Who’s in recovery now?


This past Wednesday I taught my last creative writing session at Hackney Recovery Service. There were strawberries, pastries, cards… we had readings from our students, and we had tears. What started as a six-week voluntary pool dip, turned into a year of teaching on every aspect of writing imaginable. Thanks to the generous donations from our Crowdfunding plea, and the Arts Council, we were able to do a national call out for recovery stories, and now the next stage begins… Zoe Gilbert, we have a lot of reading to do.

Next stop, publisher. Next, publicity, interviews, events. Stop after that? Not likely. I’m in discussion about teaching creative writing to refugees.

In the meantime, here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  • Drug addicts are not scary people
  • Addiction is all around us. It’s in me, in you, in everyone to varying degrees.
  • Addiction in its extreme is often self-medication for mental health issues
  • Alcoholism is a 24-hour job
  • One of the biggest challenges for a recovering alcoholic is knowing what to do with all that new time you’re given once the drinking stops
  • Alcohol is seductive and deceptive, it makes you feel as if it’s a friend, then isolates you from everyone who cares about you, so you need it even more
  • If there isn’t an adage that says: There are many frustrated poets propping up the bar… there should be
  • There are a lot of creative people in recovery
  • A lot of people write for basic survival
  • Therapy is a great adjunct to writing, as it cuts through to the heart of things
  • Self-knowledge helps you write better; writing helps you know yourself
  • Like taking drugs and drinking, writing is an escape
  • If you can harness this and encourage it at the right time in recovery, for some, after time, it can fill the gap of their alcoholism/drug-taking
  • True talent is a rare rare thing
  • When I started this project, I hoped, above all else, to make a difference to at least one person’s life; that I could show them a better way.
  • I think I succeeded
  • It is never too late

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