Clare Pooley: “Writing My Way Up From Rock Bottom”

From a post, by Clare Pooley, titled “Writing About My Alcohol Addiction Helped Treat It”:

Clare Pooley.

My rock bottom moment was not particularly dramatic. It didn’t involve policemen, lawyers or even a hospital. Rather, it came courtesy of a novelty mug, which I’d filled with red wine to take the edge off my hangover, at 11am. This was a first, because not drinking until after midday was one of my rules. It was one of the ways I was able to convince myself that I wasn’t an alcoholic. And I’d broken it.

That in itself might not have been enough to shock me into taking some action, but what was written on the mug I was holding was. It read: THE WORLD’S BEST MUM.

My drinking had crept up almost imperceptibly. One large glass at “wine o’clock,” because it was “me time,” turned into two. Two gradually morphed into three, and when your glasses are as large as mine were, that’s a whole bottle, every day. . . .

The sensible thing to do would have been to ask for help. I should have called AA, or found a rehab facility, or at least confessed to my family and friends. But I was far too ashamed to do any of those things. I’d spent decades constructing an elaborate carapace around myself, curating a social media feed that conveyed the perfect life I wished I had, and I wasn’t ready to admit to anyone that it was all a sham.

Instead, I began to write. . . .

Addicts talk about having “monkey brain,” the endless chatter in your head that can make you feel like you’re going crazy, and renders it impossible to concentrate on anything else. When you first quit drinking, that chatter gets worse. I found myself constantly obsessing about booze, and playing the movie of my life back over and over again, trying to work out how and why it had all gone wrong.

Writing was my way of corralling all of those out of control thoughts, of lining them up, making them behave, then pinning them down on the page. Writing was my mindfulness, enabling me to stay in the moment—without having to learn how to chant, or to sit still doing nothing—something I found impossible to do. . . .

Writing gave me the clarity that comes with objectivity. Just the act of writing down my issues distanced me from them. It felt almost as if they were happening to someone else, and it’s always easier to counsel someone else wisely than it is to advise yourself.

Then, writing became my group therapy. I didn’t publicize my blog at all—I was far too scared of being found out, but still people found me. Thousands of them. Within a year my blog had had nearly a million hits. And those people, who told me again and again that my life story was also their own, became my support and kept me accountable. . . .

I thought that I’d moved on from writing as a form of therapy, but it turned out that I had taken all of my (many) flaws and explored them on the page. I had given them life, names, backstories, hopes and dreams. And, in doing so, something miraculous had happened.

In learning to love them, I’d learned how to forgive myself.

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