Creativity in Sobriety

I had no intention to stop drinking, but I met her for coffee anyways

by Julie S

My name is Julie and I am an alcoholic. It is my intention to write a compelling article about how I cultivate creativity in sobriety. I intend to be witty, endearing, provoking, relatable and honest, but my good intentions mean nothing without action. This is one of the many life-altering lessons I have learned from Alcoholics Anonymous. So, with that in mind, I sit in my slightly uncomfortable desk chair, take a moment to acknowledge my fear of the blank page, pause and ask for a little divine inspiration. Then I start typing and see what happens.

What I was like… I was a young, bright girl with a host of friends, a head full of possibilities, and a burning desire for praise and adoration. I had stylish notebooks with neon, glitter pens, lots of free time and endless potential, if only I could follow through on one of my brilliant ideas. I would announce my lofty plans to all of my friends, frantically organize my workspace, sit down and start trying to work, then get up and pour myself a drink. 

As soon as I felt the cocktail’s wave of makeshift inspiration, my plans evaporated and the night vanished into murky layers of ecstasy and oblivion. The sun would rise with blinding vengeance and smack me into consciousness. I was sore, disoriented and somehow covered in bruises and glitter. My head was on fire, my tummy a raging storm. I fought and clawed my way through the disheveled house, hunting for fragments of the precious night that I had lost. I collected and salvaged all of the abandoned bits and pieces of my work from the desolate landscape of empty bottles and broken dreams. Then, slumped in a pile of my wreckage, clutching the remains of my dignity, utterly baffled and twisting in shame, I racked my aching brain for answers. For the love of God, how the hell had this happened again?

What happened — A groundhog’s loop of similar tragedies continued for quite some time. On these violent, desperate mornings, my head would spin around the thought I should stop drinking. Bleary-eyed and broken, I stared at my puffy, ashen face in the mirror and made battle plans to conquer my demons. I was fiercely determined and ready to change, but when my twisted guts unraveled and the color returned to my face, my valiant thought of pursuing sobriety was replaced by the vicious obsession to drink. It took many more wretched sunrises, failed projects, a patient therapist, painful goodbyes to disheartened friends and the collapse of my anguished love life to finally crawl my way towards the answer to my miserable predicament. 

The answer, I was told, was Alcoholics Anonymous. Skeptical but willing, I found myself at the doors of an unflashy church, battling thoughts of running away while begging for the courage to open the door. The idea alcoholics had anything to offer me was absurd, but I had zero better ideas and it was getting chilly outside. I had no intention to quit drinking, but I was willing to open the door and step inside. What I found was a room full of strangers, laughing about their piles of wreckage and radiating courage, strength and hope. The young woman speaking had a broad smile, a calm demeanor and a familiar story of agony and shame. She told me that an alcoholic is someone with an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind, and she offered to help me find some peace. I still had no intention to stop drinking, but I met her for coffee anyways. That was eight years ago. I have been sober ever since.

What I am like now: I am no longer staring at a blank page. It vanished as soon as I started to write. This may seem trivial, but my willingness to take the first step has had a profound effect on my ability to follow through on my best intentions.

Thoughts are not actions. I have to act my way into right thinking, not the other way around. Sometimes the endless possibilities of a project can cause me to balk, to run away. Even though I haven’t had a drink in many years, I can still be ruled by fear. I can think myself a fantastic writer, but if I don’t have the willingness to sit down and write then nothing gets written. Even just the simple action of writing down my rage and frustration can fill a daunting, empty page and clear my head for something more profound. If divine inspiration doesn’t strike, I just keep writing until it does. In my experience, inspiration always comes, if I just keep taking action.

What I am not is hungover. This morning instead of hissing at the sun and writhing in pain and shame, I bounced out of bed, made matcha tea, worked on a puzzle, made a delicious breakfast for my husband and myself, played with my puppies, then sat down to write this article. I am fairly confident it will be finished soon. If you are reading this story, then you are a witness to the miracle of recovery. Thank you, Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Before AA, I judged myself by my intentions, while the world was judging me by my actions.” ~ Anonymous

I am no longer staring at a blank page. It vanished as soon as I started to write
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