I Was Told I Should Write More About My Addiction
Someone sent me a personal note regarding one of my stories a few weeks ago. This person wanted to let me know that they liked what I had written… I think. The note may have been in disguise. It was only a couple of quick paragraphs, and it started with:
“Hello, I loved your story ‘The Thought of Getting Clean Terrified Me’…”
Okay, sounds all right… we’re off to a good start. My heart said “Aw, how nice,” but for some reason, my mind told my eyes to squint and beware.
The person ended the note with:
“ Interesting read and different. Try to focus more of your writing on this subject. I think it would be better for you.”
Erm… ‘better for’ me…?
I don’t know this person… at all.
This person isn’t an editor or reviewer to whom I’ve submitted my writing or asked for guidance. Just some rando’ who apparently knows what’s good for me.
Now, I don’t mind a few pointers and opinions, but it boggles my mind to think someone would find those words appropriate in writing to a complete stranger. Were they trying to be constructive in saying if I wrote more stories about that topic, I’d be more successful? Do they think it’d be better for me mentally? Maybe I’m reading too much into it. I don’t know, but it seemed pretty damn brazen of a move.
I’m always very careful in choosing words when speaking or writing to people whom I don’t know all that well. One person’s sense of humor may not jive with another. I try to stay in fairly vanilla territory until I have a pretty good idea of what may or may not offend someone, but that’s just me.
I’ve never had someone question or suggest the subject of my writing. I don’t think this person was trying to be mean, or rude, or anything like that, but something about it just nibbled at me.
Writing is personal, subjective, and totally up to the author. It’s a process… and an art. Would you tell an oil artist what they should be spilling onto their canvases? Many writers have deep wounds, and sometimes the scars that haunt them need to be bloodlet. Once the words have begun pouring out, there’s nothing that can be done to stop it. No tourniquet will help. The subject can come from personal experience, current events, history… anything. A passionate writer writes about whatever it is they must let out at that moment.
That being said, maybe I’m just a little overprotective about the subject of that story in particular. It’s a subject I always have trouble getting started on.
The story the note writer was referring to was about my personal history with addiction and sobriety, and I’m always a bit on edge when writing about anything along those lines anyway.
I’ve received a few other private notes/emails in the past few months since I began writing on Medium, and I have absolutely no problem with it; I leave my email address on my profile page so folks can get in touch, should they want.
The first private email I’d ever received was from a lady in Argentina, and it was just about the most respectful and sweetest letter anyone could receive in regard to a piece of their writing, aka, a piece of their soul. The other two were very respectful as well: both with praise, one including questions. I don’t mind people asking questions or giving me their opinions, whatever they may be, so long as they have a mindful purpose.
As for this person suggesting more from this certain subject, I don’t believe there was any ill will intended — just a poor choice of words, and I have some answers. I do have other stories on this topic in the works, and also have articles that have been finished for months about my past and my struggles with addiction, however, I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to hit that ‘publish’ button.
The main reason I haven’t let out more of these kinds of stories: It’s really hard.
The hard part isn’t thinking of stories or finding the right words, but just the mere task of dredging up these painful and shame-inducing memories in which I’ve spent the last decade trying my very darnedest to delete from my mind. Think about it — would you want to dig up these mental movies and recollect on the most fucked up part of your life? The worst things you’ve ever done? The biggest piss stain you’ve left on life’s bedsheets? Would you want to do it over and over again every time you write a new story about it?
I wanted them obsolete. I never thought I would have the need to keep them, let alone send them out for others to read. I have to mentally prepare when I’m going to write about my past. There’s so much deep-seated guilt, regret, and mourning involved; I have to be in the right mindset and mood. Plus, a great deal of it involves my Ex, and that’s another Sterilite container I’d love to wipe from the brain storage.
The whole shebang is an entirely exhausting subject. Many times I become too tensed up and end up scratching the whole thing.
Another reason I had issues with writing about this in the beginning is because I didn’t want that to be my ‘niche’; I didn’t want drugs, alcohol, and addiction to be the only thing for which I’m known. I’ve gone through deep thought on this, on many occasions. I knew that once I released that information, I could never take it back. Before I let it out, I’m a gal. Afterward, I’m a gal who has that ‘druggie’ stigma behind her. Some folks may not take me seriously anymore. There are many people who look at addicts as a lower life form, whether or not they still use. Everyone has problems, some problems are just worse than others.
Yes, I am a drug addict. Yes, I have what many would consider a wild history. Yes, the majority of my past years were spent fueled by drugs and alcohol… but there were other days, too. There’s much more to my story. There was more to my story before I became an addict, as well as during the worst of my addiction, and there’s more to me afterward now that I’m sober. It’s just one piece of my life. I’m not ashamed of it; it’s just something that happened in my life, and now I deal with the consequences from it every day. It’s now a part of what makes me me. Everything that happens in our past or present shapes who we are in some way or form.
Me, I like writing about a smorgasbord of things… whatever I fancy on any given day. I don’t want to be pin-typed to writing only about drug addiction, or any one thing for that matter.
Lastly, I wasn’t even sure I was going to be comfortable with writing about that part of me. It took a long time for me to even decide whether or not I wanted to expose that side of myself. Did I want to be that vulnerable? Could it be used against me later? Would I be judged at square #1 before I could ever even get to square #2? What would my relatives think, should they ever read my work? They know little spigots of the story, but not a lot. They love me, but could they handle the straight-up facts? It’s one thing to think you know the story and to picture it in your mind, where you can leave out any gruesome details… but it’s a whole other ballgame when you learn all the little truths and can no longer deny anything you deem unpleasant.
Strangers learning things about me is actually much less scary than folks who already know me finding out my ‘secrets’ and all of the sordid details.
There’s always that little voice inside of my head telling me to tread carefully. You never know what people’s real opinions and reactions will be on touchy subjects. For instance: I have a neighbor right now who has become a good friend to our household, but she constantly complains about another neighbor’s heavy metal music and possible drug use. She gossips about another neighbor’s past drug incarceration, and she calls him ‘the ex-felon.’ The fact that his short prison stint was over a decade ago and that he’s been a hard-working active member of society ever since is just a side note to her — it means nothing.
So many times have I wanted to quip back to inform her that I, too, am and always will be a metalhead, and I, too, was a drug user. But I don't — because it's not important. She doesn’t need to know that part of me. Not everyone does.
So, my conclusion to the recent note writer would be: Yes, I have and will be writing more stories about my addiction, but more importantly, about my recovery. I’ll be doing both. While the drug use stories may be entertaining to those who’ve never experienced or been a part of that world themselves, the stories about getting clean and staying sober may be more of my focus.
The whole point of why I’d finally made the decision to venture out with my personal and private details was with the hopes of possibly helping someone else who’s currently going through — or has already gone through — something similar.
I, myself, can’t often read other people’s stories of hardcore drug use, or even of partying drug use anymore because it brings up too many old feels and emotions I’d rather not have. But, doing just that might be what someone else needs in order to guide them towards their own positive outcome. Everyone’s different.
Who knows? Reading a story about my past and current struggles, or a paragraph, or even a few certain words might be the one thing that gets someone else through their rough day. Sometimes it helps a little bit just to know you’re not alone.
If there can in any way be something good that comes out of the errors I’ve made, I’ll be more than glad to write them all down.