Three steps to writing your story of recovery from addiction

And save lives in the process

Guest column by Adam Vibe Gunton
Posted 4/29/21

Remember long ago, before you ever acknowledged that drugs and alcohol were making your decisions for you? If you’re like me, in the beginning of your drinking and using, you thought you were just …

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Three steps to writing your story of recovery from addiction

And save lives in the process

Posted

Remember long ago, before you ever acknowledged that drugs and alcohol were making your decisions for you? If you’re like me, in the beginning of your drinking and using, you thought you were just partying and having a good time.

I took my first drink at age 11, then went on to snorting cocaine and smoking weed at 12 or 13, which continued through my years as a star high school athlete — you know, just for “fun.” I couldn’t have imagined I would eventually find myself homeless, kneeling on the floor of a crack house, staring up the barrel of a loaded gun, wishing the dealer would pull the trigger and end my misery. Or that I still wouldn’t be able to get sober after I had my lifeless, OD’ed body dragged out from behind the wheel of a running car — all recorded on a policeman’s bodycam.

As a kid, I didn’t pay attention to the “Just Say No” campaigns or the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) people who gave talks at school. What did they know about my life? These police officers or teachers who have no idea what it’s like to be a kid now, telling me what to do? If only I’d heard warnings from people I could relate to — people who grew up like me who got seriously hooked on drugs and crawled out the other side to tell their stories. Them. I might have listened to them.

I didn’t have those people and maybe you didn’t either. But now you can be that person for someone else. All you need to make an impact on the lives of the future is your own story. Your real-life, true story of your own personal battle of drug addiction and recovery.

How? By writing a book about your experiences. That’s it. That’s literally all you need to do to craft and prepare your story to share. Not only will you steer others away from addiction and give struggling addicts the encouragement they may need to get clean, but by sharing your stories, you’ll be attaching yourself to a life of purpose which is the ultimate relapse prevention for yourself.

I published my first best-selling autobiography, “From Chains to Saved,” on the second anniversary of my sobriety. Writing a book proved a cathartic way for me to focus on personal fulfillment rather than spending the rest of my days defining myself as an addict in recovery who has to obsess about the possibility of relapsing.

Do you know what? Writing a book is easy. Mine took five weeks, and I’d never written a book before. I figured out three simple steps to organize my thoughts and decide what to include. If you’re ready to embark on this life-affirming journey, here are the three simple steps you can take.

Mind Dump Story Vault

For your first step, get yourself a whiteboard, piece of paper or a computer program for writing and make what I call a Mind Dump Story Vault. Write at the top of the page, “Mind Dump Story Vault,” and draw dashes all the way down the left side of the page. Think of every meaningful experience you have had in your life that you may or may not want to tell in your story. Then set a timer for 25 minutes and write down every personal experience you can think of using five words or less.

For example, instead of writing, “the time I went to the casino with $25 dollars to my name and I met that guy with the eye patch that taught me how to play poker and I made $100,” just write, “eye patch.” Something short for you to know what story you are talking about in order to just get it down into existence in your story vault.

Jot down every life experience you can think of. Don’t leave anything out and limit yourself to five words so you can move through as fast as possible. If the timer buzzes and you’re not done, take a five-or 10-minute break. Walk around your room, get a glass of water, call your mom and tell her you love her. Then set the timer again for another 25 minutes and keep going. Do this as many times as you need until you’ve written down every story you remember.

Categories

Next, assign each story a number from one to five. These are your categories. They’ll help you organize your stories into time periods. However, whether you choose to write them chronologically in your manuscript is up to you.

1- before addiction

2- the beginning of addiction

3 - during active addiction

4 - through the recovery process

5 - post addiction

My recovery story map

Finally, draw a story map that looks like the hub and spokes of a bicycle wheel — draw a big circle in the middle with five lines coming out and a small circle at the far end of each line. Add the numbers 1-5 in the small circles so that each circle has one number inside. If you have a working title for your book, write that in the big circle in the middle.

Now, pick no more than three stories from each numeric category to go in your book. Choose the stories that are the most powerful — the ones that have had the most impact on your life. Don’t worry about leaving out something you want in there just yet. The key is to have a 15-story first draft before adding any more that you really want to get across.

Don’t worry about how you’re going to get from one story to the next. My book was a series of short stories without transitions, and I’ve gotten tremendous positive feedback from around the world. I hope you will, too.

Don’t let your story die with you. There is someone out there who needs to hear your story. Be the person you wish you had when you were in their situation. And if you need some help, Recovered On Purpose can get you there.

Adam Vibe Gunton of Denver is the founder of Recovered On Purpose, a movement that helps recovered addicts tell their story and inspire the future generation to a life of purpose. To learn more about his movement of recovery, visit https://recoveredonpurpose.com/.

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