Recovery People

Doreen Phillips


By Gina Tron

Doreen Phillips always loved writing, even as a child. She started writing poetry in elementary school. In high school, she wrote for the school newspaper and as an adult, she reviewed and previewed performances for music magazines. She writes now, poetry and slam poetry. But, while in the depths of addiction she wasn’t writing very much.

“I was getting to the point where the obsession drained me of any sense of creativity. Every once in a while I would produce something. I look back at journals from that time and it felt like I was stuck in a black hole.”

She felt stuck but she never stayed still for long. Doreen moved around often.

”In part, it was chasing the dream of pursuing something more in the music business. But no matter where I went, alcohol and drugs were already there.”

She expressed she was attempting to run away from her past.

“I kept running from bad situations that I dealt with as a kid and it took a long time for me to move away from that, to come to terms with it. At one point I was very, very ill because I kept repressing and repressing and I just turned to drinking all the time.”

She closed herself off from everything. It got to the point where she could have lost everything she had.

“It just dawned on me that until I started dealing with my own addiction, moving wasn’t going to change. It was up to me to change.”

Once she got treatment for her addiction, she felt like she could connect with others again. She also began participating in Writers for Recovery and the Transformative Language Arts Network (TLAN) which is affiliated with Goddard College. Soon she’ll be receiving her TLAN certificate.

“It’s been incredible, the writing but also the people that I’ve met,” she said. “I’ve found like-minded people. I’m really establishing REAL friendships.”

Doreen is proactive about staying connected, and staying connected to her love of writing. She hosts regular brunches at her home where she engages in slam poetry. She’ll soon be working with the Restorative Justice Center’s offender reentry program.

“I know there is a lot of addiction involved with people who are offenders and I hope to offer people ways that they can express themselves and find a way to start a new life. Because it’s never too late. It really isn’t.”

For Doreen, writing is an effective outlet for expression. She said sometimes when she writes, even while in a jovial mood, she is surprised by what comes out.

“Writing is a way to express those pent-up emotions.”

She hopes to teach similar skills to the offenders she will be working with.

“I’ll be excited to try to help others. I sure hope that I can.”

Gary MillerComment
From Northern State Correctional

The following pieces were written by men in the Writers for Recovery group in the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport, VT.

morning CS1.jpg

A Morning Clean and Sober by Anonymous
Refreshing, exhilarating, healthy, happy, energetic, guilt-free,
motivated, more money in my pocket,
I know where my wallet is, and my teeth;
the air smells fresher, cleaner
and the bacon, eggs, and toast
make my stomach happy too;
the kitchen is clean,
there are no beer and whisky bottles
on the table, floor, couch,
no cigarette burns on the table
and the ash trays aren’t overflowing.
I feel a sense of self-control.
I’m ready to go to work.I don’t stink of alcohol—I’m clean and sober.


A Morning Clean and Sober by Anonymous
A morning clean and sober
will be when I come back from jail.
Can I really tell my kids it’s worth it?
It’s been four months,
can I really be successful on the street?
Can I be strong and say no
when I see people are using or ask me,
“Do you want some?”
Only time will tell.


A Morning When I'm Using by Anonymous
To separate.
To be absent.
Longing for that warm light.
Not to feel, not to know.
Begging for darkness,
clinging to life.
To live to use,
to use to live.
The life never wanted,
the life I now live.


I Am From by Anonymous
Where I come from.
Life was...well,
life was something else, I tell you.
I did not know
what the hell was right or what was wrong.
There was fighting.
My mom was always drunk.
My first memories were
of my own mother being passed out.
My dad would be out in the garage
building hot rods with his friends, smoking pot.
So honestly I don’t know
where to say I am from.
If I was to guess I’m probably from space.
Outer space.


If I Were in Charge by Anonymous
If I were in charge,
I would be more in charge of my life.
Maybe, just maybe, I would not be incarcerated.
If I were in charge
I would have been more influential
as my life revolved from early teenager
to where I would like to be now.
My path surely would have been different,
maybe the journey I desperately yearn for
would have been a reality and not a fantasy?
Maybe Dena and I could have
owned a house, a better car, etc.
Only now the reality is I’m in jail,
being told what to do,
when and how to do it.
That was a nice dream,
if I were in charge.


If I Were in Charge by Anonymous
If I was in charge of the world as a president,
I would ban drugs, but only for medical use only.
But I’m not in charge of the world only my corner of it.
I don’t allow my body to be subjected to the devil’s possession
of the craving for that
or for the one the morning after.
The high love in life is a natural high of life.
When you’re high on life,
you are in charge
of when you or if you want to come down.
Life is too short to stay high.
The first thing you know it your life is over,
like a blink of an eye.


The Toughest Decision I've Ever Made
Well I have to say
the toughest decision I've ever made
was me coming clean to my family and friends
about me being 1) gay and 2) a transgender female.
I feared discrimination, disrespect, and lots of criticism.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy for me
at school or public places
and I feared about what
my home life would consist of as well.
I chose to go to my guidance counselor at the time
and over time slowly explained myself,
for her to tell me everyone deserves
to be loved the same no matter
who or what they were
and some people can stay in your heart
but not in your life
and if they were not willing to understand
and take you for who you were
they didn’t deserve to have you in their life.
So that was the toughest decision I ever made.


God I Pray by Anonymous
I will hope and pray for your love.
Lord I hope you hear my cries.
You are the savior of the world,
You gave your own son for us.

Which he died on the cross for our sin,
If we believe in you and your son,
We will be sure and walk in your kingdom.
You are my lord and savior.

I want to live in your kingdom,
Your house of the lord.
I will obey your laws.
Hear my cry for help.

I hope and pray for you.
You are my God my lord
And savior, love save me.

Gary MillerComment
Recovery People

Bob Purvis
Director, Turning Point Center of Central Vermont

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Before Bob Purvis became the director of the Turning Point Center of Central Vermont, he had an op ed column at a Maryland newspaper. Writing has always been a big part of Purvis’ career, so he was thrilled when Writers for Recovery began conducting ten-week long workshops at the recovery center.

“It was a way for me to reconnect with writing so i really loved that,” he said. The center, located in Barre City, became the third to participate in the Writers for Recovery workshops. Purvis said that through them, participants discover they are much more creative than they thought they were. He called the workshop a wonderful adjunct to recovery support groups.

“To get positive feedback for something you’ve written, which is an extension of who you are, it helps further along the process of having a more positive self image,” Purvis explained. He credited that for boosting self-confidence. Reluctant at first, most participants became willing to share and read their writing to their peers.

“The goal is to provide positive feedback, not to criticize,” Purvis said. “So, they’re learning and they receive instructions on how to improve their writing. They listen and they take it to heart.”

It was so well received that Purvis continued a writing group, aptly called the Writers’ Group, even after the sessions ended.

“A lot of people don’t connect with 12-step groups and the Writers’ Group is kind of a way for a person to connect with a larger version of their story, a version that includes other people and things other than addictive substances. It includes fiction and poetry but it’s really a much broader kind of expression of what they are concerned with their recovery. Many of the topics aren’t about addiction and recovery but it often works its way into it in one way or another.”

This fall, Writers for Recovery began a partnership with VTDigger on a podcast series in which Writers for Recovery members read their work.

“There’s a positive effect on the people who do the reading,” Purvis said. “It’s really validating to them.”

He added that he hopes the broader community will become impressed with the talent of the participants.

“Anything that helps to chip away at the stigma and the stereotypes is healthy,” Purvis said. “So you’re seeing people who are clean and sober and they are reading this wonderful, creative and often powerful stuff that ranges from funny to reflective. And, it’s really touching.”

Gary MillerComment
"Fun" by Elizabeth Reilly

I thought my fun was over when I had to stop drinking. But just think about that for a moment:

How much “fun” have you had being a drunk?
What’s “fun” about needing a drink at 6 a.m.?
What’s “fun” about blackouts?
Having someone say “I heard what you did last night” and not having a clue about what they are talking about?
Getting drunk at an office party?
Not being able to look them in the eye in the morning?
And the “fun” went on and on.

The real fun started when I admitted I was an alcoholic at an AA meeting.
The real fun started when I laughed more at a meeting than I had in months.
The fun of fellowship and friendship,
The fun of being of service to someone,
The fun of baking treats and having them devoured-
The hugs, the chips, the greetings.

The real fun and a new life began when I got sober.

Gary MillerComment
"Niceness" by Anonymous

I think I’m a nice guy but I’m really not.

Trust me. Maybe I look “nice” or am polite, yes that’s it, I am certainly polite, but that is based on fear of not being liked. I NEED to be liked. It is absolutely vital that you like me. So when in conversation with another, if the topic of me arises (it is only natural it would, after all) one conversationalist can say to the other, oh yeah, -----, yeah, he’s a pretty good guy, people like him, he has qualities that are pleasing to others. So that way I am secure, because if I think other people like me, then things are ok, I can then go out and be gracious and compassionate to others with nary a thought for myself. Ha! And say there are eligible and desirable women in the midst of a conference about my many fine traits (this happens a lot) they will certainly mention my niceness, although being TOO nice, or “only” nice is the kiss of death in the realm of romance and passion. But still, it is important to me that I am perceived as “mostly nice” or at least “nice enough” and not a complete dick. Although a great case can, and has been presented to the effect that dickishness and assholery carry far more weight as a primal force of seduction than simply holding a few doors and smiling and not being mean to people. Men are brutes at heart, and women cannot help but notice the brutes. The louts. The lummox-men of the world, whether presented straight-up, or cloaked in layers of understated prestige and power, a little dangerous, but sly about it. Unpredictable. Sociopathic, if you will, Highly “intelligent” or at least cerebral, and appearing refined. It’s no surprise that Ted Bundy had little trouble convincing all kinds of women to hang out with him and chill. He had that face and character of sly charisma. Excitement! Danger! Ok, I’m so sorry, I’m presenting a very adolescent attitude here. Who DOES that? “Women, dudes, amirite?? They’re always going for Famous Serial Killers but not ME!! What’s UP with that? Can’t catch a break!” I was fortunate enough to spend a little time locked in a correctional facility and, being the Nice Guy that I am, I had a great deal of concern over how I was going to socialize with the fellows in there. I had gotten in a little trouble, certainly, but I presented as the sort of man the correctional officers felt they should put in one of the more “well behaved” units. I did find that in most cases a sure way to bond with a cellmate was to start complaining about a woman in particular, or women in general. Walls would come down immediately. Guys were not recalcitrant on this particular matter. Lotta trouble, these women. Many of them wouldn’t even be in jail if it weren’t for the damn women! So I will be the first to admit that I am prone to childish attitudes about this area of life. But who isn’t? Romance and relationships happen in spite of logic and reason and sound emotional maturity, not BECAUSE of all that. Formulas fail us, every time.

Where was I? Niceness. Yes. It’s generally good to “be nice” but it’s just not SEXY is all I was trying to say there, but let’s forget all about sex and sexiness. Put it right out of your mind. I implore you, think of anything else. Gay, straight, solo, muti-participant tag team, whatever really gets you steamed up, don’t think about it at all right now. It’s not important. We’re talking about niceness here, after all. The social contract. The reason we don’t just walk into a store or other people’s homes and just take things. It’s actually kind of amazing that we don’t do that. Every other life-form does. It’s not that we never do it, we just do it on a grand scale though, where it is not as perceptible. At some point a society or nation forms by a lot of violence and killing and taking things, then we settle down and enact “systems” whereby the stronger-traited citizens are rewarded and the weaker, deficient ones suffer. One can certainly attempt to walk around just trying to take things, but this is now generally seen as criminal, therefore “weak” behavior, of a
stunted mind. Poor social development is cited. Something bad must have happened to them as a child, to behave in such a brazen way. Anyone who lives in any society at all agrees to, whether they are aware of it or not, all kinds of unspoken rules and manner of conduct. Most of them are not explicitly written out, although our penal code often has to catch up with “not-nice” behavior after the fact, to decide how to handle the infraction. Thank god for criminals! We have learned that public defecation, for example, by humans, is not to be encouraged, or even just being outside without proper concealment of the more shameful anatomical parts. We do this presumably so as not to “excite” the more animal urges in some of us, even though we have risen far beyond these instincts. We’ve practically forgotten about them! We’re so busy being kind and thoughtful to others. Anyway, the number of things we DON’T do every day but really want to far outweighs those activities we constantly perform because “we should.” Work. Brush teeth. Shower. Use a toilet. Give someone else some money that used to be yours. Saying “good morning” to anyone, for any reason. When has there been ANYTHING good about any morning, I ask you? I beseech you. In short, we act nice, every day, all day.

But I was talking about MY niceness, specifically, here. Or something. Anyway like many I think of myself as nice. It’s really fun to be an absolute ass sometimes, is the problem, especially for personalities as naturally pliant and obedient, and a little meek, as myself. I’m not one to loudly insult someone who has affronted me, no, that would be straightforward and quite frankly, boring. Plus they might engage in a personal confrontation, with clear communication. No thanks. I offer the following as examples of my spiteful, meek version of taking a Stand Against Niceness: As a pedestrian I often need to cross roads, like many, and cars will stop, for no reason other than “niceness” and try to get me to cross while they wait. In the meantime other cars are piling up behind them and tempers are rising. “What is this jackass doing, letting that guy cross?? Jesus Christ,” they say. You’d think I would simply hurry across the busy street, for after all, I AM trying to get somewhere, thankful that they “let me go.” But no. I can’t accept this. You see, I have immense pride. Plus immense self-consciousness. If I were to actually cross, all the people in all the cars would be glaring at me. “That fucker,” they’d say to themselves. “Doesn’t even have his OWN car, what a dumb fuck. It’s 2 in the afternoon, too, on a Tuesday, the fucker doesn’t even look like he’s working. He probably doesn’t even WANT to work, the lazy fuck. Look at him! Walking like that. He probably thinks he’s real “nice” too, I bet, and he’d have a girlfriend or something if ONLY they KNEW how god damn nice he was. What a lazy piece of shit. He’s not even walking right.” This is simultaneously going through the mind of EVERY single driver on the road, who have been stopped in their tracks solely because of me. I absolutely know they are all thinking this. It can be scientifically proven, it is not in question. I’m in the spotlight, and I am fucking up bad. My advanced-level solution to this problem, for you see I am a man who thinks about and understand things, perhaps a little deeper than most, I am afraid to say. I’ve read books. I think things. Important things. Advanced concepts. Are you ready for it?? I simply refuse to cross the street. The “nice” driver who is trying to let me go? I ignore them, or curtly wave to indicate that I am above their simple-minded “nice” attitude, I simply won’t fall for it. I am above such things, you see. I transcend their plebian ideas of nice. If they insist, rather than continuing the hand waving charade I simply ignore them and stand there. Haha! That REALLY gets em! By now I would have been easily on the other side of the road and the piled up traffic would be back on their way to the next strip-mall. But no, I instead look away and put my hands in my pockets. I refuse to subject myself to their ridicule and scrutiny while I schlepp across the road like a chump. I avoid the spotlight on principle. Never mind the fact that all the fat slugs in personal fuck-dumbshit-boxes-on-wheels are even more angry AT ME while I stand there refusing to cross than they ever would have been if I had just obediently scampered across, head down, eyes averted from their Harsh Glare of Judgement. No, at this point I still have the upper hand, you see, I’m taking a stand against niceness. My worldview is more advanced than most. At this point it helps immensely to pull out my phone and affect an air of nonchalance. Perhaps I’ll look at my email! People are writing to me, they are obviously interested in my important thoughts, and are eager for me to contact them. Why, I’m so absorbed I’ve forgotten I’m even standing there, drivers staring to blare horns by now. They are simply beneath me, I do not deign to even glance their way. Victory! The initial nice driver finally slams on the gas, perhaps shouting, perhaps windows are rolled down, there is noise and honking of horns. Fingers are extended. Everyone has been held up and inconvenienced by this point, no one is happy, that’s for sure. “Did you SEE that skinny fuck??” they are asking their companions in their sheet-metal shit-busses, absolutely furious. “That car was TRYING TO BE NICE, and he was a total dick! What the fuck??”

The light finally changes and I can cross when properly indicated, having certainly kept my integrity completely intact. I emerge on the other side of the busy road, having taken my time crossing mind you, in the full flush of victory, for I have taken a powerful political stand against niceness. By actually crossing the street when told, per the regulations of society, by the flashing icon, I have achieved a far greater level of subversive protest than if I had crossed “against the light.” Because I do not give in to the truly neanderthal backwards-thinking of the self appointed “niceness ambassadors” of the world, who go about demanding politeness and propriety at all costs, who attempt to scold you if you don’t shower them constantly with praise for their truly asinine attempts at civility! Down with niceness! Well! Phew! These “nice” people are going to be the death of us! Thank god for true heroes like myself, with the advanced mind to comprehend that such daily protests are absolutely required.

I had another example of my quiet everyday revolutionary behavior that involved bus-riding, but I’m feeling worn out, having offered so much to humanity already today, so I will here call it quits. You’re welcome.

Gary MillerComment
"For the Millionth Time" by Ashleigh Hickey

There in front a gray dashboard, illuminating with tiny red dots in a grid like pattern. Rain beating down on the windshield. My hands were locked behind. I sat confined. Black streams rolled down my swollen face.

“What if I never get better?” I asked helplessly. The cop’s face was a blank
canvas, cold and expressionless.

“What if I never get better?!” I persisted.

“What do you mean?’

What did I mean? What had I wanted him to say?

“If I was your kid, what would you tell me right now?”

We sat in silence.

Gary MillerComment
"Take These Broken Wings and Learn to Fly" by Stephanie Hutchins
learn to fly.JPG

A victim trapped and chained within her own mind. Terrified and confused she dropped to herknees begging to understand. Shrieking with pain her hysterical cries was just enough relief. God help me” she cries out, each time strengthening with hope. Not sure if she believes, she glances up, “God help me”. The angel was trapped within the walls of her mental illness. Her chains impacted her self-worth and she lost all control unaware of her actions. Slim moments of her mania would pass; her wing could then be mended, until the uncontrollable state overtook her power of choice. Over time the angel adjusted to her broken self, strengthening her ability to heal. Developing her faith the angel connected to her God. Sharing the tragic emotions deep within her bellowed cries the victimized angel broke free of her walls. With her broken wings, she then learned how to fly. This angel freed herself.

Gary MillerComment
"4/27/16" by Lisa Mugford

The moment I knew something had to change was about 2 days after hearing from my mother that my family would be leaving me…my husband and twin daughters age 13. They had had enough! Years of lying, manipulation, embarrassment, and above all, fear. The tapes in my mind played over and over. Never would they leave! I pay all the bills! My girls need me! My husband would never leave me! ………. Or would he?????


Gary MillerComment
"These Are the People I Want to Be With" by Neville Berle

Those wakening to their lives, who risk the unknown for the sake of discovery; who bathe in laughter; who listen closely and well, then speak to a heart they trust to be there; those drawn to color, to wearing it, disappearing within it; who savor detail, and practice contentment in small gifts; who let their sadness breathe.

Gary MillerComment
"Here's Why I'm Not Giving Up" by Rhonda

There are times I want to give up. I want to crawl in the shabby Volkswagen that is lying in wait for me, in that nasty run down garage on Dyer Street. I'd stuff the exhaust with a dirty red, rag. I want to slide in that mechanical blue metal shell, sink in the cold leather seat, slowly turn the ignition on, and die. Leave the carcass that contains heavy tire tracks on the heart.

Sometimes I want to continue to beat the fucking shit right outta my liver. Put some cigarette burns on it and drown it to death with a Tsunami of vodka. Yup, yup give up just like that. Leave the badly hurt, bumperless frame behind.

I have to dig deep not to give up. I dig desperately, intensely, feverishly. As rapidly as I dug in the sand pit when I was a child, on my way to China, I dig. I was determined back then to get to that unknown place called China; therein lies part of the reason I'm not giving up. Determination to get to a new, different destination. A determination to maneuver the steering wheel - swerving and dodging the ominous traffic . I am determined to get up the nerve to spin out in an unknown direction leaving the dust to settle as it wishes.

I have more reasons for not giving up - the typical ones like my family and friends. The blown up burden and grief I would leave as their inheritance I dare not imagine. It would be like casting a stone through their windshield. I must focus on the times to come; fill up the seats, turn the radio on, roll down the windows and breathe. I will even stop the car along the way to get out and dance on the highway.

I hope during my road trip I get to see a three headed, homeless snail. Maybe as I stop to get some new tread I will see a sleeping bumble bee. I wonder if I will see a toothless woodchuck smile at me from some undisclosed landscape? When I arrive at my new destination, I hope to get a photo of them and make a postcard, tie it to my rear view mirror and continue on my way.

I haven't given up because,
I have determination for fuel.
I haven't given up because,
my seats are filled with family and friends;
I have NOT given up because,
I have a working gear shifter made of hope.

Gary MillerComment
"How Is It That I Have Returned to This Road?" by Dana Bigham

How is it that I have returned to this road? I'm back at the beginning. God knew all the struggles I had to face in this life. He knew what roads I would take and where they would lead me. I had lessons to learn, friends and enemies to make, Bible readings to digest and changes of churches along the way. He knew for He was leading me. 56 years later back at the church I was baptized in as a baby and asking for prayers for the family of the 97-year- old psychiatrist whose funeral I attended the day before. By throwing me in the insane asylum he had begun a change in me that still affects where I am and what I'm doing today in my recovery. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I still go to church, therapy and 12 step recovery meetings regularly. He prodded me into the decision to get into recovery.

Gary MillerComment
"In My Secret Heart" by Julia

I am powerful. I rescue people then fade away leaving gratitude in my wake. In my secret heart I know how to help, know what to say, know how to heal. In my secret heart all the pain, anger and fear in me is transformed into compassion and hope. In my secret heart my world swirls with the colors of hope, love, compassion, grace and all that is good. In my secret heart I am alive.

Gary MillerComment
"This Is the Truth About Addiction" by Pat Murray

It comes into your life usually unwelcome and uninvited, like a stranger who happens upon
your door and you let them in because you think they’re harmless and might be able to help
But soon you realize that what started out as harmless and helpful became haunting and
So you tried to ask the stranger to leave you, but they were no longer a stranger, they had
become a friend, a confidant, how could you ask them to leave?
At times you’d put them in the closet or attic so that friends or family would not know that they
lived there.
But soon they were everywhere you went; work, home, in good times and bad times, they were
always with you.
You needed help to rid your life of this stranger, this uninvited guest who clung to you and
would not be dispelled.

Gary MillerComment
"Rec Yard" by MEM

I walk and breathe deep..
On the endless circle walk
With Beauty. Beyond..
The crow soars over
Gleaming razor sharp
Circiular barbed wire
Sings a love caw in passing.
While the way back is gone,
Only forward...

Gary MillerComment
"I Can Hear You Now" by Rhonda
Here 2.jpg

I can hear you now, I said to my mom. "You can do this" her voice was sweet and songful. Her whispers of encouragement danced in the air.

And I could hear her in that almost malleable moment. I could hear her powerful prayers for my recovery; they were just whispers - soft, spiritual, gentle.

"You can do this."

Her tone was compassionate, clear and concise. She leaned in closer to me , winked and said,

"Breakfree from this self- incarceration."

In that tangible instant I could hear her . Maybe even more importantly I understood her. She was doing for me what I could not do for myself.

"You can do this..."

Gary Miller 2 Comments
"I Can Hear Her Now" by David Tilley

It's the same thing over and over

Patterned living, regimental life force

The gifts have left, the promises stopped.

We can follow the Spheres, but are gone in a stale heartbeat.

She holds a baby, doorstep bound.

I give a bunch away in the church basket.

Some left Hungry, some left Rich

Some early, some late

There is that voice again, graveling wide in my ears.

It repeats itself, just charging through

Over and Over, listening only to itself, to hear itself, to BE itself.

I can hear her now

But I won’t tell

Which way she's going.

Gary MillerComment
VT PBS to Screen "The Hungry Heart" and "Here Today"
VT PBS.png

If you haven't seen Bess O'Brien's amazing films about opiate addiction The Hungry Heart and Here Today, you'll your chance. On Wednesday, September 6 at 7 PM, Vermont Public Television will show The Hungry Heart. The following evening at 7, they will show "Here Today." After the September 7 screening of Here Today, Vermont PBS will hold a live panel to discuss the film. You can even submit your own questions for the panel--click here or read below to find out how. Don't miss this great opportunity to see the films that helped change the conversation about opiate addiction in Vermont, and helped launch Writers for Recovery!

In addition to these screenings, there will be special community screenings and panel discussions of Here Today in September. The Brattleboro area screening will take place at the Latchis Theater at 7 PM on Tuesday, September 12. The Rutland area screening will take place at Rutland High School at 7PM on Wednesday, September 13. And the St. Johnsbury area screening will take place at 7PM on Thursday, September 14 at Catamount Arts.   


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Gary MillerComment
Writers for Recovery Book Bash
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In early July, we got together to celebrate the publication of volume 2 of our annual anthology, "One Imagined Word at a Time." The evening featured readings by many of the writers featured in the anthology and music by Vermont songwriter Mark LeGrand.  If you'd like to buy a copy of the anthology, you can order it here. (Please note, the image on the page shows last year's book, but we will indeed send you this year's if you order.)

And in case you missed it, here is the complete text of the reading.


I Am From

by Mollie Hoerres

I am from

a gravelly alley

Dusty rocks and

Cracked, asbestos shingles


I am from

traffic jams

People yelling

I’ll kill you mother-fucker!


I am from

Max and Joan

The two who never should have spawned


Then where would we seven be?


I am from

dishes smashing

Knives flying

Windows crashing


I am from

hiding in the wall

To save myself

From being seen


I am from

Don’t you ever talk

About what goes on

In this house

And from

Clean yourself up

It’s time to go to church


I am from

Respect the father

Do as you are told

Children are to be seen

Not heard


I am from

Don’t be a pussy

Stop your crying


I need to get off

The phone Honey,

I can’t talk now


I am from

Don’t go out

Stay here with me

I might die if

You go out there and



I am from

Help yourself

To a drink

While you make one

For me


I am from

Notes on refrigerators


No drugs

No boys

Take out the garbage


I am from

code names

over the telephone

for the dealer

Be careful what you say


I am from

Shut up and

Leave me alone

I just want

To be gone


I am from

Rough streets

Tender hearts

Calloused hands

Quick wit and

Constitutions that

Never quit


I am from

A shifting landscape


Moving along with the tides

And phases of the moon


I am from

The Universe

Ever flowing, expanding


Reaching across dimensions


I am from

A world of forgiveness

Generations of hope and

Beings of love.


Where I'm From...


by Suzie Walker

I'm a farmer's daughter from cow country, from my dad's dairy farm, to college Cowtown USA, to the home of the Strolling of the Heifers. 

I'm a farmer's daughter from a loving family, gregarious and celebratory, but who often tipped back too many and toasted too much. 

I'm a farmer's daughter from voracious reading stock, where we passed books from grandparent to parent to child and talked about big ideas and felt deep feelings. I'm a farmer's daughter, caught between wholesome and naughty, as the various limericks and stories go.

I'm from a farmhouse where we kept more beer than milk, and we thought neverending 12 packs were a staple of life everywhere, where the bulk tank in my dad's milkhouse held gallons of fresh, frothy milk while the milkhouse fridge held a quarter-keg of its own foamy beverage.

I'm from a family where loved ones gathered at parties and reunions became strangers as the booze flowed freely and the day wore on, where I tried not to get caught in the sloshy swirl of the drunken chatter.

I'm from a family where the white mustache smile is beer foam not milk, but we learned to wipe the foam away.

I'm from a family who said "Enough!" and cut off the flow, embracing recovery, from my mom, to my siblings, to me.

I'm a farmer's daughter, who discovered that I'm enough and learned when to say when.


I Am a Disposable Human Being

by Q.

I am a disposable human being

Use once and discard

Do not reuse

            Do not repurpose.

                        Do not recycle.


I come to you an empty vessel

Begging to be filled with hopes and dreams

Yet I am told I am irreparable

A cog of malice in this machine


I have purged myself of rust and stain

Yet still I am haunted

Do not allow me to feel needed

God forbid you trust me


For such as claim correction

I feel I am denied the care I seek

I have changed every broken part

Yet I am somehow unworthy of use


How is it that I will heal

Without a tearful, fierce embrace

Denied making reparation

Because it does not fit my stereotype


When it is I attempting virtue

But barricaded on every side

Tell me, who is failing

I leave for you to decide


A Morning in the Middle of My Addiction

by Richard Gengras

Goddam. Stumble to the kitchen, down those friggin’ stairs.

Find the 1⁄2 pint for mornings


Drink water.

Get sorta right, put on pants, shirt

It’s 7:45.

Walk to the Center, get a pint at 8:00

And start walking home, drinking, in public.

No shame, no cares.

All of Hartford going to work.

Shit.I gotta get to work—not till 10:00.

Have a drink boys-your loving bride awaits you!

Yeah-right, she awaits something.

Fuck, I’m tired. Get some blow on the way in.

I wish I was back on heroin.

Gotta puke again.

Mom calls, says I’m drinking again. How does she know?

I haven’t talked to anyone today.


I Am the One

by Angala Devoid


I am the one who lost custody of her two older children 20 years ago.

I am the one who did not care if people tried to help me get them back. All I did

was push them away.

I am the one who fought and fought the system for years. Stop drinking stop

using just stop and your

babies will be back in your arms again.

I am the one who did not listen to those words. I stuck cotton in my ears

picked up a drink and tookthat demon’s hand.

I am the one who stood in front of a judge and said my drink my drug I love

more than my kids then

turned around and walked away.

I am the one who after all those years of fighting walked into my Lord’s arms

and said I am willingto

surrender now, help me win this fight.


The Moment I Knew Something Had to Change                         

by Doreen Phillips


The moment I woke up

I came to realize

My forehead was throbbing

Rolling out of bed required

Careful positioning of my frozen legs

As my back was in lockdown


I waddled to the bathroom

Stripping myself naked

I saw the mottled patches

Of purple and blue

Another night, another blackout

Another step closer to death


The moment I knew I was in serious trouble

A stream of crimson blood

Streaked the porch floor

My head split open


As I stumbled and crawled

To arrive on my feet


The panic knowing

I would soon be found out

For another tumble

This time during broad daylight


I escaped the need

To be sewn back together


The party ended

On an abrupt note

I face-planted on the floor

Down from a barstool


The paramedics arrived

One of them the son

Of an old friend

Attending the party


We had just reconnected

After seven years

What were the odds?

He was from another town


The moment I knew

Something needed to change

I took inventory

Of years of moments lost

Body battered, soul shattered


So I packed my bags

As God’s hand reached out to me

You are coming with me

To live.


A.K.A.  Ugly Bulb

by Johnny NoNo

I was once the one with the reputation

For wearing the Lampshade.

At Parties

It was an expression

For the one who played The Fool.


I found an actual Lampshade

And put it on.

I had an insatiable appetite for the attention,

And I was very convincing

As the Fool.

I was always the last one

To leave the Party,

And my Hunger was so great

That for me,

The Party never ended.

I stopped removing the Lampshade altogether,

And danced to the Music in my head all the Time,

Never worrying about the Bruise on my reputation,

‘till I found myself

Doing time

in places like this.

Now I see that the Lampshade

Doesn’t look that good on me anymore…

It didn’t look too good in the first place.


The Promises Made, the Ones I Keep

by Connie Perry


Oh Gee, I need to put this damn life aside.

To make a better one.

For me.

To get along with people.

To keep my thoughts to myself.

Live in peace and love for others.


This sucks.

Do I want to be a good person or a hater?

Damn, we have enough haters out there.

There are days I want to tear up the world.

I’ll never be a saint.

Damn, but I can and will change.

But know…that there are days when I will be as mean as a bear.

But anyhow, I want peace for the world

And I.


You Should Have Been There

by S.

It was one of those meetings, you know the kind, where the topic strikes a chord and the sharing is deep and meaningful. Like the other night when the topic was ‘Sobriety First.’ There were the usual remarks about the importance of attending meetings and going to any lengths until somebody got fired up about the need for being selfish and taking care of yourself. After all, how can your sobriety come first if YOU don’t come first? How can you help someone else if you’re not ready? If you’re still struggling to take care of yourself?  If you’re not spiritually fit and strong? It all made perfect sense.

After all, we had finished our self-indulgent drinking journeys and left a trail of carnage and wrecked lives, but we were better now. We’d made amends, become contrite and humble, and were ready to extend a helping hand and serve others. Of course, in order to stay sober, we needed to be a little selfish and take care of ourselves first. It seemed we’d come full circle.

There were metaphors about life jackets and learning to swim before giving our own away, about getting our own house in order, and about cleaning up our side of the street first. Ultimately we needed to put ourselves first, put our sobriety ahead of all other things in order to be prepared and effective helping others.

Then our leader, bless her heart, came up with the perfect metaphor:

‘It’s like being in a plane,’ she said. ‘The plane is passing through a storm and we are experiencing turbulence. The cabin begins to decompress and the oxygen masks drop down.’

I have a fear of flying so I’m not liking this example.

‘But we know what to do,’ she continues. ‘Put our own mask on first. Before we help the armless man across the aisle or the little old lady sitting in the seat beside us. Even before—hard to imagine—but even before we help the sweet baby child that we’re holding in our arms, we have to put our own mask on first.’

There is a long reflective silence, a pregnant pause. Everyone in the room is nodding quietly, thinking it through and loving the metaphor. Yes. We need to help ourselves before we can really help someone else. And save all our lives.

So there we were, imagining being in a 727 with no oxygen when somebody makes a comment that takes the rest of the air right out of the room:

‘Yes, but if the plane goes down, we’ll all be dead so it really doesn't matter.’

Who says alcoholics aren’t realists?



by Maura Quinn

I was having a craving

First it was for crawling back into bed

So, I did

I was having a craving

And it kept coming at me

I was having a craving

And I wanted to give in

I wanted to run out or drive out

Just, get to what I wanted

Because it was a pull that kept pulling

It would not back off

I was having a craving

So, I went to a meeting

And it subsided for a while

So, I thought it would be safe


To go out

And it was for a while

But then I got restless again

So, I went home

I went home

And I tried to distract myself

I wrote and I watched soap operas

But I was having a craving


And it still won’t go away

Because I’m having a craving

And the craving craves

So, I’m hoping for sleep

And hoping it will pass

But it is powerful

It is consuming

It swamps me

So, I have


Just let time pass

 Don’t quit

And don’t give in

Because the craving craves

And the craving can never be filled

What might have been…

by Nancy Bassett

Sometimes I think back to when I was using & how it might have been…

Like, if I hadn’t gotten arrested,

Or if heroin hadn’t consumed my life the way it did…

What if Wayne hadn’t overdosed and died?

Would we still be together?

I’d like to think so,

but maybe we would have killed each other by now…

And then I think about it a little more,

I wouldn’t be sitting here right now…

Maybe I’d be dead, too

I’m glad I’m here…


A Premature Overdose

by Jeremy Void

A few months ago a good friend of mine died of a heroin overdose.  He was a good kid—too young to die, too stubborn to live.

Today I saw a woman passed out on the sidewalk.



She looked sick.

Two firemen stood peeling her off the pavement.  One woman stood by, watching the firemen work.  Who was this woman?

A Friend?

A Concerned Citizen?




A few months ago a good friend of mine died of a heroin overdose.  He had just gotten home.  Back from the road.  I saw him at the bus stop before I boarded a bus to Montreal for my cousin’s wedding.

He was gonna stay with me for a bit when I got back to Rutland, VT.  No using drugs when you’re with me this time around, I said.  (He stayed with me before he had left.)  I mean it, I scolded.  Okay, he told me.  Okay, I won’t.

A few months ago a good friend of mine died of a heroin overdose.  He was a good kid—too young to die, too stubborn to live …

Gary Miller 1 Comment
"I Am the Only One Who Sees" by Jeff

Eyes open into the life

Lucky enough to still be here

Still free

laugh at it all

and with the chance to breath

evenly in the new



Yet it is

with God that I have

sight, the comfort 

at still having a voice



the gentle bloody

listening of it

all Regal


eternally finite


the even throated


of yes it is okay

it will be better

not Alone

Not really

Hope is my best friend now


A gift for the soul

vision for the rest

of this brief

Dance on the head

of a spinning Earth


Now I can

sense the

essence, before

the cloud always

there stopping



with the true open


A door is open

Walking thru now.

Gary Miller 1 Comment
WFR at The Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Facility

I guess it has always been common for adults to talk down about the younger generation. You know the drill. They have no values. They have no ambition. They aren't as talented, or as creative. Their music is terrible. But I recently spent five weeks with the amazing kids at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Facility in Colchester Vermont leading a Writers for Recovery workshop, and I am here to tell you that the news about young people is good. 

The students at Woodside, were smart, friendly, creative, and fantastic writers. They were willing to take a chance on a total stranger, to put hard truths on the page, and to share them. Oh, and the hard truths weren't all of it. As you will see as you read the work that follows, they wrote with not only fearless honesty but with introspection, imagination, and an outright wacky sense of humor. The time I spent at Woodside was one of the highlights of my summer. I want to send my heartfelt thanks to the students and their incredible x 10 teachers for sharing their time and their work with me.

What follows is the text of the reading the students did at the end of the workshop. To protect confidentiality, all works are presented anonymously. Read on, and be amazed. 


Something That’s Really Hard for Me...

 I find it hard to trust, to communicate, to open up.

All the burnt bridges I’ve caused,

I find it hard to look em’ straight in the face.

As I look out the window, I find it hard not to cry.

As I think about the past, I find it hard not to blame myself.

As I think about my weight, I find it hard not to purge.

As I look in the mirror, I find it hard not to turn away.

When I wake up shaking, I find it hard not to cut.

When I think about love, I find it hard not to hide.

When I think about Jamaica, I find it hard not to dream.

When I think about life, it’s hard for me not to say screw it...



Finally I understood why my Mom committed suicide,

Finally I understood that everything happens for a reason, that not everything is perfect,

Finally I understood why people always walk out of my life,

Finally I understood why I make the choices I make,

Finally I understood why I’m sitting in Woodside,

Finally I understood why people s*** on me,

Finally I understood why My dad is sitting in jail,

Finally I understood that the world does not revolve around me,

Finally I understood why why is not a good question,

Finally I understand why people tell me I’m a good sister,

Finally I understand that you can overcome anything you want to

as long as you are determined to overcome it.

Finally I understood why people give me chances,

Finally I understood to take what people say with a grain of salt

Finally I understood life is hard for a reason and that reason is to push people past what they can handle because you can handle way more than you think you can.


Ode to a Taco

 Oh taco, you are so good but you make a mess

I love that you are so meaty for me and 

neatly with a lot of spice.

Oh taco you lay on my plate.

Wait until I tuck you in so you can sleep in my body with that nice feel.

And you fill my gut.    


I Am the One Who

I am the one who took the cookies from the jar

and gave them to a troll under a bridge.

And the troll gave the cookies to a princess.

And the princess found love so the princess gave

The cookies to an elf

And the elf


Ate the cookies.


I Am From

I am from the city of drug addicts and criminal behavior.

I am from a home laced with domestic violence.

I am from the worst walk of life.

I am from a place that fighting is average and walking teens is all you see.

They are on an adventure to find the next high.

I am from a place I call luxury; others might not see it that way.

I am from a town known for drug dealers.

I am from a toxic place I call



I Am the One Who

I am the one who

Makes poems like this:

Monkeys are weird

Monkeys are cool

Monkeys are sweet

Just like you!












Roses are red

Violets are blue

Roses smell good

and so do you.


Snakes are slimy.

They slither all over you.

They are weird, just like snails


Floating like a butterfly stinging like a bee

Eating some food because I’m so hungry!


I Am the One Who

I am the one who

Is called brother

The one called grandchild

The one who is called son

The one called Friend

But I am the one who gets pushed to the edge

I am the one who sees nothing but hears the whispers that say:

Brother, Grandchild, Son, Friend


I Am From

I am from a place called home

I am from a place with trees and stones

I am from rolling hills and feather manes

I am from a roaring river

I am from a placid lake

I am from a place no other

I am from a place called home


I Am From

I am from a place called home

I am from a place with trees and stones

I am from rolling hills and feather manes

I am from a roaring river

I am from a placid lake

I am from a place no other

I am from a place called home


I Am the One Who...

Tires, I am the one who makes a beginning

the one who learns from his mistakes and moves on from them

The one who likes to forgive and take chances.

I am a person who shows others how to do things from experience,

I am a man who has a personality of kind

who loves to play sports and teach the little ones when he has time.

I’ve learned from all the mistakes I had chosen and believed in fate.

Taking Forgiveness from my friends and family is an importance in what I am.

I now will take things as an honor and move on with them while I still can.


Ode to Chocolate Covered Blueberries

Chocolate covered blueberrries,

just writing the name makes me melt in my seat.

I could eat them three meals a day without no complaint.

The way they explode in my mouth, it’s like a day in heaven.

Angels soaring thru the sky, even the devil comin’ out to sneak a peak.

Oh boy, they’re so delicious.

I would jump in front of a train to catch a bag

oh yes I would

my life depends...



 Some words I wish I could take back are

I’m a failer or you’re not worth my time.

I am all about hurting people verbally when I’m upset

not just others, myself included

I wish I could take back saying goodbye to people

because goodbye means forever and forever scares me.

I wish I could take back telling my mother that she’s a druggy and she’s just going to die.

I told her that and guess what?

She is 6 feet under from her usage of drugs.

I wish I could take back all the hurtful things I said to myself and others

and lift them up instead of bringing them down.

It’s not just words I wish I could take back.

It’s also all the dumb choices I have made.

I wish I could take back everything that has hurt me or others.

But guess what?

Not everything is perfect

And I can learn from my mistakes,

I also believe everything happens for a reason!!!!!!!


Something Thats Really Hard for Me...

Having to Say No

Accepting the Consequence for Not enjoying the results,

Having to take things further than expected.

Not liking the truth,

Staying at these placements that aren’t meant for me

Having to feel pain,

having to now feel that words are cheap

That they meant nothing.

I’ve now taken my life to something

that’s really hard for me

taking it to a place that’s going beyond deep step.


The Strain of Five Broken Souls

The strain of five broken souls

Souls that came with a flame

But the flame was no match for the gust of shame

Five souls out of love

Five souls from heaven above

Five souls that deserved the love



One day you buy a necklace that you discover make you fluent in any language.

Astronauts land on a distant planet.

As soon as they open the shuttle door they see the most amazing sight.

A group of students are hiking,

When they come across a gold egg at that very moment it hatches.

You’re in the middle of a coffee shop, and time grinds to halt.

One morning Jessica wakes up and realizes that she is magnetic.

you meet a girl who, when she closes her eyes she can see the entire universe.

She has a twin brother who, when he closes his eyes he can see the fabric of time itself.

A light in your backyard gets brighter and brighter, until . . . Flash!  Flash!  Flash!

Grim, steeler, crush, toke, scorian

A planet exactly like Earth but one big difference.


Finally I Understood the Truth...

How things happen

How it cannot be solved

First it hits then it becomes a mystery,

Realizing what’s left to understand.

Having to vandalize your friends

not knowing which direction you’re going

not knowing the decisions you have left .

Finally I understood why?

The truth?

Your Right from wrongs...


I Am From

I am from-

Long lost places that have little meaning.

I am from long back roads that don’t have traffic,

I am from feeling the wind in our hair from having the top down.

I am from the small town turn around,

a place we all meet on Sunday to see the clash of the modified cars

I am from the occasional mix of blood and grease falling from our fingertips.

I am from the backwoods where we all know what we have done.

But at the end of the day, we sit down in this place that I am from

to see all the scars we have made from this little town.


Gary Miller 1 Comment