"Here's How To Know When You Have A Problem" by Donna
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When you start to see things in addiction
like your house is dirty, you’re dirty,
your bills aren't getting paid, you’re always feeling sick and anxious,
your true friends and family are practically non-existent.
You can't wear short sleeves because your arms are black and blue.
You’re losing so much weight because you are not eating.
Your only friends are liars, thieves, and drug addicts.
Your teeth are falling out because you forgot how to use a toothbrush.
To me it's blatantly laid in front of you,
but the only way to recover is
to recognize these things
and want to make a serious change to your life.

Gary MillerComment
"Here’s How to Know When You Have a Problem" by Dawn E. Brooke
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1. The things you used to enjoy become unimportant or won’t be done at all. 
2. Your appearance will suffer. 
3. Your old friends may not want to be seen with you.
4. You may not be invited to family gatherings. 
5. You may not have a job. 
6. Your bank account will be zero or in the negative. 
7. You will not make eye contact with yourself when you look in the mirror.

The order and severity of these items may change but the problem will still be the problem until it’s addressed and then you may regain what you have lost.

Gary MillerComment
"Ahhhh!" by Maura Quinn
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I have been misled
I have been cheated
I don’t’ want to break things
But I do
I can’t drink I don’t really want to drink
But I do want to temporarily alter my reality
I don’t want to consume sugar because it will not help me
I know I need to just be in action and do something positive
But I don’t want to
I don’t want to leave this bed
I don’t want to do the
Right thing
But
I don’t want to do
The wrong thing
I want to break things
But I don’t want to because that won’t do anything
I don’t want to call anyone because I don’t’ want to hear
What they have to say.
I don’t want to hear it
Know that you’re full of shit
I don’t want to hear it
Know that you’re full of shit
First you’re telling stories
Then you’re telling lies
When the fuck are you gonna
Realize that I don’t
Want to hear it
Oh that felt better

(With credit to Minor Threat)

Gary MillerComment
"Missing Seasons" by Daniel Wyman
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You may call me crazy,
but when this winter is finally over,
I will only miss it.

After years spent languishing
on the West Coast,
enduring its endless summers,
I dreamt of seasons and change.

The leaves didn't change out there,
stubbornly insisting on their monochromatic green.
Nothing fell from the sky except sunlight,
as if the clouds had lost their imagination.
And the air felt always the same-
frozen in heat.

So yes,
I missed the snow, the cold, the leaves...
Hell, I even missed the mud.

Gary Miller Comment
"Here's Why I'm Not Giving Up" by Anonymous
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I’m not giving up because I am still very young. I have a lot of potential and I’m a great human being. My friends and family love, trust, and respect me and therefore keep me going. I was told before, life’s a gamble.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The point is not to let any one thing conquer you—you conquer it. And I still have so much to learn and live for so therefore that’s why I keep going every day and struggle with whatever the struggle is with. That’s just why I’m not giving up!

Gary Miller Comment
"I Am From" by Regina Wakefield
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I am from loud,
I am from hard work, smacks upon my mouth,
I am from late night homework,
lonely, alone but also driven.
I am from early mornings and middle of the night screams,
nothing beautiful, and far from serene.
I am from bumps, bruises and whiskey blues.
I am from birthdays without a soul, 
family always working or on the go.
I am from the fantasies within a girl’s room, 
troubles stay in her head and never released,
for if she ever spoke
she could only imagine what they would do. 
I am from silence never free to speak,
scared of my "family", who holds my whole heart.
The things that were kept behind closed doors;
I knew if I spoke then we would for sure
be pulled apart.
I am from a deep love for my mother,
although I never got the same compassion from her.
A question so deep with answers that scarred my soul;
Why is she white? Where is she from?
The answers she gave,
I would have rather heard none.
I am from FEAR!

Gary Miller Comment
Recovery People

Activist Ryan Hampton and the Voices Project by Gina Tron

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Six months into his own recovery, Ryan Hampton was still in a “place of shame,” as he told Writers for Recovery. Even worse, he said that within a six-week span, he lost four close friends to overdoses.

“People were telling me that that’s what happens when you get into recovery. People will start dying. You will go to a lot of funerals. I get that but that doesn’t make it okay. I was feeling this huge sense of social injustice and outrage.”

Ryan began researching. He said it began with a journey of self-exploration.

“I wanted originally to see what was out there,” he said. “I wanted to see what other communities were doing to support recovery. I wanted to see what was going on in the criminal justice system. I wanted to see what was going on what was going on with prevention, ER rooms and with Narcan.”

In 2015, he embarked on a trip with a friend to 22 states, to visit communities hit hardest by the crisis. They visited recovery centers, jails, parents of addicts and community members. “When I got back from the trip, I decided that those were the stories that needed to be told,” he said. “The media focuses so much on the problem and not enough on solutions.”That was the start of the Voices Project.

“I decided it was going to be a platform for others rather than me. It’s to aggregate as many voices as possible to create one unified voice to push for solutions. It’s storytelling for a purpose and it’s storytelling for an impact. We’ve been able to use that platform to erase shame and stigma but also to push people in the right direction when it comes to critical decisions about addiction and recovery.”

Ryan said that through his research and project that there needs to be more of a focus on recovery support.

“We all know that  we need effective prevention and treatment and that the treatment model needs to be updated,” he said. “We know how to handle addiction in the acute crisis phase, intervention, detox, those 28 days. Where my friends have died is after they get out of treatment. Are we supporting their recovery? What does that look like?

“For me, we need continuative care. We need access to recovery houses. Access to employment. Be reintegrated back into society. The traditional personal recovery stuff is great but on top of that we need to provide resources and support to help people become the best
people that they can be.”

Ryan said that data shows that people are most vulnerable to recurrence of use in their first year of recovery.

“After five years, the risk of recurrence or relapse drops below 15% and that is per the US Surgeon General in 2016,” Ryan said. “So, my whole thing is why aren’t we supporting people for those full first five years? We should be getting people to that five-year mark.”

Gary Miller Comment
"Finally I Understood the Truth" by Sierra Ruth
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Finally I understood the truth: that family doesn't have to be blood, someone you knew only for a few months could care more for your well being than someone you've spent everyday of your life with. Who are you? Whose are you? Why are you here? From a split up family, always being pulled back and forth from Mommy to Daddy. Forgetting my identity and being morphed into just another add-on to my mother’s marriage. Pretending to be a trophy child for a man that did not see me as a daughter or his own, just a piece of baggage from my mother's previous life.

Warmth, Love, Smiles, Hugs, Compassion, Understanding

It took me to hit rock bottom that I found my family. Beaten, broken, and defeated, I walked into the four walls of the Journey to Recovery Community Center and I found my home. Embraced by the faces of people who just wanted to see me succeed, who knew nothing about me except my desire to change. We are not perfect, but this is home and this is my family. I found it all by myself. I found the truth of love and acceptance. I found it; I’m home.

Gary Miller Comment
"This is What Most People Don't Understand" by DKY
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I guess I'll talk about compulsive overeating.
Most people don't understand
That it is a real disease,
Not something to laugh off.
Most people don't understand
That the cravings are horrendous,
The stories are real.
Most people don't understand
The severity of the bingeing, the purging, the starving.
It's a disease that shows no mercy.
Most people don't understand
That compulsive overeating is as lethal
as drug or alcohol addiction.
Most people don't understand
That food is not only for nurturing our bodies,
But it can also destroy our bodies.
Most people don't understand
Why I want to go to recovery meetings
Every day, if I can.
Sometimes I don't understand it all either,
But boy, am I a grateful recovering compulsive overeater....one
day at a time!

Gary MillerComment
"I Love Shaggy Dogs" by Maura Quinn
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He was a shaggy dog sort of fellow,
Unassuming and approachable;
Genuinely kind, curious and playful.
But there was more than just a shaggy surface.
There were levels of depth and care
Built on life’s sometimes
Deafening carelessness.
Yet he stands ready for life,
Curious and eager to see what it holds.
Caring, and carrying a depth of empathy
Born of experience,
Ready to share sorrows and joy
As they are revealed.
Thrilled to be alive.

Gary MillerComment
Recovery People

Django Koenig by Gina Tron

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Django Koenig has been practicing sobriety since January 2015.  Before that, he was enjoying the party life while working as a musician.

“Playing music for me and drinking and smoking cigarettes and doing cocaine was a really good combination,” the Plainfield-born musician said, adding that he also dabbled in psychedelics.  Although he didn’t say he was addicted to any particular substance, he said that he did have a problem with being intoxicated.

“I did have an addiction to the sensations that would come [with the substances,” he said, adding that it wasn’t an option for him to go out and not consume alcohol or drugs. “I wasn’t waking up with a bottle next to me. I have drunk in the morning for sure but I didn’t have a bottle under the car. But I would say I had a problem.”

His substance abuse issues began affecting his relationships and that’s when Django decided to quit everything -- from alcohol to cocaine to cigarettes -- cold turkey.

“I stopped everything all at once.”

It wasn’t easy. Django, now 30, had been a heavy drinker since the age of 16 and a regular cigarette smoker for over five years. He moved back to his mother’s home when he decided to cut all vices and that proved to be helpful.

“There’s a big difference in a house where someone drinks and a house where someone doesn’t.”

It was also winter 2015, when we endured weeks on end of subzero weather in Vermont. It was perfect for hiding out and working on a project.

“I had songs I wanted to record. So, I started working on this album.”

Now, not only is Django sober but he’s able to perform songs from that album, created during that bitterly cold winter, in bars across Vermont without feeling any temptation.

“I really enjoy sobriety, not drinking, not doing drugs,” he said, adding that his quality of life had improved seven-fold. “And I still have fun. I'm still my fun-loving weird self.”

His music aims to promote overall well-being, but never preachiness.

“I’m not trying to convince anyone else to change their ways,” he said.

Gary MillerComment
Our 1/11/18 Reading at Northern State Correctional Facility
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On January 11, 2018, our writers at Northern State Correctional in Newport, VT, gave a reading from their work. Since you couldn't be there, we are sharing the work with you. It's honest, courageous, beautiful writing, and it even has a sense of humor. Please read and share.

 

Finally, I Understood the Truth

I finally understood the truth

When I checked into Maple Leaf Farm.

I was gathered with

Many suffering alcoholics and drug addicts

Just like myself.

I finally understood

That I was not any better

And in fact, I may be worse than some.

I sat around meeting to meeting

Not sharing my own personal

Struggle with addiction,

And just listened and tried to

Compare myself.

Even though I knew I shouldn’t

Or shouldn’t have,

I’ve always looked down on people

Who I thought or believed

Were less than I was.

Now I’ve taken some time

In my sobriety

To actually listen and compare

Myself to others.

Finally, I understood the truth.

 

 

If I Were in Charge

If I were in charge of inmates

I would be more lenient

for such reasons of knowing that we are all people

and we make mistakes! 

It’s human nature,

and an officer may have done the same things

as an inmate,

they just have not been caught. 

I would work to see that an inmate was properly treated

physically, mentally, and medically,

I would also help them with any lack of communication

between one’s caseworker and/or family. 

Many of us have worthless caseworkers

and due to lack of or miscommunication

things are neglected or never done. 

I’d also like to see a better re-entry program

for people that are being released

that have addiction or pain issues

that are getting released with no prior planning or set-ups

such as medical assisted treatment

or whatever it is they may need

to successfully make it out there. 

That’s just a few things I’d do if I were in charge.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

A Morning When I’m Using

...Well, I don’t use to the degree that some people do, perhaps—

but after a hard weekend of drinking

I have woken up some mornings

and noticed that I could brush my teeth

just by putting toothpaste on the bristles,

stick the toothbrush into my mouth,

stand there and let the morning shakes do the work.

Invariably, by Tuesday the shakes would be gone

and I’d be looking forward to my next hard weekend!

 

A Morning Clean and Sober

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.

 

 

When Winter Is Finally Over

 When is winter finally over? 

When I damn well want it to be! 

I friggin’ hop in my brain plane and go to

Florida, the Bahamas, or Spain

where the rain falls mainly on the plain. 

Winter is finally over when Robin,

my favorite bird,

perches on my windowsill and chirps at me! 

I give her some breakfast, bacon and eggs,

with a cup of coffee,

and we both sit and enjoy the warm spring morning. 

I watch her and she watches her husband

building a house in a nearby tree. 

I go out on the wet sidewalk

and gather fresh worms

from last night’s rainy evening. 

The road smells like kerosene

and has pretty purple and blue colors.

When winter is finally over.

 

Morning in Prison

Every morning I wake up in prison it’s the opposite of being adjusted. 

I never want to wake up in this kind of a different world. 

I never knew what it was like in the morning in prison

but I open my eyes up anyway. 

I know soon I will open my eyes up one morning

and it will be daylight for sure. 

And that will be a morning not to forget. 

This place is like the morning after. 

It’s just in my head and won’t go away until the daylight shows again.

 

 

The Toughest Decision I Ever Made

 The toughest decision I ever made

was to give up on my wife and her addiction to alcohol. 

I had tried so hard

and loved her for so long. 

The question was in front of me

all the way through,

dealing with the lies, cheating, having wrecks after wrecks. 

She even wrecked in our driveway on my plow truck. 

She blamed me for everything that went wrong. 

I thought something was wrong with me,

but all the time my love for her was blinded by her drinking. 

She didn’t want to give up drink

and I didn’t want to give up on love. 

It was the toughest decision I ever made.

 

When the Rain Fell, It Brought Back Memories

 When I hear the rain falling on my roof I sit there

and enjoy the sound of it hitting the roof. 

I sit and think of the past

and what it meant to have

a past of the rain cleansing the world. 

The rain as it was falling on the roof

was so peaceful that it brought memories

of when I had trouble sleeping,

but the rain would be there as a medication,

a good way to get to sleep.

 

I Am

I am a kind, loving person.

I wonder what my would be like if

I was never in trouble.

I hear the wind blowing through the trees,

I see a bright, colorful life in the future.

I want to have a rich life.

I am a kind, loving person.

 

I pretend I am free.

I feel the wind blowing through my hair.

I touch the sweet life of freedom.

I worry I will be alone for all time.

I cry being locked up in jail.

I pretend I am free.

 

I understand why I am here.

I say I did it and I am sorry.

I dream of going fast as I can down dragstrip.

I try to deal with what I have done.

I hope I still have loved ones.

I understand why I am here.

 

Pain

Pain comes from

Anything and everything

From love to tooth.

But there is one thing

That is

Pain lets you know

You’re alive.

 

 

I Will Never Forget That Christmas

It was the night before Christmas.

My mother and father were yelling,

I couldn’t sleep, so I tossed and turned.

I heard my door open and I closed my eyes.

She was crying and upset.

I heard my father’s truck start and spin the tires.

She left the room and I heard my door shut.

After I understood why my mom was crying

I hoped it was not true.

My father left us that first Christmas

Of my life

That is why Christmas is just another day.

The Christmas I’ll never forget.

 

Where I Come From

 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.

 

To Hell with You!

You are my demise.

You are why I’m in jail.

You are why I’m alone.

You are why my kids don’t speak.

You are why I weep.

You are why I want to kill.

 

You pretend you are my friend.

You pretend you are my lover.

You pretend that I matter.

You pretend I am boss.

You pretend things will be ok.

You pretend to pretend.

 

You understand I’m fragile.

You understand I’m lonely.

You understand I’m here.

You understand I understand.

Well guess what, understand this:

I am sober, I am alive.

 

I Will Never Forget that Christmas

I will never forget that Christmas

on the farm when I was 10 years old. 

That winter was brutal for our whole family. 

The tractor breaking down,

our highest producing cow contracting barn ware,

the water in the barn freezing up,

pipes cracking,

splitting,

what a mess. 

 

My grandparents came up in a storm,

my grandmother helped my mom in the house. 

My grandfather came out to the barn

to help Dad and I thaw out water pipes. 

Then Dad worked on the milk pump

to get it going so we could get back to milking. 

The whole family banding together

to make Christmas happen.

 

What My Addiction Couldn’t Take Away

It couldn’t take away

the love, caring, kindness, and closeness

between my son Kyler and I. 

No matter what, I always put my son

in front of all that, even his mother. 

Kyler and I have a bond nothing can change,

not alcohol or drugs. 

With Dena giving up on drugs herself,

I feel as if her and I can win against this addiction we both have. 

Our addictions can’t take away our love for each other. 

It’s nice knowing I can be on the winning side of something

rather than my addiction having the upper hand.

 

What Scares Me the Most

What scares me the most

is that once I’m released in 3,4,5 years,

I won’t be able to stay within my regimen of staying clean and sober,

something I’ve had trouble doing many times in the past. 

Will it be easier? 

Will it be harder? 

Can I respond and attend an AA/NA meeting? 

Can I swallow pride and call my sponsor? 

Can I still count on my Higher Power? 

Can I rely on my wife, my family, my friends? 

Hopefully with all this said,

the answers will be yes. 

But the one I should always be able to count on is me! 

I say there is still hope!

"Dear Addiction" by Vanessa Santana
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Dear Addiction,
I'm writing to tell you that I no longer need you. You lied to me.
You sure did make me feel good,
for a little while.
But chasing you and waking up looking for you every day,
just to get to work or get out of bed.
Then in a couple hours, chasing you again,
And again, hoping you'd stick around for longer this time.
I was out needing you more for a little pill this time.
I lost everything because of you, most of all my two little girls.
I went through withdrawals and vomiting, can't believe how you made me feel sick.
I nearly died for you.
I wish in the beginning, you would have told me the truth.
That chasing you is never ending.
I lost it all thanks to you.
I'm better now. You no longer control me.
You’re in my ear, and … I HEAR you.
You know my debit card number,
But no more...
I'm done with you...

Gary Miller Comment
"Untitled" by Ladd Butler
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I AM FROM LOCKED ROOMS, CUT ARMS, BROKEN TEETH, TREE CHAINS AND SCOLDING PARENTS....LONE BOATING UNCHARTERED WATERS WITH OUT OF PLACE SCENARIOS AND HALF BLIND FACE ATTACHMENTS. I AM THE BROWN BOMBER AND BUD FOR MY 3 LEGGED CANINE. WHISKEY DOOR TEENAGE PATH TAKEN WITH CAR CRASHES TO LEARN AFTER YEARS OF SUFFERING AND PAIN THEN TO RECOVER AT 50 YEARS OF EXISTENCE....ONLY ONE THING CHANGED....WAS EVERYTHING.... OF ONE DIRECTIVE...MORE LEARNING...LESS KNOWING AS CONTINUOuS METAMORPHOSIS INCURRED..... FORGIVENESS CRUCIAL ....AMENDS PROFOUND....ALL IS REBORN FROM WITHIN WITH GRATITUDE AS SELF SEEKING BECOMES SELF FORGETTING AS MORE SHALL BE REVEALED.... FOR IT STARTED AS THE WALLS WERE CLOSING IN FAST....I WAS LIVING FAST....SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE ....OR I WAS DONE...WOULD LIVING BE NONE? WINTER WAS COMING AND HAD PLANS TO LIVE UNDER THE SAGAMORE BRIDGE... FORAGING AND EATING SEAWEED IN HINDSIGHT... ONE CRAZY DEED! INTERVENTION DID FOLLOW....WAS HARD FIRST TO SWALLOW AS THIS BEACH NUT NOW HOLLOW...BECAME BEECH HILL HALL WALLOW! SURRENDER WAS READY FOR ME TO BE STEADY.... AS OZZIE ONCE SAID.... AS I THOUGHT IN MY HEAD "FOR DYING IS EASY IT'S LIVING THAT'S HARD"... AS TIME UPON TIME I NEEDED A GUARD. WARPED THINKING UNRAVEL...HAD NEW PATHS TO TRAVEL....SLOWLY I TRANSPORTED THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS FROM HENCE I HAD STARTED UN STARTLED.....BEING READY TO BEING.... THE NON DEPARTED.... I DON'T KNOW WHEN THE WAVE RIDE WILL END BUT HAVE TWO FEET ON THE BOARD.... IN LIFE'S JOURNEY WHICH SHALL BE MUCH SOARED. TIME WILL REVEAL ...WHAT MYSTERIES DEAL....FOR IF YOU NEED HELP HERE'S WHAT I OFFER....FOR WHEN I DRANK BOOZE BECAME QUITE THE SCOFFER! .... I OFFER MY EXPERIENCE, STRENGTH AND HOPE... BEEN TOLD ALL THE TIME NOT TO SAY "NOPE!" HAVE BEEN WHERE YOU ARE....SOMETIMES NEAR....SOMETIMES FAR...MOST TIMES OF ALL ....IT WAS SUB PAR.....HAVE BEEN ON TRIPS OF SENSELESS DOINGS....AS LEARNING CURVES WERE MENTAL STEWINGS ...DIDN'T THINK WAS A LIFE.. ..VOID OF ALL STRIFE.....YOU CAN SHOW ME NOT TELL ME OF HOW LIFE MAY BE...ACTION WITH TRACTION I'M GLAD TO FORSEE ....FOR LEADS ON THE WAY OF HOW TO BE FREE!... FOR TO TALKING WILL LISTEN.....JUDGE ME NOT... WILL REBEL....FOR DEFIANCE METHINKS LEADS STRAIGHT ON TO HELL.....I DON'T KNOW IT ALL AS USED TO BE A KNOW IT ALL... FOR RESPECT IS WHAT ARETHA SAYS...IS ALL I WANT FOR FUTURE DAYS....THE NOISES IN MY HEAD WERE NOTHING MORE THAN FALSEHOOD DREAD.....WAS TOLD TO LOOK AT WORDS..... REMINDING ME OF ENGLISH NERDS.....BE SILENT AND LISTEN...FOR NOISE ON THE BORDER....SAME LETTERS HERE, IN DIFFERENT ORDER....LEARN TO LISTEN AND LISTEN TO LEARN...IS WHAT I FEEL STRONGLY FOR MAJOR
CONCERN....FOR NOW THAT IS SAID AND IT'S TIME TO BE STERN...BY WRITING A LETTER TO BEFORE I ADJOURN.....DEAREST ADDICTION; I HOPE YOU NOT WELL....FOR THE PRESENCE OF YOU BROUGHT ME STRAIGHT ON TO HELL...YOU ARE POISEN TO ME....CANNOT BE NEAR TOXICITY....I ONCE WAS WELL ... A HYPNOTIC SPELL... THOUGHT YOU WERE MY FRIEND.... BUT YOU WERE MY FIEND.... MAKING FUN OF LOGIC.... RUNNING THROUGH MY HEAD... I AM GLAD THAT YOU ARE GONE AND HOPE WE NEVER MEET... FOR RIDDING YOU FOREVER IS ONE FANTASTIC FEAT! MAY YOU DISAPPEAR FOREVER FROM ME AND FROM US ALL...FOR TO HEAR OF YOUR MISGIVINGS IS SOMETHING TO APALL! BE GONE! BE GONE! I HEREBY DO DECLARE....FOR IF YOU EVER SHOW YOUR FACE AGAIN ....I URGE YOU TO BEWARE! I HAVE SAID ENOUGH TO YOU AND HOPE YOU GET THE POINT...YOU MUST NEVER COME AROUND AGAIN AND PUT ME OUT OF JOINT!

SINCERELY YOURS,
LADD B.

P.S. I HAVE RECOVERED ... HEALTH ... DIGNITY ... SANITY .... UNDERSTANDING ... COMPASSION ... MINDFULNESS ... JUST A FEW THINGS ON THE TIP OF THE RECOVERY ICEBERG....I HAVE FOUND EMPATHY FOR THOSE IN THE THROES....OF ADDICTION. IN MY RECOVERY JOURNEY HAVE HAVE FOUND PASSION FOR LIVING..... GROWING OLDER IS A GIFT...RECOVERY IS POWERFUL TO ME....A NEW BEGINNING...A SECOND CHANCE AT LIVING A MEANINGFUL AND REAL LIFE WITHOUT DISTORTION .... CRANIAL DOINGS WITHOUT CONTORTION .... BE IN THE NOW... FOR NOW I DO SEE... A CLEAR BRIGHT LIT PATH.. TO REALITY! MORE TRAVELS TO GO....BEFORE I GO...IT'S THE WAY I'VE HEARD... ALL TO BE SO! THAT'S ALL FOLKS!

Gary MillerComment
"Something that is Really Hard for Me" by Angela Barton
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It is hard for me to stand in the doorway of my past
And to close the door.
To push it slightly, with both hands
The white paint through the absence of my fingers
To feel the woods resistance
The creak of the hinges.
To glance decisively at what stays behind
To look at it without the flush of heat invading my face,
The empty of my yearning for a light there.
To grab the handle
To turn the knob
And to finally, find the key.

Gary MillerComment
Recovery People

Doreen Phillips by Gina Tron

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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


InCharge1.jpg

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.


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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.


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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 by Gina Tron

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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
fun.jpg

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
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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