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What Comes Next

By: Diane Cameron

Diane Cameron is an award-winning journalist and speaker on recovery and personal growth. She is the author of two personal blogs: “Out of the Woods”—for women in long-term recovery, and “Love in the Time of Cancer”—for couples and caregivers. Diane teaches on topics related to the history and politics of mental health and recovery. Her newspaper column on popular culture appears in the Albany Times Union and in newspapers across the country. “What Comes Next” offers ideas, suggestions and provocative perspectives for men and women who have 10-plus years of recovery and reveals the continued emotional and spiritual growth that occurs with long recovery.

Reading, Writing and Recovery

(not rated)

Apr 11, 2012

Self-help reading sometimes takes a beating in AA. But I’m ever grateful for self-help books because that’s how I got here. Even before I stopped drinking I knew something was wrong with me. I read advice columns and self-help books. I know now that self-help isn’t much help if I am numbing my feelings with any substance, but I look back at my younger self with compassion. I was stumbling around trying to figure it out.

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After many years of recovery I still depend on sources far outside the “conference approved literature.” In fact I owe my recovery to a self-help book: “Women Who Love Too Much” by Robin Norwood.

Robin Norwood’s book led me to AA, OA, ACOA and Al-Anon. In that book about codependent relationships I recognized myself. And so did many other people in my life, who knew nothing about my drinking, but they handed me copies of the Norwood’s book.

That book was so singularly important to opening my eyes to my addictions that I use this shorthand for the title: “WWL2M.” That book, ostensibly about relationships, also contained this challenge: “If you find yourself connecting to the ideas in this book you may also have a problem with alcohol, drugs, food or other substance addictions.” Robin Norwood gave the 800 numbers for all the anonymous groups. I qualified for many of them. And I made the phone call.

I still keep my first copy of WWL2M in a place of honor with all of my AA literature.

But we do hear people say that no one gets sober because of a book and that is, I think, only partially true. Many years ago a very smart therapist helped me understand the value of reading about personal growth this way: Some of us need to sneak up on ourselves in order to make major changes. We may need to go into difficult places in our psyche and we may need to swim in some troubling emotional waters in order to heal. By reading about these things, while we work on them, we are building a “cognitive life raft,” an intellectual base, on which to safely travel the challenging emotional waters that lead to growth.

So yes, books — lots and lots of books, and lots and lots of reading as part of a joyous and continual recovery.

I also find writing and keeping a journal a crucial part of recovery. It was another book, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron that led me to daily writing as a recovery habit. Cameron uses some recovery concepts to talk about freeing our creative selves and it’s a perfect way to work through the steps as well. My copy of “the Artist’s Way” like my copy of WWL2M is scribbled in, dog-eared and worn out.

I carry a small journal with me all the time and I keep a bigger one on the table where I do my morning prayer and meditation. Sometimes when I can’t feel a connection with my Higher Power I write my prayers. And, just recently, I’m back to writing my Tenth Step every night as well.

So, though we don’t talk about it so much in meetings, I think that reading and writing are crucial to recovery. So please share: Do you read and write as part of your recovery? What books helped you?What books do you recommend to friends?

 

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