Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, January 03, 2021

What Drove This Writer to Drink?

I recently read the article “What Drives Writers to Drink?” and, while the consensus was that it was probably their own personal demons, I knew very well what drove THIS writer to drink. Yes, I used to be a drunk. Not only this, I used to be a drunk writer. And while I thought it was cool to sit at the computer and bang out words while throwing back a few beers, I knew that it wasn’t healthy. But at the time, I thought that it was acceptable, since I was a writer and ALL writers drink. Or so I thought! I have learned that you don’t have to have a drinking problem in order to be a writer. But, at the time, I just thought it was part and parcel of being a writer. I was not ALWAYS drinking every time I wrote something, but even after I wrote something while recovering from my latest of many drinking binges, I was soon chugging the booze down once again. Drinking warped my thinking and my ability to have good judgment. It warped my personality and who I was as a person. It probably made my writing a little “off,” though I was told many times that what I wrote was good. (Maybe that little wonder is akin to a writer knocking out a masterpiece while high on drugs? I wonder.)


But, no, I don’t drink anymore. And, yes, I am still a writer. I am still a writer. Once a writer, always a writer! But this time, I am a sober writer.


But reading that article made me think about my own drinking days. And possibly why it was so hard for me to STOP drinking. (Sidenote: I finally stayed sober after my third attempt.) And the answer came to me easily: I was living in the past. Yes, of course the grief over losing my parents made my drinking worse, as well as the BIG GIANT FAILURE of not ever becoming a successful novelist like I wanted so badly constantly knocking me down. But a big part of the hell that I was in was me keeping myself locked away in the past. I started drinking before the death of my parents and before I finally realized that my attempts to be a successful author were not going anywhere. I never really took time to notice I was FREE of the past now; I was too busy keeping it alive in my head. I didn’t appreciate what I had in life NOW and I didn’t really see just how beautiful and amazing life could be RIGHT NOW, in the present moment, if only I would step away from the baggage holding me back.


It was definitely me being trapped by the past that kept me drinking. Yes, I was stuck in the past, stuck in that nightmare of abuse, violence, pain, neglect and shame. There was just so much in my past that I was unable to break free from. Some of that stuff leaked out into my writings, too. But I could never wipe the slate clean and break free from any of it, and every time I got drunk, it only got worse because I relived it again despite my attempt to use my drinking to wash it all away. I got drunk so I wouldn’t have to think about it, but think about it I did. I got drunk so that I wouldn’t have to cry about any of it, but cry I did. And as more bad things happened in my adulthood, I cried over that stuff, too. I also had nightmares about things from my past. I also got drunk so that I would stop hating myself, hating my disability, hating my life, and hating my failures, but that hatred lingered and only got worse. I got hung up on ALL of the bad things in my life and my drinking problem made me blind to the good things that were there. I tried turning to God and religion to escape from the hell I was in, but to no avail. The demon that was my drinking problem held me captive and nothing seemed to set me free. My drunk brain also interpreted things incorrectly and in a twisted way, so I could never really turn to my faith to get sober and stay sober. 


It was only AFTER my drinking problem nearly killed me was when I finally woke up and realized that it was time to let go of all of that. It was time to let go of the past. The present is too important! It was time to move on from all of the bad things from my past, and embrace the good things in my present. Sure, I still deal with bad things in the present moment, but they no longer drive me to drink. They no longer have that kind of power over me. At the beginning of my journey into sobriety, that sort of stuff might have made me crack. But, fortunately, I had a ton of love, support and guidance all around me (even on the Internet, as I had subscribed to the AA newsletter and dove into inspirational quotes on Pinterest) to make sure I did not break. I learned how to find strength within myself to get onto a new path in life and abandon all of the bad things that held me back, including the past. I learned to love myself again, to let go of the past, to make peace with past mistakes, and to stay in the present moment. Sure, thoughts from the past crop up every once in a while, but I have learned to stop myself from getting emotionally attached to them and using them ONLY as a source of reference. We must learn from the past, not live in it. This is why I don’t like telling stories about things from the past – just things that happened very recently! (For example, I shared a story of something interesting that happened at work with my oldest, and this incident happened a week ago!) This is also why I have let go of certain things in my life, because they only remind me of a painful chapter in my past, and I don’t want to fall into that pit again.


I no longer drink, but I do continue to write. And this writer is no longer drinking! There is nothing driving this writer to drink anymore. There is only the desire to write. I am driven to write by the sheer desire to write. To tell stories. And maybe this time, the stories will be better. The best story I could ever write is the story of my life that I am living right now.


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