Writing and Rewriting the Self

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The poems below were written by participants in Writing and Rewriting the Self, a poetry-writing workshop for people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Specifically, they were written as part of the Day Reporting Program of Licking County, whose goal is to provide "a therapeutic alternative for offenders, as opposed to incarceration.” The poems are presented here anonymously not primarily to protect the identity of the writer, but rather to reflect that writing, like healing, takes place in community, with the active support of those who have gone through or are going through similar experiences. As such, the poems express the beauty, hope, anger, fear, and frustration of all people in recovery.    

For more information about the program, or if you have a short poem (under 300 words) that deals with contemporary social/political issues and would like it to be considered for the NTTP newsletter and this blog, please send your inquiries to D. B. Ruderman at ruderman.nttp@gmail.com. You can also visit him online at www.poetics-not-poetics.com.

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These three poems were written in response to a prompt to write about “where you live.” Taken together, they remind us that addiction is all around us at all times, that is, it is culturally, socially, and geographically rooted in our day to day experience. Poems can be snapshots of internal and external “neighborhoods,” surrounded by chaos, but grounded in a desire to tell the truth, especially insofar as honesty is an essential aspect of getting and staying clean.

 

New Route

Church street, the gauntlet
the possibilities are near.

Returning to the old me –
that’s my biggest fear.

To the left off Wilson, a short distance down 6th,
go left, then right, and I get my fix.

Grateful for the new me –
I’m changing my thoughts.

Dead is the old me,
In recovery it rots.
Church street, the gauntlet
the possibilities are near.

Returning to the old me –
that’s my biggest fear.

To the left off Wilson, a short distance down 6th,
go left, then right, and I get my fix.

Grateful for the new me –
I’m changing my thoughts.

Dead is the old me,
In recovery it rots.
Church street, the gauntlet
the possibilities are near.

Returning to the old me –
that’s my biggest fear.

To the left off Wilson, a short distance down 6th,
go left, then right, and I get my fix.

Grateful for the new me –
I’m changing my thoughts.

Dead is the old me,
In recovery it rots.

 

The Trenches

 

I live
in the trenches
where CODE kicks
in the door
the same place
where I threw out
so many whores.

I hate but love
this place – don’t know
if I want to live here
anymore.

 

Present Day

the sun shines hot on a humid, sticky, cloudy afternoon
I’m on my back-porch swing smoking a cig      
        relaxing
but sweaty “twack” stars 
                                       fighting

like rabid cats over the last hit
of their dose

long    hours    later
temperatures rise
                           eighty-five Fahrenheit / man
                           why’s it gotta be so humid?

thoughts interrupted
                            twack star is
                            asking

for some cold water, which I give
him and send him away
                                      left with thoughts of empathy
                                      glad for my sobriety

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These four poems were written over various classes by four different writers. Some were written with a “stem prompt,” that is, “write a poem that begins with the words ‘This time of year reminds me of…’,” while others were written in response to a visual image. What each of these four poems demonstrates is that the mind is constantly on the lookout for images to try to help make it through difficult situations. It may be that, as the author of “Beginning with a line from Czlaw Milosz” reminds us these images might provide for us a “whole new freedom.”

 

Feeling Healthy / Never Going Back

At the end of my suffering
there was
a door.

There
was my son.

I could see him so
clearly.

 

Another Kind of Addiction

 

this time of year reminds me
of all the falls of my past

all my past falls
all the dim-lit halls

the time in my life
when I displayed no balls

when I was all alone – displaced
when everyone turned their backs
she stepped in and filled the empty space

a love affair so dark
& twisted

all the voids in my life –
I hardly missed them

 

BOGO with Ellipsis

1.

this time of year reminds me of…
what could have been
all ended up living in sin
unable to make amends
nightmares and pain that never ends
feeling lost within
didn’t know where to begin
getting high – holding it all in

precious baby – I’ll never have back
greatest Mistake – that’s a fact
can’t forgive – Huge impact

moving forward – Never forget
you’ll always be my biggest Regret

Forever my baby girl…

2.

living deep within my own Hell
learning & Trying to turn it to a Heaven
drowning out my Sorrows
forever stuck in my head
drugs taking control
stuck in my own hell

today I can admit that
I’m letting go of that pain
turning it into motivation
learning my Sober Self

living the better life
Loving & Trusting again
no longer Drowning
only growing…

 

Beginning with a line from Czeslaw Milosz

 

I swear there is no wizardry of words
to describe the feelings I endure

recovering
     not only from addiction
     but also my body, mind, and soul

bringing
              a sense of serenity and peace
  I’ve never felt before            
             every day to
             mind, body, and spirit –

learning
            more about forgiveness
I swear to you that in forgiveness
I have found a whole new freedom

 

 

 

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Withdrawal

There is a demon chained to a chair in my brain 
His name is dopamine, his goal is addiction 
He laughs while my skeleton is melting
He grins when my soul is aflame 
He whispers sweet assurances that he is not to Blame  
He vows that he alone can ease the pain 
He urges me to pack it in and take the midnight train    
He scoffs when I refuse to play a part in his game 
There is a demon chained to a chair in my brain

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Poetry Day

addiction kills slowly
talking first what you love the most
like putting it on a silver platter
and giving it to the host
my kids, my home, my feelings, my friends
in the end, it’s always the drugs that win
but now I’m sober and full of life
you won’t take this from me again

you’re the devil, I will no longer sin

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Just Cuz

addiction’s a disease
in which some of us are perfectly broken
as one guy said

    some end up homeless…others in jail
    praying for a way just to make bail
    some wake up sick…sick as a dog
    others up for days without sawing a log


sobriety’s a dream
in which if we’re lucky
we don’t wake up dead.....

 


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  • Joshua Gingras