Making a resolution to address an alcohol or substance abuse issue is only the beginning. The real work begins when the alcoholic or addict acknowledges that something has to be done. As one counselor put it, “An addict only has to change one thing: everything.” More than mere abstinence or simply eliminating certain people and places from one’s daily routine, a successful recovery requires a brand-new approach in dealing with life. In this compelling, intimate narrative, Boich shares his struggles, and insights encountered during his first six months in recovery.
"Getting Personal Presents a Unique Set of Challenges, As Well As Rewards" by Robert Boich
When I opened up the e-mail requesting me to write a guest post about the greatest challenges and rewards associated with telling my story, I immediately began tallying up entries on the challenge side of the ledger. At first I was a little overwhelmed, but I stepped back from the task at hand and reminded myself why I began this project in the first place: to help people; other people like me, individuals saddled with a substance abuse problem.
That's how this whole thing got started--the book idea--that is. One of my counselors in rehab suggested that I use the materials from my personal journal to write a book about early recovery. This particular individual felt that my experiences would be able to help other struggling addicts and alcoholics take the first steps towards a new life. It all sounded great at the time. What could be better? Write my first book; I've always wanted to be a writer, and help fellow addicts and alcoholics find a better way of life.
The first pangs of doubt began early on in the process. I wasn't going to be writing about some fictional character. I wasn't going to be writing about some friend or acquaintance that I had met in rehab. No, I was going to write about myself. Furthermore, I was going to be discussing some of the most painful and trying times of my life. Why on earth would I ever want to do such a thing? Oh yeah, that's right! I almost forgot; I'm doing this to help others.
So I started writing; or should I say I started rewriting. For the most part--the story was already there--in my journal. All I had to do was expand on some of my entries and observations, personal things that I had experienced throughout my first six months in recovery. I actually began keeping a written record a couple of weeks prior to my last drink and drug, so there were some pre-sobriety recollections to deal with as well.
Two challenges in particular became obvious right away: how much do I want to divulge, especially about my failures. I mean it's one thing to write about the positive aspects of my battle with substance abuse, but what about the parts of my recovery that didn't go quite as planned. Was I obligated to write about those painful memories as well? Secondly, do I really want to put my name on this thing? After all, why not use a pen name? Surely I could achieve my goals of using my experiences as the basis for a book to help others without actually using my real name.
The answer to my first dilemma came quickly. In fact, it was there all along. The second chapter of the book is entitled Honesty. What was the point of telling my story if it wasn’t my story? How was I going to be able to help anyone by penning a self-help book that was merely based upon actual events? In order to be of any use to others I would have to tell it like it is; or rather, tell it like it was. So I did. To the point that I even included at least one incident that I had failed to record in my journal: my slip, my mini-relapse. In the overall scheme of things it wasn’t a big deal, but at the time it loomed larger than life. I didn’t write about the back-slide in my journal because I wanted to forget about it, to simply erase it from existence. I decided to include this episode, as well as several other situations where I stumbled along the way. I could still use a pen name to cover up my involvement in the event that the not–so-flattering portions of my tale became too overwhelming.
As I neared the completion of my manuscript I was still wrestling with the pen name issue. In the end I decided to go with the real me. As the project progressed I began to realize that if I was going offer up advice then I should be willing to take the credit for it. Good or bad, I was writing a book designed to help struggling addicts and alcoholics. I went through great pains to make sure that I wasn’t writing anything that could be detrimental or cause harm to my readers. I passed several copies of my manuscript out to professionals in the substance abuse field in order to ensure that my advice was sound.
This is where an unintended benefit of my project appeared. Having decided to take credit for my work I realized that I was taking out an insurance policy on my own sobriety. How would it look if I were to relapse after publishing a book on recovery? I had, in effect, created an additional incentive to stay sober. I know that should I stray from the principals set out in my book, and the additional tools I have acquired since publication, that my so-called insurance policy won’t be worth much. Nonetheless, I feel as though the situation has provided me with one more tool that I can use to help me make the right decisions, and maintain a sober lifestyle.
The last unique challenge I struggled with has to do with the additional tools I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Everything in my book, all of the information and observations were recorded either just prior to, or during my first six months of sobriety. By the time I had secured a publisher and began editing my manuscript for publication I had tacked on another year of sobriety. I learned a lot in that time. A lot of valuable information that changed the way I thought about certain things. It’s not that I had a different view of the materials I had written during my early sobriety, as it was that I had an expanded view of things. I had grown tremendously. I had a craving to expound on some of my original material. At times when it was necessary to re-write a section it was extremely difficult to remember exactly how I was feeling and what I was thinking back in the early days of my recovery. I had to go back to my journal entries, and to the best of my ability I kept things as they were. This was important because I was writing a book for the newcomer to recovery, by a newbie; not a book for the newcomer by someone with a couple of years of sobriety under their belt. I have to say that I am happy with the way things turned out. I really wanted to keep things simple.
At the end of the day, having navigated a few hurdles, I feel that I have accomplished my primary goal. It all began with an idea to do something that would help other addicts and alcoholics. Helping others is the big payoff, the brass ring, and is by far the greatest reward associated with this project. It’s funny how things work out sometimes. In helping others I was also able to help myself.
Robert Boich was born in Phoenix, Arizona. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, and attended Ohio Northern University where he graduated with a law degree. The author also received his LLM in Taxation from Boston University. The Author is currently working on his second book, a novel based on World War I and the Battle of Verdun. He lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife and children. You can learn more about Mr. Boich and his first book, Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting! on his website at www.rwboich.com.