This is the first of a two-part series called “Writing as a Tool of Awareness”
I had to write it in the third person at first. I couldn’t even admit that I was writing non-fiction, and I had changed my name to “Cory” in the book.
It took a lot of courage to change the format of my book from “fiction” to “autobiography.” “Cory” turned into “I” and in an instant Cory’s humiliations, crimes, and indiscretions had become mine. Seeing my name attached to all that human depravity was like living as a hermit in filth and having my deplorable condition broadcast on TV.
And I haven’t even published it yet.
I worry that I may never publish it. I worry that some part of me that wants to fail will throw me off course with a never-ending editing process. I had the same fears when I was crafting the meat-and-potatoes content of the book as well. I got through it by plowing ahead. I put in the work day by day and made a decision about how my story would finally end. It will be the same with editing if I stay on my game.
It’s a story of drug and alcohol addiction, and all the thievery, cowardice, isolation, and embarrassing sexual encounters that go with it.
It’s also the story of a man that needed to be taken by the hand and shown how to be an adult. A man that needed to be instructed on how to tell the truth and be real, of a man that needed the importance of paying his debts calmly explained to him, of a man who needed to be painstakingly shown how the majority of his attitudes and actions were based on excuses, justifications, and outright delusions.
It’s the story of a man who started giving back.
I learned a lot from writing my autobiography, from committing my story to black and white on a piece of a paper.
What I Have Learned
- I gained perspective of my life from a new angle. An overhead and detached viewpoint had afforded me the opportunity to see myself as a real person. A person without the magnification and minimization of the ego. The tunnel vision on self that the ego projects had been widened to include the sanity and mundanities of the world around my past self. Describing in letters how a friend’s mouth twists in a grimace, or how my manic internal dialogue had juxtaposed with the steady flow of the Mississippi River at my side had raised the camera angle of my mind just high enough to see a simple truth – that I was just another ordinary person in this life.
- It helped me to see things I had totally missed. Writing about my experience had revealed to me the magic in those moments passed that I had overlooked due to being utterly wrapped up in my own thoughts and feelings at the time. How I was able to sponsor half a dozen alcoholics and junkies without laughing my ass off the entire time from the magnitude of absurdity involved with each situation is a testament to how seriously I took myself.
Things came up when I described in detail what I needed to do to sober up. Things I hadn’t seen before. I was being too hard on myself at the time to pat myself on the back for changing nearly every single habit and way of being that had defined me for so much of my life.
- Previous events had taken on new meaning. I write about an experience I had in early recovery with a group that I will call a cult. I believe them to be a litigious cult so I have changed their name to “Rushmore Assembly” in my book and in this article. They have a introductory retreat that lasts for three days. I will say that much. During this long weekend, I sat in hard chairs for most of the days in a room that strangely oscillated from frigidly cold to uncomfortably warm. I was emotionally fatigued, somewhat sleep depraved and subjected to extreme repetition of language and terminologies.
I’m actually grateful for the experience, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t learn anything from those clearly ambitious people. I was too bombarded at the time to see what was really happening in my soul. I wrote about it in my book. It took over two weeks to write that section alone. Protected by the keyboard, I could see out of it what I couldn’t see in it.
I was becoming a person who could say no and stand his ground in the face of pressure.
I was becoming a person who could trust his instincts over the multitude of more learned voices (it should be noted that most people in early recovery are told to abide by the input of others over their own presumably self-destructive thinking).
I unconsciously benefited from becoming this person, yet I hadn’t been aware of the change until I wrote about it. It was a neat thing to see this person in my skin coming into their own. I also hadn’t seen how damned funny the whole encounter was until I had written about it.
An Activity I Would Recommend
These aspects all kind of run together in the same vein of an increased awareness. Writing my autobiography has been a blessing to me many times over, and I haven’t even published it yet!
I want you to write about something that has happened to you. Some sticky situation or trauma, and commit to paper. No one else has to see it. Write about something that just embarrasses the hell out of you or a time when you were over the moon with joy, and pour yourself into the detail. How did your face feel and how did the wind banging the branch against the window sound? Write about something that you want hidden away in a dark corner, or some confusing time and something almost forgotten. See if you get some new perspective.
Write about it and leave it here as a comment in you’re really brave.
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Also published on Medium.