The pen is WAY mightier than the bottle…


One of the first things I have a new client do is go out and get a pen and a notebook. Most of the time, they look at me like I’ve lost my damn mind. I can see their puzzled faces ask, “How in the world will a pen and notebook help me? I’m addicted, I’m not in school!”

Since I know the question’s coming, I already have an answer before the words follow from the expression. The first thing that needs to happen when treating an addiction is to stop the compulsive cycle. Since compulsion is driven by an unconscious function, a pen and notebook is a primary way to force awareness into a compulsive behavior. Over the course of a week, I have clients document, as much as they can, the days/times that they use, what they used, and how much they used. Then, I have them write down any reason for the use. Why? Over time, as this information is collected, a pattern of use does in fact emerge. That pattern can then be disrupted. {As an aside, Weight Watchers™ does the same thing with its point counting: The point is to become aware of what’s being eaten…}

I also know that creativity is the path towards all human health. A pen and notebook also serves as a way to disrupt anxiety and other negative emotions. There are studies that support my statement, but I know the power of the pen in my own life. Just because I have trained as an addiction counselor and have learned many “tools” to regulate adverse emotion, I have also learned to let myself feel the negative emotion and use it as fuel to create.

Life has been doing all it can to kick my teeth out of my head. And while I feel like hiking deep into the mountains and finding a cave into which I can move, reality won’t allow it. Sadness seems to be floating around my mind, just waiting for a chance to bubble to the surface. But I’m not afraid of the sadness nor am I doing anything to stop its progression.

This morning, I felt the sadness. I sat down on my couch and allowed it to wash over my consciousness. And without any warning, I felt a surge and grabbed a pen and notebook and started scribbling. What came out was the following poem:

i’m moving on…

youth was fun

while it lasted

but now the sun

is well passed noon

and soon will set on what I’ve known

i’m moving on…

the past is dead and gone

and all I have is here and now

still time will come and go

and I’m moving on

i’m moving on…

lotta goodbyes

seems to come my way

only have a few hellos

left to say

but night won’t fall

until none are left

i’m moving on…

the past is dead and gone

and all I have is here and now

still time will come and go

and I’m moving on

i’m moving on…

i may grieve

and I may cry

but all in all

it’s been a damn good ride

but life moves fast

and I’m moving on…

So, that’s what sadness fueled me to write this morning. Once I had it on paper, I put down my pen, I finished my coffee, and I felt a whole bunch better. Though grabbing a pen and notebook may not seem like it has anything to do with recovery, recovery is about gaining health and I have no doubt that a pen and paper allows health to emerge.


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