Writing as a Tool

by Kathleen C.

When evening comes, perhaps just before going to sleep, many of us draw up a balance sheet for the day. This is a good place to remember that inventory-taking is not always done in red ink. It’s a poor day indeed when we haven’t done something right.Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

For years I tried to quit drinking. I am a writer and an alcoholic. In my journal I wrote about each time I quit as a moment to be recorded for posterity. Who cared about the day when I quit drinking and using for good? My kids? Those little babies who were in their car seats in the back when I was driving drunk? Those toddlers who I screamed at when their shrill voices pierced my hangover headache? I am glad I wrote about my drinking and quitting. I want to remember what I was like. 

Now that I am sober I write down the good things in my life and in me. The “Twelve and Twelve” reminds me that an inventory shouldn’t be taken all in red ink. I get to write down the good stuff that I do as well. Yes, I need to inventory my resentments and my fears, but I can also list my gratitude and my good deeds each day.

I did not want to do what people told me to

photo credits available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

When I first got sober, in 1986, I didn’t want to do what you people told me to. I write for a living, why should I have to write to stay sober? Can’t I just think about my Fourth Step and then tell my sponsor? Preferably over the phone? Nope – put pen to paper. Amazing what comes out once you start to write. It took me several months to write, but I read it to my sponsor and we completed Step Five.

I had to write again when one of my children was stricken with a serious illness. There was no treatment, just watchful, fearful waiting. I asked my sponsor what to do. Her mother had been critically ill, near death, soon after we started working together. She knew how to cope with a crisis. “Maybe you could try writing a letter to God,” she said. I put pen to paper, “Dear God, I hate you for what you are doing to my daughter.” Admitting to myself how angry and afraid I was helped me share at meetings and ask for support. At a big meeting the speaker, as we stood holding hands in a circle, asked our Higher Power “to help the member whose child is having trials.”

Inwardly I groaned: Oh no, another suggestion

I got another hint in a noon meeting near my work. A man said that he kept a notebook on his bedside table and wrote a Tenth Step every night. Inwardly I groaned. Oh no, another suggestion. But it is an easy practice. I write down the good things I did during the day and the nice things other people did for me. I am amazed how many good people there are in the world and that I am often one of them. If I owe an apology or an amends I write it down. That helps to imprint it on my brain, so I remember to take care of it as soon as possible.

Then a sponsee mentioned that she writes a gratitude list every morning and it really makes her day go smoother. Here we go again! So I started trying to write a daily gratitude list. She wasn’t the only person who mentioned gratitude lists. My Higher Power sometimes needs to repeat what I need to hear. When I write down that I am grateful for my sobriety, health, family, job and home, I am more likely to notice the person in the wheelchair and to be grateful for my feet, even if they do ache.

When I write I am not just talking to myself; I am talking to the Higher Power within me. I am opening up my mind and my heart to new ideas and the possibility of changing my life, with the help of the steps and the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

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