. He had an empty hole in his head. You could poke your finger in there and he wouldn’t even twitch.’

Own Your Tools as a Writer – Five ways to Characterise

  1. Physical attributes
  2. Clothing or the manner of wearing clothing
  3. Psychological attributes and mannerisms
  4. Actions
  5. Dialogue

What makes a character extraordinary?

PERSONALITY! YAY.

Distinctive traits of an individual, made up, adhoc, of disposition, temperament, individuality and eccentricity.

Ooh. So True.

Tracy Thomson 

Feedback – and How Not to Be a Slime Ball.

Feedback and How Not to Be a Slimeball

Amazing_Stories_Volume_01_Number_12.pdfIs feedback on a Work In Progress good for you as a writer?

I think the short answer is that it depends on the length of the piece and on what the feedback is. It’s certainly important to provide some kind of context. A novel is long, some 90,000 words. Flash fiction has a beginning, a middle and an end in some 500 words or so. If you have a piece of writing that relies upon previous scenes for context, or sets the scene for a denouement, then you probably will be wasting your time in reading it out. Or worse, it will be commented upon by helpful listeners and the points raised may be like speed bumps or diversions on your writing journey.

Take this example:

The other night, in a restaurant I overheard the following,

‘He’s a right slime ball.’

There’s no denying that it’s been taken out of context. After all we don’t know:

  • Who he is
  • What he’s done
  • His side of events.
  • Who is imparting this judgement – their shared history and back story.

By the way, do you know what a real slime ball is? It is snail vomit. Now, no-one wants to be that . . .be they writer, reader or listener.

When reading out a chunk of writing to others in your group, do yourself a favour and choose something that you think is reasonably self-contained, something that others can follow and hopefully be hooked by.

When it is your turn to listen and you don’t think the dots are quite joined up, consider the effect your words could have. If you have the time, ask to read a little more in private to garner context.

When you have a piece of work in front of you, yours or someone else’s, perhaps consider the following:

  • What happens in the story?

Summarise the plot (the gist of the happenings). Think about what this précis leaves out. 

  • Is the story told in chronological order, or are there flashbacks or flashforwards?

On re-reading, what foreshadowing (hints of what is to come) do you detect?

  • What conflicts does the work include?

Obstacles and ways to overcome them are the lifeblood to many a great piece of writing.

  • How does the writer develop characters?

Is character revealed by explicit comment or through action? With which character(s) do you sympathise? Are the characters plausible? What motivates them? What do minor characters contribute to the work?

  •  Who tells the story?

Is the narrator a character, or does the narrator stand entirely outside the characters’ world? What does the narrator’s point of view contribute to the story’s theme?

  •  What is the setting?

What do the time and place of the action contribute to the work?

  •  Are certain characters, settings, or actions symbolic?

Do they stand for something in addition to themselves?

  • What is the theme?

That is, what does the work add up to? Does the theme reinforce your values, or does it challenge them?

  • Is the title informative?

Did its meaning change for you after you read the work?

Above all, remember feedback is like fuel to a car. Put in the wrong type and the writer won’t get far before spluttering to a stop. Or worse still, they will have to clean out the tank and start again.

Tracy Thomson

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