Dana Bowman / Momsieblog
Recovery is a funny thing.
By “funny” I really mean totally agonizing. But also worth it, in its agonizing way. The funny part is that when I first got sober, I found myself wanting to hide on my couch under a large fuzzy blanket and a slowly melting pile of Kit-Kats, hoping that no one would make eye contact with me ever again. I wanted to be left alone in my recovery.
At the same time, however, I wanted to talk to everyone about my recovery. If the checker at the store asked me if I took plastic or paper, I wanted to hug him and say, “I don’t know! Choices are hard! But I’m sober!” This sudden onset of recovery Tourette's was like I had become an unpredictable three year old, all ready to just say whatever I was feeling, whenever I felt like it, to whomever was around. Who could blame me? I had been holding in all my feelings for over forty years. That’s a long time to keep quiet.
So, my early days of sobriety were a manic dance between shouting out the hours I had sober, and then crawling back inside my chocolate blanket cocoon. This was all very confusing, but, as stated earlier, recovery is hard.
My career only added to the confusion.
I am a freelance writer, and the majority of my writing centers on personal narrative. The job requires a daily unloading of my soul into my articles, but my soul felt like a jumbled, indecipherable mess.
One afternoon, with a few months of recovery in me, I pondered my computer screen and started to pitch some article ideas to a magazine. “I write about parenting, marriage, home life, humor. ‘Ten Steps to Get Your Kid to Love Kale Without Medicating Them” - that sort of thing,” I started out. And then, I took a breath. And I continued, “Also, I am a mom in early recovery, with two small kids. Some would say this is nearly impossible. I am here to say it’s not. I could write about that.”
You can probably guess which pitch the magazine selected as most interesting.
In my addiction, my whole life had been consumed with a substance, and when that substance was removed, there are some holes to fill. The writing helped. I had a lot of repair work to do, and writing the words started to fill the holes again.
Then I got a book deal.
Central Recovery Press, a publishing company in Las Vegas that specializes in literature about recovery, contacted me about an article about being a mom in recovery that I had written for Substance.com. On the day of the article’s publication, The Huffington Post picked it up , and within twenty-four hours I landed an interview on Huff Post Live, an experience that I still look back on as rather traumatic and goofy. My voice squeaked, and if you look closely you can see my cat’s paw occasionally resting on my shoulder. I guess he was offering solidarity.
Central Recovery Press still swears they offered me this book deal because they liked my humor, and they felt I had something to offer to moms who were struggling. I know this because I often go back and re-read the original email they sent me, and yes, there it is: “We like your humor. We think you have something to offer moms in recovery.” It’s always good to double check. And so, I responded to their offer in a way that most people would who have dreamed of writing the World’s Greatest Novel since they were eight years old: I freaked out a little bit. At the end of the first phone call with the lovely acquisitions editor at CRP I said, “Um. Ok, Eliza? Is this, like for real? Are you guys messing with me? Am I being book-Punk’d?”
Eliza didn’t hang up on me. She just laughed and said, “No. We really do want you to do this. You’re funny. You can show moms some hope.” It started to dawn on me that this might actually be happening. And right there in my living room, much to the horror of my cat, I jumped up and started in on some old cheerleader moves from the 80’s. I accomplished all this in complete silence, of course. I didn’t want Eliza to think I was weird.
So, I wrote the book.
And it was harder than I ever imagined.
Recovery is a funny thing. It offers you freedom, but it also hands over the weight of a thousand emotions you haven’t dealt with in years. It gives you peace, but also tells you, “Now that you have some serenity, start slaying your demons. Don’t worry, you only have to kill them off one by one.”
I worked on a chapter a week. One by one, I wrote the thing. I plodded along, through the memories and the dread. It was tough.
I kept thinking someone would catch on, that all this daily slogging was really hard on me, and ask how I was doing. But, no one ever asked, “Why attempt this, if it is so painful? Why not just let the past be the past? And also, isn’t it kind of embarrassing?”
It was astounding to me that no one else was really all that interested in how difficult all of this was for me. I always figured they were as captivated with me as I was.
I know. It’s possible I need to write another book, entitled: Humility Now!
Instead, this is what happened: for months I wrote and recorded what I was like, what happened, and how I am now. I learned that my story has no solid ending, but that I have a whole lot more to say, and that’s ok. It was like a daily refresher course in me; in what made me sick, and what made me well. It was good to review. And in the silence, and occasional celebration that another chapter was done, I learned to surrender all over again.
Also, I finally shared about the night that I threw a three-layered, heavily frosted carrot cake at my husband in a fit of rage and frustration. And when I read over this part, I didn’t cringe. I just thought, “Wow. I was a hot mess. But, you know, this is also kind of funny. I think it’s possible I have a lot more learning to do, but I haven’t thrown any cakes in a while.” Progress, not perfection.
So the thing that most surprised me, and still surprises me, about writing this book is that it wasn’t for the other mommies.
It was for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I really hope lots of people read this book, and I really hope it helps them. And, book sales always help. One day my husband and I might be able to afford a pop-top camper to retire in from all the royalties. But, mainly, this book, it helped me.
At first I had thought it would be rather easy.
Just outline the chapters, get a strong grip on my memories, and dive in. But as I worked through the chapters and paused to get up, make lunch for my boys, play another round of Candy Land, and then slay demons #47-52 in chapter ten, I got stuck. One afternoon, I took a break from the chronicles of Dana and went for a walk. My friend caught me on the way into the library and asked me, “How is the book? It is just so cool, isn’t it? Isn’t it all so exciting? That’s so exciting! You must be so excited!” I took a moment and took a breath. I wanted to tell her, “I wrote about my brother today and had to stop because I was crying so much I was afraid I would flood my keyboard. I am all wrung out. I need a drink.” Instead, I smiled, and offered, “Yes. I am so excited. It’s such an honor, really.”
The thing is, recovery is funny. When you think that it is all packed up in tidy chapters you realize you have more work to do. When the story seems tragic and terrible, later you can read it, and even laugh. And when I found out that my mom had read chapter 20 (the one about sex) I didn’t die on the spot from mortification.
Recovery is not a finished book with a final chapter.
It’s a forever thing. And, it is an honor to take part in it, every day. Creative types seem to run into trouble with addiction, unfortunately, so if we are able to come out the other side it’s really important, in my opinion, to set the balance right and put our creative selves to work for the good of recovery.
Now that Bottled: A Mom’s Guide to Early Recovery is available, many friends (three) have asked what I am working on currently. I plan to keep writing. In fact, I have started working on a sequel to Bottled.
Humility Now! promises to be even more captivating. I am positive it will be a best seller.
About the Author
Dana is a wife, a mother, a teacher, a writer, and a runner, all simultaneously. This is only possible because her family donates loads of material. She has been published in numerous magazines, and is the proud author at Momsieblog.com. Her book, Bottled: A Mom's Guide to Early Recovery, published by Central Recovery Press, is now available. One day, she hopes to master the skill of making sure all dessert apportionment is completely equal.