One of the best things about Writers for Recovery is the chance to meet amazing people. Take Robyn Joy. She's sharing her recovery with the world in two uber-cool projects: A blog called The Comma Struggle and a print 'zine called Best Intentions, which she shares with recovery friends and sells on Etsy. In the blog, Robyn publishes her responses to Writers for Recovery prompts. In the zine, she goes deeper, with essays, art, personal musings, and helpful tips for people in recovery. In the future, we'll be posting an interview with Robyn about her work. And we'll be expanding the blog to include more info about cool projects by WFR participants, as well as more recovery news. Meanwhile, check out Robyn's work, and send her a comment or two. It's all part of the great community we're building, and you're part of it, too.
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Each droplet a crystalline vision of the past, falling by so fleetingly that it could not be fully appreciated before the next.
And the next.
And the three after that.
Seven more now, and the windshield holds a few to appreciate for a little extra time before, reversing their direction, they climb out of view, into the darkening strip of blue.
Faster now, they fall too fast to even glimpse them all, just the few, obscuring the view, in the path of where you were going.
Wipers temporarily clear the field of vision through the accumulating past, but still the rains fall.
Each droplet contains a condensed soundscape of the time, a rising chorus of all the past voices and conversations, the crunching cars of accidents, the whinnying of a horse, that concert, those thunderclaps, that alarm, all drowning out your favourite song on the radio.
Finally, the storm of memories is too much to see through.
The cacophony too much to bear.
Overwhelmed, the past flooding in, the wipers are ineffective, the tyres lose their grip, the vehicle is out of control, and no sandbags can keep the rising waters at bay.
Driving becomes swimming.
Swimming becomes floating, as you’re carried off by the currents, down your personal river of history.
The Black River Thundered past my bedroom windows
Over the longfallen ruins of The Mill
Shaking the foundation of The House
Clinking the plates and glasses and such
If you placed them too closely together in the cabinets
Shaking the pots and the pans on the rack like the Subway did
Back in The City
Shaking the tools on the bench
And Forcing a Daydream
There goes two hours – what was I even dreaming?
The Rumble makes me sleep so deeply it seems this must be what a Coma feels like
The Rush of the water is like a giant White Noise Machine
Watching that River is Hypnotizing
Like watching the Fire
On a dirty-yellow morning
Twenty years ago I drove my
Plymouth out of town.
I was free, I was hopeful,
I was gone.
And now I’m back looking
For work, looking for love,
Looking, looking for a
Way home, again.
When I decided to live
things began to change.
When I decided to stop pouring poison into my body
life began to change.
When I decided to take back control
And then surrender
I began to change
When I decided to advocate for myself
and let the part of me
that loved me and wanted to live unchained from alcohol
When I decided to listen to what people suggested I felt better
When I decided to listen to my friend and say the 3rd step prayer
I started letting go of the bondage of self
The bondage that held me just as much as alcohol
The bondage that stopped me from living a full life
When I decided to accept the things I can’t change
And to have the
Courage to change what I could
I could breathe
And I started to breathe
And it works
Thank god it works
Thank you god it works
I LOVE YOU
PLEASE FORGIVE ME
We are oh so pleased and proud to announce that acclaimed author and teacher Jessica Hendry Nelson will be leading our Montpelier WFR workshop. The workshop meets on Thursday evenings at 6 at the Bethany Church in Montpelier. The workshop begins on Thursday, May 25.
Please spread the word about this amazing opportunity to work with one of America's brightest young talents. The workshop is open to people 18 and over in recovery or whose lives have been affected by addiction. If you're not familiar with Jess and her work, here's some info from her website:
Jessica Hendry Nelson is the author of the memoir-in-essays If Only You People Could Follow Directions (Counterpoint Press), which was selected as a best debut book by the Indies Introduce New Voices program, the Indies Next List by the American Booksellers' Association, named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Review, received starred reviews in Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly, and reviewed nationally in print and on NPR—including twice in (O) Oprah Magazine. It was also a finalist for the Vermont Book Award.
Her work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, Tin House, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, The Carolina Quarterly, Columbia Journal, Crab Orchard Review, PANK, Drunken Boat and elsewhere. She teaches in the MFA Program in Writing and Publishing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, the MFA Program at the University of Nebraska in Omaha, Champlain College, and serves as the Managing & Nonfiction editor of Green Mountains Review. She lives in Vermont.
Welcome aboard, Jess!
I am from a cardboard box, too large yet just right to fall through every imaginable crack.
I am from oceans of tears that have welled up from my own broken and salted soul.
I am from a family tree of historical giants who neglected to water the last seeds.
I am from me, a lifelong collection of personalities, gathered fruits on the path from those admired, Raised on Sun and observation alone.
I am from the giant heart I house with grace.
I am from, hanging in there one more day, day by day, until I stand and say.......' i finally love me and where I am from'.
I don’t know
the story of
I find I’m in
that I can’t help
and I mean really
the story of
Two days ago
I dipped into a
a hopeless wallowing that
is sucking me dry
I’m in a coffee shop
and I can’t help
I can’t help
I can’t help myself
a lost and hopeless
that goes something like:
Is it so much to ask
that I can have
a single meaningful conversation
but all I see here
through a desperate haze
are shallow faces
and plastic stances
too vicious and stuck up
to care about what
I’ve got to say
Or maybe I’m just
projecting my own desires
because I don’t really care
about what you’ve
got to say
I’m projecting this need
through desperation I project
a desire to be understood
in the process rejecting
the needs and desires
of all my fellow parasites
We’re All So Carefree
and so freakin careless
a bunch of
narcissists needing the
acceptance of others
to feel whole
the acceptance of a race
waiting in the back rooms
on the back streets
in the back of the
looming tall on
just waiting for you
to come up to me
and see me for
who I really wanna be
But how you perceive me
and how I’m received
I find no relief
pandering to this blatant need
to be cherished
but not loved
as I perish amid
a locked derelict closet
I’m so lost and disturbed
deserted and I’m
the story of
Standing on the edge
of the knife///
I am from the sky.
I am from an airplane I built with my own hands.
I am from the death of my airplane, crashing through the trees with me inside as she died.
I am from a tiny mistake I made in my beloved airplane’s cooling system, a mistake which I didn’t understand until years later.
I am from a lovely house in the seacoast area of New Hampshire, a home I loved with all my heart.
I am from a ten acre plot of land, which I shared with a thousand or a million ticks.
I am from a health care system which cares not about those who are invaded by a terrible disease.
I am from a system which does not work.
I am from the love of friends who helped me get access to legal cannabis in the hopes I’d get well.
I am from a place of terror, induced by the cannabis which did help me get better.
I am from a place where the THC from ten or twenty joints is distilled into a tiny drop of resin.
I am from a place of terror, from which I am desperate to escape.
I am from New York, and Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, and Vermont.
I am from a place of hope.
I am from a Turning Point.
I am from a place of growth and healing.
A piece of wood
With six steel strings
It’s there for me to play and sing
A perfect shape
A perfect tone
With my guitar I’m not alone
The sounds it makes echo through time
With different rhythms different rhymes
A certain riff I’ll stop and start
To catch your ear and touch your heart
I BEGAN TO NOTICE how it impressed boys when I drank as good as or better than them. I noticed that I had a special power that my brother couldn’t put in his shadow when I used my body to speak instead of my words. I began to notice I wasn’t the prettiest or the most popular or smartest or most talented at the best at anything, but I was good at being awkward and not fitting in with anyone, and sometimes that earned affection from someone interesting. I began to notice I was my sister’s little sister until she went to college and had her first baby, and I was my brother’s little sister until he graduated from our high school, and then I wasn’t sure, so I became Billy’s girlfriend and then someone else’s girlfriend and someone else’s and so on unless I was the party girl who was anybody’s and could keep up with anyone but still graduate from college with a solid C average and hold onto an endless string of adequately paying jobs in customer service where no one cared about how hungover you were as long as you arrived on time and said it with a smile. I began to notice years later when I became a wife for the first time that I didn’t have any idea who I was, except that I did, and I loved not getting to know her better, because I found her to be too angry and volatile for public consumption and it was easier to just play along with what everyone else liked than to bring attention to such an undesirable girl.
It all felt a bit overwhelming. I was tired of running out of my shit, and when I did I was so sick. Depending on what I was withdrawing from ,there were different symptoms. Restless legs all night, the sweats, the shits, the unbelievable anxiety. Sore muscles, insomnia, headache. The shakes, the fatigue, the rage . The all consuming knowing of impending doom. Get it!! It doesn't matter how just get it!!! Stop fuckin' around and figure it out!! You've got another 5 hours till you try to sleep and don't forget about the morning. 2 for now, 3 for bed, 4 for morning to not get sick. I have a total of 6? Fuck!! Get some alcohol , that might help, probably not. Call the Dr. again, try not to sound pissed. Over and Over Day after Day. A Slave to get it, a glutton to take it, a whore to keep it, a thief to steal it, a liar to hide it, a fake to make it through the day. Enough is enough. I can't do it anymore!! I'm tired. I'm done.
The water rose
while everyone was sleeping, silently and slowly,
and no one seemed to notice.
And they were sleeping while they were walking; and they were sleeping while they were sitting; and they were sleeping while they were working;
and the only time they seemed to be awake was when they were actually sleeping, when they were dreaming.
did the pressure of the doom produce the appropriate reaction. In their lives
they were held in distraction.
The water rose,
higher and higher,
past the ankles and the tires;
past the roses and the fences; past the doorways and the lintels.
They were sleeping in their waking, mouthing bubble words
which could not be heard
until they rose to the surface
in their dreaming subconscious AND SCREAMED!
He hadn’t been on Cherry Tree Lane in over a decade, but not much had changed besides his vantage point. A few feet taller now. Regretfully, he hadn’t seen a single cherry tree in his travels. Honestly, he was a little doubtful that cherries even grew on trees — they seemed better suited for a shrub or vine, like most berries. He had seen plenty of cherries, just not the fresh-picked kind. No, these cherries were sickeningly neon in color and unnaturally saccharine in taste, mostly for show—an unnecessary beverage ornament. Something to distract.
Though Doris and I spoke in the hallway every so often we had never so much as shared a pot of tea, and yet, when she died she left everything in her apartment to me.
One morning Charles D. Sullivan; Esquire, rang my doorbell. It had been years since anyone had rung the bell and it was as though a fire alarm had gone off. Mr. Sullivan wore a dark-blue pin-striped suit, bow tie, and shiny black shoes. In contrast, I was wearing the same bathrobe I’ve worn most everyday since retiring ten years ago.
He said; “Are you Andrew Copperfield?” I said I was and invited him in. Not knowing my relationship with Doris, he cautiously explained that Doris had killed herself. When I showed only a moderate interest, he picked up the pace and notified me that she had left the entire contents of her apartment to me. “Me?” I said, “Why would she leave me anything. We were just acquaintances, just hallway friends.”
He handed me her key and said; “Just take what you want. I’ll be back next Monday to retrieve the key and whatever is left, I’ll donate to the Salvation Army.”
Though it was none of my business, I asked him why Doris had killed herself. He said with a shrug of his shoulders, “She probably just got lonely, I see it all the time.”
Her apartment looked a lot like mine, and there wasn’t much that I wanted. I exchanged a bedside table and lamp for the one I already owned, a couple of nice pots and dishes, and an almost new toaster-oven. What really caught my attention though were two very tall stacks of black and white composition books leaning dangerously against one another in the corner of her living room.
I carefully took one from the top and, though it was clearly a journal, there were no dates entered, and it was written in a style and voice that implied someone other than herself would one day be reading it.
I sat in her living room and read it cover to cover, all the while feeling as though I were peeking through a half-close blind. Before the week was up, I had brought the journals to my apartment. I read them with a passion only a voyeur would appreciate.
One snowy afternoon, half-way into maybe my tenth journal I came upon a line that read: Andrew and I met at the library today. Hidden between the book aisles we kissed like teenagers, kissed as though we had been kissing for months and months instead of just a peck goodnight like the other night. It was my intention not to kiss him again, to put him off, at least until we got to know one another better.….
I felt ill. Dizzy. “Again”? What was she saying? Several pages later she wrote; Andrew would understand why my soufflé fell flat, wouldn’t you?... “Wouldn’t you?” Was that a typo? Was she writing to me? Were all these journals written for me to read? I raced through the journal looking for my name but my name never came up again. Quickly I picked up the next journal but it was obviously out of sequence to the one before. Carefully, I undid both the stacks, hoping to get to the final journal but there was no order to how they were stacked. It dawned on me she did this on purpose, she wanted me to finish every word. So, I stopped hurrying, I slowed down, way down, I surrendered to her and let her take me in.
Her writing was lovely. At times she seemed to care so much for me and it was clear that I loved her, too. Page after page we would fall in love all over again. She had me say things, teasing things. In her control I was at my best. I was witty, clever, and such a confident lover. The randomness of the journals was her way to ensure that I would never leave her. Well, I always did like strong women.
Eventually, after I had read every word, she stayed in my mind for days, for weeks, idle, quiet, and lonely. I missed her. My health began to take a turn for the worse. Then one day, while picking up my prescriptions, I bought a black and white composition book. And I began to write. I wrote about the dinner Doris and I ate that night. I listed all the ingredients, along with my trip to the store to buy them. We went to bed after dinner, promising one another never to leave again.
Eventually I soon had my own towering stack of journals but at some point the need for novelty began to creep into my writing. Harriet down the hall seemed so lonely. After our affair began, Doris had a fatal heart attack. Now it’s just Harriet and I. We sometimes speak to one another when getting our mail. And yes, I’m putting words into her mouth. I think she likes me. I can’t wait for her to read this.
Please don’t holler at me.
I’m right here.
Will you listen to me?
Can we talk now?
I want to tell you how I changed.
I wrote letters; no response.
But now I want to tell
the truth to you. Will you forget the
Past, and ask me any question
you want. Wipe those tears away.
Because I will always love you.
It’s been 10 years since I talked to
You. Let’s be friends.
Dear Mom & Dad. It has become very clear to me that both of you have a problem with alcohol. I knew about Mom since I was 23. A school friend, after Mom had drifted in and out of the room, asked “How long has your mother had an alcohol problem?” Bam! The lights went on. I knew there was something wrong, I just didn’t know what it was. I remember cleaning off a table from breakfast, and there was a cup of tea left at your place. So I took a sip. It wasn’t tea, it was bourbon. Dad, I thought Mom was the alcoholic and you were the sober one. She got sloppy all the time. I only saw you sloppy once. I had come home from college, the bus took me from the airport to a hotel downtown where you were supposed to pick me up. I waited and waited and finally you staggered through the door and fell down in front of me with your head in my lap. I got you up, to the car, took the keys away from you, said “No, I’ll drive.” I never said the word “drunk” in your presence. I always said things like “Mom’s not too good.” When the “Children of Alcoholics” information came out in 1984, your 5 children immediately became the Deupree ACOA group.
Sitting in the passenger seat. The usual place to feel awkward and uncomfortable. She drove. The silence felt agonizing but it probably wasn’t. She seemed to like me? I guess? I mean, she kept asking me out for after-work walks, probably only due to the anxiety level that naturally builds up during the work day. She would have walked anyway. Nothing to do with me.
Plus she liked to have someone along when she ate. She did think I was funny. I do get that a lot. “You’re hilarious,” or some version thereof.
But did it “mean” anything? I mean I could have spoken up at any time. I was convinced I was “in love” with her, whateverthefuck I thought THAT meant.
But she did seem to enjoy my company, so obviously there was something off about her...
How the hell do you even initiate that question?
“Hey, so um, I ‘like’ you...”
“Oh I really like you too!” she says, very quickly and enthusiastically, “you’re SO great to talk to and I LOVE our walks! You’re such a great friend!”
Oh well. There ya have it. It’s ok I’m basically a spinster at this point. I wear sweaters. I tuck my shirt in. I have concerns about belts and socks. That’s ok. It happens.
How is it that I have returned to this road?
Time and again;
no matter the pain;
no matter the consequence; no matter the damage.
How could I
let this happen?
And wait -- wait a minute;
before I smash myself in the face; before I smash
a desk, a table, or a wall.
Because of the pain; because of the consequence; because of the damage.
That is why.
Like the snake eating its tail.
Like Escher's ants
marching the double twisted ribbon of double elliptic infinity.
being so hung over,
in a firetrap apartment on a dusty second floor; smelling cat shit; smelling mold; smelling piss.
And I remember a blasé telephone, and my father's voice,
from the road,
it was a bad one to be on.