By: Marilyn L. Davis
So, Where’s My Job?
In 2011, I lost my job. That sounds like I was careless and misplaced it similar to keys. As if I could run around in frantic circles, or reflect on the last place I saw it, and then magically, I would find my job again. What is accurate is that my job, after more than 20 years, had ended.
Jobs, unlike keys, are not hanging somewhere, just misplaced.
When my job ended, this prompted me to look at other ways to advocate about recovery. I had opened and ran a women’s recovery home and had learned to listen and learned to write. I found that writing something served several purposes.
One, to make sure that the writing reinforced what I was saying, as I could not remember if I had given the information to each woman verbally. It is like teaching any subject; you have heard yourself say the same thing so many times, that you could forget if you said something relevant to this year’s students.
Writing, on the other hand, guaranteed that even if I missed telling someone, the women got exposed to the message in their TIERS Personal Discovery Guides.
The other self-serving motive was that I knew I could reference it should I need it for groups; or to avoid an argument if someone said, “You never told me that.”
Silent Telling: Diminishing the Shame and Defensiveness
Addiction carries so much shame and guilt that pointing out what needed to change verbally meant that many women heard this as merely an attack. They could not listen to or sometimes hear the similarities in my life and theirs if I told them. They could not hear the hope that I had for their changes and a new life because they got defensive. However, they could listen to my message of recovery, redemption, and renewal when they read.
When a woman no longer felt attacked, different, or singled out, she could talk about her experiences, her dashed hopes and dreams, the demons in the night, within and without. When she wrote about her life, I could learn about her fears, her courage, her guilt, the things that she fervently wanted in life and, what she was willing to face with bravery and dignity to accomplish a different experience. I found a passage by Holly Payne, The Sound of Blue: A Novel, and had a poster made for my office.
“Where the rivers meet,
you tell me about your black dreams.
Your memories make me uneasy.
But I listen because I know my listening, like all other listening, allows you to heal.”
Show Your Writing to Someone
When I reflected on what I missed the most from the house closing, I remembered the listening. I was now writing; how could I incorporate the listening into that? Those two endeavors seemed almost contradictory; writing is conveying words, listening is hearing them spoken and sometimes, unspoken by others.
However, I knew how much value I placed on reading, and thought that perhaps writing for a greater audience might accomplish the same results for others. But I had to overcome my fears about my abilities and risk rejection of my writing.
I took a gamble and showed my writings from the house to Scott Biddulph, editor of a literary blog, and a published poet. Not an easy genre to write and one I am slightly jealous of; descriptions of emotions in rhyming words; short, colorful captured lessons. Oh, I could wax philosophical about poetry all day long because I cannot write like that.
However, I could learn from someone who does write good, published poetry – if I listen.
He knew my fears of turning the writing over to someone to edit.
Trusting an Editor
Writers think they have a lovely tulip patch, full and rich with color, all standing erect and reflecting care. The editor knows that, just under the surface, there are hidden bulbs of wisdom. They also know that the post needs pruning or may ask that you remove specific passages – even your darlings. Or to elaborate on others, so a reader has a better understanding.
Then you have to spread the tulips and sentences out, giving each their prominent place in the garden or the post. Readers can focus on a single passage or read the entire post, now exactly as you wanted it, and thought it was before you gave it to someone to edit.
I listened, I learned, and I ended up with what I wanted.
Listening to Pain and Promises
With the house closed, and my work edited, I reflected on how much I missed hearing about the pain of addiction and the promise of recovery. After thirty-one years of listening and talking, hearing and advising in my recovery rooms, or surrounded by up to seventeen women at the recovery home, my world became almost silent.
When I talked about the silence to Scott, he suggested that I write from my personal experience on sites like LinkedIn, joining groups about addiction. I took his advice; testing the waters; seeing if I made sense to those in the field, and listening to their responses to my words.
When I read the feedback, although positive, I knew that I was preaching to the choir, as we say in the south. They, too, understood the untold misery of addiction and the rich rewards of recovery.
Were there other avenues and opportunities to write about recovery?
Ezine Articles, Hub Pages, Wikinut, and Sober World all seemed relatively safe formats to share the lessons and hear the responses from those either not influenced by addiction or for those wanting support for their recovery. I took Neil Gaiman’s words to heart: “Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who, without that story, will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort. And that is why we write.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
From Addict 2 Advocate is Launched
Scott encouraged me to start a blog specifically for addicts and their families – to give solutions, hope, and encouragement, taking those Personal Discovery Guides from North House and expanding on the concepts to include a wider audience.
I decided I’d speak through the written word, so someone could hear about recovery and launched From Addict 2 Advocate. What I cared about was that people struggling with their addictions were reading about my experience, strength, and hope – all the ways I’d used to remain in recovery. That was the important thing, and it didn’t matter if it was just one person.
I Still Missed the Listening
Even though I was speaking, I missed the listening.
Then the comments started, and I realized I could listen – to the addict who found recovery, to the parents who got their child back, to the mothers reunited with their children—all the people who listened when I wrote. My first, “Way to go” comment on writing about writing let me know that I had a writing voice that could be helpful, too.
I realized that Christopher Hitchens had it right, “It doesn’t matter how obscure or arcane or esoteric your place of publication may be: some sweet law ensures that the person who should be scrutinizing your work eventually does do so.”
Listen to the Responses
Comments were the responses to my posts, although it was not the same as listening, I valued it as such. Replies and comments became a formal conversation, written for all posterity. I could reflect and listen to the reader’s response or opinion of the post.
Finding the Missing Keys
Writing helped me find that missing key; misplaced for a while when I thought it only had one door, the recovery house. When I changed my focus and perspective, I realized I had other opportunities. Click To Tweet
Now, I spread the word that recovery works on From Addict 2 Advocate, and write about writing here at Two Drops of Ink. Those are my missing keys. Writing is the silent telling, views mean that readers are virtually listening, and comments mean they are hearing the messages and responding back so I can listen.
Are You Ready to Speak and Listen to Others Through Your Writing?
Today, you have an opportunity to share your knowledge about your passions. Just as I discovered doors opening on addiction and writing, Two Drops of Ink might be that other platform you’ve been looking for to share your writing, wisdom, how-to knowledge, or get exposure for your blog or book. Here are the submission guidelines.
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing