How Getting Published Got me Sober

This week I’ve turned 1000 days sober. Stopping drinking is easy. It’s the staying stopped that is hard. After three months in addiction services in 2016 I moved to the care of the recovery team. Here I learnt about mindfulness and meditation, I increased my knowledge of alcohol, I volunteered to talk to school children about my mental health issues… and after 3 months there my case worker signed me off.

During one session in recovery services I was asked to think of something in my life that I’d achieved – and then to analyse how I’d done that. It could be anything that had taken work and time – passing an exam, frequently getting out of the house whilst feeling depressed, saving to buy house, leaving an abusive marriage… the discussion amongst the group was very interesting.

For me I thought about getting published and as I spoke the parallels between that process and getting sober appeared.

It took me eight years to get a deal. During that time I got rejection after rejection. But I picked myself up after the initial tears and kept on writing and submitting my manuscripts.

And during the first few weeks of being in addiction services I kept on stopping drinking – but slipping again. So I tried again. And again.

I remember similar senses of entitlement. When I sent off my first ever manuscript I was upset but also kind of baffled that I received a rejection… I thought that completing a novel was amazing enough to gain a publisher! In the same way, I thought it was enough to finally take the plunge and get into addiction services. I expected the group sessions to magically get me sober; that I was kind of owed that recovery in the same way I’d thought, all those years ago, that I was owed a publishing deal.

Then it hit me about six weeks into treatment: I was going to have to do this myself – albeit with the facilitators’ advice. And I was going to have to work bloody hard at it – just like the writing. No one else would write and polish and submit my novels. It was important to learn my craft and take advice form other authors and How To books etc etc… but, ultimately, it was going to be down to me.

There were big hurdles along the way to achieving both my goals of being published and staying sober. An agent chased me at one point but, ultimately, told me to move on, they were no longer interested. And, three months into recovery, I relapsed. Both of these set-backs were hard and getting through the first helped with the second. Trying to get published had taught me there was no point in pity parties. All I could do was pick myself up and carry on working towards my goal.

That’s the key. Taking it one day at a time. If I’d thought ahead when I’d first started writing, and considered that it might take me YEARS to get a deal, I wonder if I’d have carried on. And when I first went into addiction services would I have stayed there if I’d known about the day to day, month to month, year to year, challenges ahead?

Because it has been hard. The first half of this year was very wobbly for my recovery. But I got through it, one day at a time, not thinking about the future, not thinking about the past.

A therapist suggested I write a positivity diary to help with my mental health issues. Each day I was told to write down a couple of good things about myself. It was hard at first but, over time, it helped change my low opinion of myself. So if you are struggling to get published, do the same to make yourself realise that you ARE  progressing. Perhaps today you finished a difficult chapter or took another rejection on the chin. Write that down. Or keep a daily word count, however big or small. It’s the sum of all these very important little things that, in time, will help you achieve the bigger ones.

Of course, one can never get complacent. Even though I’m about to have my 12th novel The Christmas Calendar Girls published, I am only ever one breath away from a potentially bad review or a downturn in sales. Even though I am 1000 days sober I am only one breath away from relapsing again. The working hard and learning must never stop.

Good luck with your goals. Forget the what ifs and if onlys. Focus on what you are doing and achieving in the present moment and that will be all the magic you need to get there 🙂