View Full Version : memoirs about recovery

09-11-2008, 06:18 AM
In considering the motivation that drives people to tell their stories, it’s occurred to me that maybe they want to help others. (For example, if they overcame drug addiction or something.) They must not be ashamed of their past because if they were, they wouldn’t tell the story in the first place. So if they’re not ashamed and they’re telling their story, might there be any element of simply wanting attention or validation? For me, that’s the main motivation because I always equated success / fulfillment with being able to tell a story. But if I were truly happy /recovered, I wouldn’t need validation would I? And people don’t want to read something from a person who hasn’t reached that ‘happy’ point, do they?

But are all the people who published these types of stories truly happy? I’m sure some of them are, but sometimes I read things that are a little open-ended. Like they overcame one hurdle and they may or may not be sure of what’s next for them in life – but at least they overcame what they overcame and that’s the point. I guess I’m not sure if I’ve overcome my demons enough for people to want to know about them. (Obviously my hang-up wasn’t drugs or else I’d be able to say I was clean or whatever. My thing was more about codependency issues, getting involved with the wrong guy, having to turn my life around, etc.) It’s a big deal to me because the story also revolves around the quest for artistic inspiration (specifically writing) and how I was able to get it (I got it through experiencing some turmoil…would I have gotten it any other way? That’s another theme). Lots of questions here, I know – thanks!

09-11-2008, 07:49 AM
Remind me that I have a book-long rant about "recovery"...been there, done that, got a few of those brass medallions...

09-11-2008, 04:14 PM
I'm up for a rant, Ben - do share!

09-11-2008, 07:52 PM
Here's my top-of-the-head read on this today: Write the book. Write the rant. Write it well -- for you. Then decide about publication.

09-11-2008, 09:08 PM
I'm up for a rant, Ben - do share!
I've done it before, it's to the point where it's easier to look for a few of my earlier posts than write it yet again. I posted my "recovery resume" in some post somewhere but long story short, I went to a LOT of 12-step meetings.

Here's a thread on the popularity of memoirs. One of my rants is the fouth post:

Here's one on the death of George Carlin:

I also responded strongly (several posts, so read the whole thing) in this thread, "Need serious advice re: alcohol"

09-13-2008, 01:27 AM
But if I were truly happy /recovered, I wouldn’t need validation would I? And people don’t want to read something from a person who hasn’t reached that ‘happy’ point, do they?

Hi Michelle,

I read your note a couple of times and feel at its heart you are asking to achieve two very simple goals - 1) you want to write something really good and interesting, and 2) you want to heal.

Achieving either goal is a journey that can take time, and I believe one can help the other - in other words telling your story, can help you heal, and as you've implied healing can help you tell the story.

So the more you try to do either one, the more likely you'll be to accomplish the other.

Good luck on the journey.

Best wishes,

09-13-2008, 05:58 PM
Validation is such an important and delicious thing, whatever the source. As you write, you may find that you are validating yourself, which is what I think Jerry is pointing toward, and self-validation is the very best kind. It carries no conditions or baggage, and it's always there. It may emerge in a flash, or inch into your awareness with the speed of a glacier. Writing is a great way to grease its skids.

The journey to self-validation would be a fascinating read, if you get there.

Do you suppose asking this question of the group might be a milepost on this journey of validation?

09-15-2008, 03:01 PM
One of the ways to learn about writing your own memoir is to read lots of others. I've read a few that include recovery from drugs but not much about codependency. I'm sure they are there, somewhere. But you don't need to read about your exact situation. Reading memoirs helps you get ideas about turning life into story.


09-16-2008, 12:13 AM
I agree that memoir reading does put me in a mind-set for writing memoir. I like the different flavors of memoir out there, as well. There's the essay-ish David Sedaris, the flow of consciousness inside-the-head feel of Frank McCourt, just to name the two off the top of my head.

But as writers, we want validation, too. You are the only one who can decide whether your own life has meaning/value, really--or the only one whose opinion counts! But writing is a totally different thing.

For me, journaling can bring me to writing--but it's something different. Journaling is when my emotions control what I put on the page, and writing is when I'm controlling the writing and attempting to craft it into something meaningful for others.

Writing memoir is very much about exposing ourselves to others. The best ones are to me, the ones that are most frank about the author's life--both the good parts and the less-savory parts. It does take some courage, some outing of oneself to make it worth reading.