On Writing and Honesty

Over the years, my mentors encouraged me to “never stop writing”. I did not do what I was told. I stopped writing.

One should always use reverse psychology to motivate me. Just ask my mother.

I always thought “writing” was synonymous with producing a volume of poetry or a fictional novel featuring intelligent and highly complex characters. These goals were too ambitious for me to seriously pursue. Furthermore, they felt forced. I did not think I had a “voice”.

My variety of literary laryngitis was not caused by lack of direction, however. It was my complete inability to be honest with myself and others. As a teenager, I was already leading the kind of double life one sees on 20/20. I could only speak about myself from behind a veil of metaphor or a curtain of vagueness.

I am not meant to make people up and take them on grand adventures. Nor am I meant to wax poetic like Pablo Neruda. The thing that feels most natural to me is simply experiencing life and reporting what I experience from the vantage of hindsight. Being able to utilize the kind of brutal honesty this requires is a direct result of my recovery.

Today I write because I need to do so in order to stay alive. I do not say this for dramatic effect but because it is true. Helping others is the best way to get out of my own dangerous head. And writing is the only way I know to extend the hope that was and is so freely given to me. I am not the type of person who (currently) has the patience or tolerance for 4 a.m. phone calls from tortured newcomers to recovery. But I have this.

I think people need to hear other people say “hey, I don’t have my shit together”. It certainly may appear so from the outside: I work, I have a place to live, I am taking a course in professional photography, I drive a nice car, I have a loving partner. Underneath the surface things look a little different. The truth is I have a penchant for getting into ethically challenging job situations, I still go on appalling dry drunks, and I have the kind of temper that would make my Irish great grandmother beam with pride (I may look small and sweet… but I will cut you. At least that’s what I fantasize about until I have a panic attack and cry).

In other words, I do not have all my shit together. I am a flawed human being. “Whew,” I think, when someone else admits this, “thank goodness it’s not just me”.

I do not have to strive for perfection anymore and shrink with shame when I do not reach this fallible aim. What a relief.

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