A few years ago, I spent a long afternoon sorting through boxes of childhood and school memories. I came across a folder of papers I had written for various high school and college classes; my own personal “Best Of” file. Sitting on the cold basement floor, I opened the brittle manila folder, one with the 1/3 tabs across the side, and started reading.
My eyes moved across words that seemed foreign to me, words I had no recollection of writing, as if a stranger had written them. I was humbled by the comments that professors had left on my writing. While I’ve always liked writing, as a way to communicate, I only liked it when it was on my own terms; when I could write what I wanted. I dreaded the assigned term paper for school, and most of all I dreaded the writing I had to do for my job, grant proposals to secure new funding for a project. It was an odd feeling to dislike something that everyone around me said I did well.
I no longer dread writing. I enjoy it and most importantly, find it therapeutic.
An artists paints a picture that they see with their mind’s eye. The image they paint that day can never be created again, in that exact way because tomorrow, or next week, or next year, their mind’s eye will have seen and recorded so many other images that they will no longer be able to isolate the moment in time they created on canvas that day in exactly the same way.
Writing is like that for me.
I recently read my post “Getting Off the Train” as the Lead Share at an AA Meeting. I explained that I process my thoughts and feelings as a writer with an anonymous Blog and asked if I could “read” my Share. Fortunately, they said yes and when finished I received positive feedback, which was very validating.
After the meeting, I came home and went back in my archive and read posts I had written when I was drinking every night. I felt the same detached, “Who wrote these words?” feeling that I’d had the day I read my school essays and term papers while sitting on the basement floor.
Nearly 50 days into my journey with sobriety I find the view of my drinking days becoming less clear in my mind’s eye. Seeing those dark days, and nights, through the lens of sobriety makes it harder to see the jagged rough edges and internal pain I felt in the depths of my nightly drinking and therefore, it becomes harder for me to tell the raw truth of those days in my writing.
I am so thankful that I was able, in spite of my drinking, to capture those thoughts and feelings in words. Words which now allow me to look back in time and say, “Never Again. I’m off that train and I’m never getting back on.” Without the pictures captured in those words to remind me, I might someday think that time in my life was not so bad.
A painter can never recreate a painting, nor a writer duplicate the magic of a story, but we can each look at those paintings, and read those stories, allowing them to teach us and inspire us as we live each day, while we create our own unique art.