The greatest gift I received in my recovery was the return of my ability to be creative and productive as an artist. I began writing as a youngster and continued throughout my teens. I lettered in high school drama and received a senior theatre award; I was a theatre major in college. All the while, I wrote poetry and short plays.
At age 19, I wrote my first script, which I entered it into the annual Utah Sundance Young Playwrights’ Competition. I was too old to win, but was invited to visit the 1988 playwright workshop at Sundance. It was thrilling, and I looked forward to a career in theatre and dreamed of Broadway.
I wrote seven or eight scripts during my early twenties. A few of them were produced locally. One play, Ritual Killings, was about recovering from child sexual abuse and was produced at the University of Utah Lab Theatre. But alas, alcohol and drugs were beginning to tighten their grip around my throat, and my talent waned. Eventually my addictions stole it all away. My creativity vanished for 15 years.
I vividly remember lying by a pool in Maui at age 36 with my mixed drink, thinking of Tennessee Williams’ essay called “The Streetcar Called Success.” This essay was about living to create art, while not allowing money and fame to corrupt the artist. I wasn’t rich or famous, but I already felt the failure of not using my gift; and I prayed to get it back.
That was two years before it occurred to me to get sober. As with many women, I had hit bottom fairly quickly and painfully. I began my recovery on November 14, 2005.
My writing instantly became a recovery tool. I wrote in journals for the first two years, hoping to someday have a computer and a real life.
I am blessed with a psychiatric diagnosis. During my active addiction, my diagnosis was suicidal depression; in recovery I am labeled with schizoaffective disorder. The difference is that today, as a sober woman, my diagnosis is just part of my creative artistry.
In 2010, when I had five years sober, I published my first book of poetry, Kindergarten for Grown Ups, under the pseudonym Pinuppoet. My second book, The Smoke of Surrender, was published in 2012 using my real name. Unfortunately, because I made the mistake of allowing it to be published at no cost to me, the publisher kept all the profits. Without any material success, I still felt like a creative failure.
Despite this feeling, I continued to work on a third manuscript, as well as on my play, Waiting for the Pizza Guy. I also completed a play called Higher Powers and Privilege. This play was so gravely personal that I knew I would have difficulty seeing it produced. In 2013, I thought about entering it in a local new plays competition, but I decided to move to Oahu, Hawaii, for an opportunity to further my career.
A month later, I was assaulted; and my life was filled with tremendous emotional turmoil. I believe artists are given especially interesting lives to draw upon as they create. I clung deeply to my Higher Power during this difficult time.
Based on this personal experience, I conceived of a new play with allusions to Harper Lee’s famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. It was to include a civil rights trial of the rape of a white disabled person by a black disabled person.
In my play, the system of care for mentally ill people is the entity on trial. Also on trial is the prevailing societal attitude that people with psychiatric diagnoses cause harm to the innocent and deserve the crimes inflicted upon them, if one presumes a link between mental illness and violence.
After regaining my sanity a year later, I entered my play Waiting for the Pizza Guy in the Leeward Theatre PlayBuilders’ 3rd Annual Festival of Original Plays. I was privileged to have my play selected for a staged reading performed in May of 2014. Though I felt the play still needed additional work, this strengthened my belief that I was on the right path.
As it is said in the last line of Waiting for the Pizza Guy, “All things come in time.” This is both fortunately and unfortunately true. As I look toward the future and continue my creative work, I write my truth through the utilization of metaphors – I live in Metaphorville. I will continue to write as my creativity unfolds.
I attend Twelve Step meetings regularly, have a sponsor, work the Steps and keep busy with service work. I am the literature chairperson and secretary of a beginners meeting. I am a Certified Peer Specialist, which allows me to work in the mental health field, particularly with people who have experienced trauma. I am truly blessed.
Yes, all things do come in time.