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Writing About Sobriety
Are you overlooking this powerful recovery tool?
This week is an exciting milestone for this newsletter: It’s been exactly one year since its launch!
I want to give a huge thank you to each and every one of you for subscribing. The first edition of this newsletter went out to just 31 readers. Today, it’s grown to nearly 800. I truly hope that you’ve found these weekly essays relatable, entertaining, and helpful to your recovery.
I also want to give a second thank you to those of you who have upgraded to a paid subscription. Not only does your support keep this newsletter going, but it also allows me to keep it completely ad-free.
As this newsletter enters its second year, I’m as committed as ever to writing high-quality essays exploring every facet of addiction and sobriety. I’ll still be writing about a wide variety of topics, but my goal for this second year is to place even more emphasis on practical tools and techniques that have helped me through sobriety—and can hopefully help you too.
In keeping with that goal, in this edition, I’d like to tell you about one of the tools that has helped me the very most to stay sober long-term: Writing.
Why Write About Sobriety?
I was sober for over a year and a half before I ever wrote a single word about the experience. I didn’t even keep a personal journal, let alone publish my thoughts online.
I spent a lot of time thinking about sobriety, but I didn’t put any of those thoughts on paper until October 2018. My brother told me about a blogging site, and I decided to write a short essay about how I had spent years procrastinating getting sober.
I was terrified to publish that first post and strangely relieved when it only received a handful of readers. Writing that essay had felt embarrassing and draining, but it had also been surprisingly cathartic.
Even though I never planned to write about my sobriety again, I found myself creating a second post less than a week later. Then another, and another, and another. Writing turned into one of the single best tools I ever discovered for staying sober.
Why write about sobriety?
Because it lets you get your feelings out in a unique way. Of course, you can go to meetings and talk to friends, but by writing I was able to do a far deeper dive into my emotions. It let me truly explore what I was thinking and clarify my feelings about sobriety.
Many non-writers have a warped perception of the writing process—they think that we know exactly what we are going to say, then write it down. The reality is that for most writers, the writing process itself is a method of thinking.
We might have an idea of what we are going to write, but that idea transforms as we work through an essay or journal entry. We discover new angles and tangents. Sometimes, we end up completely changing our minds through the process of writing.
Writing has helped me to better understand why I first started drinking, why I struggled to quit, and what sobriety tools work best for me. It has also helped me to confirm my commitment to sobriety.
I often start an essay by asking myself a question that I’m struggling with: “Why did I quit drinking?” “Why didn’t I quit sooner?” “Will I still be sober fifty years from now?”
If I tried to just sit and think about these questions, I’d go around in circles for hours. By writing my thoughts as I go, I find direction and, eventually, answers.
I truly believe that the writing process can help anyone who is trying to quit an addiction, regardless of whether they have any writing experience. If nothing else, it’s worth giving it a try.
Why Publish Your Sobriety Writing?
To anyone who has quit an addiction—or is even trying to quit—I’d recommend writing about the experience. However, writing and publishing are two separate things, and I wouldn’t always recommend the latter.
You can write about your sobriety in a journal or email a friend, and you’ll get all of the benefits that I’ve mentioned above. Writing is an effective sobriety tool even if you never share it with a stranger.
However, there are some of us who are crazy enough to put all of our thoughts on sobriety out in public. Whether it’s a book, a blog, or a newsletter like this one, we take our writing and share it with the world.
There are downsides to publishing your sobriety writing. I’ll start with the most obvious: It’s embarrassing. It feels incredibly awkward to start publishing your innermost thoughts about an area of your life you spent years trying to hide. My addiction was my deepest secret, and it wasn’t easy to open up about it so publicly.
Another problem with publishing your writing is that you are sure to attract trolls who will write incredibly rude things to you and about you. Even if you generally have thick skin, it can feel incredibly demoralizing to be attacked over what you’ve written about such a difficult part of your life.
I think that for some sober people, these potential stressors are enough to make publishing their writing not worth it. If embarrassment or trolls could lead you to a relapse, it’s probably best to just keep your thoughts in a private journal.
However, if you can overcome these downsides, publishing your sobriety writing has two enormous benefits:
The first is that it builds your accountability. During the first year that I blogged about my sobriety, I was still sometimes struggling with my recovery. There were days were I felt like giving up and just going back to drinking. One of the things that helped me to resist those feelings was the fact that I felt accountable to all of the readers of my blog.
I told myself that if I went back to drinking, I’d make a fool out of myself. I’d either have to give up on my blog, or sheepishly return to it for a second try at sobriety. Both choices sounded humiliating. I wouldn’t just be letting myself down, I’d be letting the readers down too. It was a powerful thought and helped me to stay sober.
The second benefit of publishing your sobriety writing is that it helps others. By sharing your story, you provide support and inspiration for other people who are trying to quit drinking. It can even help the friends and family of other addicts.
I’ve been on the receiving end of this help. When I first quit drinking, I spent hours every day reading the stories of other addicts. Those write-ups gave me the motivation to stick with sobriety and taught me powerful tools for doing so. It’s my duty to now pay that forward by sharing my experiences.
I know that nothing I write is going to magically get someone sober overnight, but I hope that every once in a while, one of my articles or essays is just what someone needs to make it through another tough day.
Writing is an amazing tool to help you through sobriety, but it can also be an amazing tool to help your readers. I think that the best reason of all to write about sobriety is to help others in the recovery community learn from your experiences.
Together we can grow, move beyond our addictions, and build better lives.
Thank you all for reading, and I hope you’ll stick with me as this newsletter begins its second year!
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