Writing Practice

By Rev. Charlsi Lewis Lee

Writing practice.  I was Facebooking the other day with a friend of mine who writes a lot.  He’s been published and I really enjoy his work.  I told him that when I read his stuff it makes me remember how much I enjoy writing myself.  Of course, he asked me the obvious question:  “So, why aren’t you writing?” 

I don’t have a very good answer for that except for I’m afraid of being overly self-indulgent—I’ll pause for moment for my family and friends to finish laughing.  Ok, now that we have all composed ourselves . . . 

Writing frees my soul.  It allows me to do something with my mind that singing does for my soul.  It offers me a chance for the cluster of thoughts that easily overwhelm me to spill out on a page where they can be processed, edited, unraveled and maybe even understood.  Mostly though, writing frees me from the trappings of my own mind.

For the last 2 years, I have worked for an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center.  I started as the part-time chaplain.  I loved this job.  I watched people walk into our facility with eyes red from alcohol or skin pocked by meth mites and barely able to put a sentence together.  In the course of six or eight weeks, they were on their way to a life that depended on their Higher Power instead of a bottle, or a needle, or a pill.  I witnessed their lives change.

In the course of their treatment, I was honored to sit with the patients as they worked their way through the beginnings of the 12 Steps.  They could admit that their lives were powerless over drugs and alcohol and they had become unmanageable in Step 1.  They might struggle with Step 2 as they set their ego aside to acknowledge that something bigger than they could restore sanity to their lives.  They wrestled against themselves as they made a decision to turn their lives over to their Higher Power as they understood their Higher Power. 

And then, then, they would stop like they'd hit a brick wall.  WHAM!!! The 4th Step—a moral inventory.  “Do I have to write it down?  Can I just tell you?”  Nope.  You gotta write it down.  Writing it down makes it real which is both the reason most folks don’t want to do their 4th Step and the very reason they should. 

When we see our thoughts on paper, when we witness our actions and our wrongdoings placed before us in real hard copy form we cannot escape their reality, but we can move past them.  Sometimes that which seems horrible, unbearable, unthinkable, unspeakable is the very thing that needs to be written down and shared with another person (the 5th Step).  In some strange, Higher Power way writing it down is freeing. 

I’ve learned a lot over the last 2 years about addiction, healing, the presence of my Higher Power and the importance of writing.  I can’t tell someone else to “write it down” because it will free them, if I’m not willing to write my own stuff down and to wrestle with the words myself.    I have to scale my own brick walls and find my own words to freedom.