I just got back from the 13th Annual International Conference of the Short Story in English, which was held in Vienna. It was lovely. I made some new friends and met some of my literary idols, like Robert Olen Butler and Sandra Cisneros, both of whom I’ve fallen a little in love with. I discovered new writers whose books I know you’ll all be reading soon! I was so grateful to be included, and I reminded of how grateful I am I didn’t start publishing until after I got sober. Why? Because, oh Lord, with all the booze flowing I would surely have taken full advantage, made an ass of myself, and gone home full of regret and self-loathing, sure I’d never be invited back.
At every reading I looked out over the crowd and thought that surely I wasn’t the only person present who was trying to stay sober one day at a time, and surely there was at least one person out there struggling, or worried about their drinking or feeling shame and remorse because they swore they wouldn’t drink on this trip, and then did.
I did what I always do — I spoke openly about being in recovery.
And, as always happens, I’m glad I did because over the course of the conference I was approached by a few folks in pain about their own drinking, or the drinking of their partners or family members. We talked. And I felt the same blanketing of Grace I have felt hundred of times before.
So, I’m writing this directly to those who were brave enough to open their mouths and speak the unspeakable, to admit the shameful, and to name the fear (you know who you are!): Thank you very much. Really. Our conversations helped me stay sober throughout those days. Our conversations made me feel useful and in the presence of something greater than myself. What a gift.
What I told you is true — you never have to feel this shitty again. Now, don’t go home and feel just because we’re not in the same room that we can’t keep talking. You know how to reach me. And you know what to do.
You are not alone.