Help is on the way. You have a voice. Your voice is the spirit within you, that “still small voice,” your true self, what Quakers call “the inner light.”(1) I declare that help is on the way, because you already have this voice. Here’s how you can use your voice to achieve mastery over the chaos of feelings: You put words on paper.

Whatever you are feeling has a name. Noticing the feeling and putting a name on it gives you power over it. This is mindfulness in action. Feelings are neurological impulses that occur in waves. Moment to moment each feeling rises up, peaks, and wanes. Like a wave.<footnote-text> (2)<footnote-text> Right here, right now, you can learn to ride those waves. Imagine feelings as big waves, rolling in. As you name each feeling, you gain power from naming it, and noticing it wane.

This isn’t a literary exercise, although you may be gifted. This is writing whatever comes to mind without thinking or planning—free-writing.<footnote-text> (3)<footnote-text> You can do it. Your voice can save your life.

Each of the three exercise boxes below contain a simple five-minute exercise. Each exercise will help you connect with the power of your own voice.  Each exercise is illustrated by examples written by people in early recovery from substance abuse. These folks were not trained writers, but real people in a substance abuse rehabilitation center workshop, feeling their feelings sober.

Years ago, they gave me permission to share their writings, so that some future person (you) will know you’re not alone. If they can do it, shakin’ and bakin’ just out of detox, then you can do it too. They wanted you to know that. So as you do each exercise, know that you are not alone.

In the first exercise, your voice has the power to name feelings. In the second, you will find a Higher Power. In the third exercise, you will see something better than whatever is going on right now.  

Your creativity can help you connect with well-being.

1. They also use the phrase “that of God,” to denote that the inner light is one of fundamental goodness, even divinity.
2. As DBT tells us
3. The idea of spontaneous writing to promote creativity, known as “free writing,” was first advised by Dorothea Brande in Becoming a Writer written in 1934. The application of writing to therapy was first introduced by New York psychologist Dr Ira Progoff in the mid-1960s. The technique was also advocated by Peter Elbow in Writing Without Teachers (1973). Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (1992) popularized the technique for a new generation.. Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones (2005) Writing for Recovery (Sam Louie, 2016); The Addiction Recovery Journal (CWV Straaten, 2018); the Recovery Book and My Life in Recovery, a 12-session Continuing Care Workbook (Catherine Dold and Al J. Mooney MD, 1992) are classic presentations of this approach. 

Equipment needed: paper and pen, the timer on your phone.

Set the timer for 5 minutes. Pick up your pen and write whatever comes to mind, to complete this sentence:


Here's what others have written:

Right here right now I feel
Safe but scared
Comfortable but discontent
Confident but paranoid
Relaxed but stressed
Motivated but stuck
Excited but fearful
BUT at least I FEEL!
— M.W.

I’ve been down this road numerous times trying to do it mostly alone. Here I am again wild with fear, mind racing a million miles a second asking more questions than I can count Am I fooling myself and family again or am I ready for the change The rage inside does nothing but keep me in despair I know if I connect back with God I can kick this Hell of a life goodbye Time Flys by if I don’t get this I’ll eventually die.

Right here right now I feel
numb, I want to pick up a drink and float away into the darkness.
Right now I feel
Sad, sad that I let my loved ones become the casualties of this war that I am fighting.
Right now I feel
Scared, scared of being alone of drinking again, of being a burden
Right now I feel
how much I love my children, and how close I came to never seeing your beautiful faces again.
Right now I feel confused…how did this happen, how did I get here.
But after all these feelings, right now I feel relief, relief that I am here and getting the help I need. Right now I feel hope.

Equipment needed: paper and pen, the timer on your phone.

Set the timer for 5 minutes. Pick up your pen and write whatever comes to mind, in response to the following prompt:

Imagine that you have some sort of Higher Power.  For some, that power may be God as you understand God, but it may be just some kind of protective loving spirit that you can imagine surrounding you.

Now imagine that that loving presence or Higher Power has a message for you.  Or you have a message for them!

Set your timer and write as fast as you can.

Once again, here are some examples of messages written by people in an inpatient rehab workshop, in response to this prompt:

Dear _________ I created you
Put yourself in my care
You have the power of God in you
Don’t waste the gifts that I have given you
I walk with you and when I have to
I carry you
Fear not, have hope
And keep shining your light

Dear  _________
You are perfect just the way you are because I made you. Nothing you could ever do could take that love away because you are my child. You can turn away from me if you wish but I will still be here watching over and protecting you. You are complete in me and you can get through any obstacle through my power. My spirit lives in you and you will never ever be alone. Any sin you commit will be forgiven and you will be washed clean. You are mine and always will be. Rely on me and you will stay sober.

Love, the everlasting God

_________,   Be honest, stay strong and above all come to me. You used to have this & together we were so strong & then along the way I was lost to you. But I was never gone. You’ve had challenges that you couldn’t handle b/c you couldn’t ask for help from me or anyone else. Ask for help! Take responsibility! Your life is yours to live or yours to lose and either way I’m here. You’re exactly where you are supposed to be right now. Stop fighting it, stop trying to control it. I got it. You are OK.

Love, God

Set your timer for 5 minutes, and write that message from your Higher Power…or TO your Higher Power, if you prefer.

Equipment needed: paper and pen, the timer on your phone.

Set the timer for 5 minutes. Pick up your pen and write whatever comes to mind, in response to the following prompt:

Imagine it is a year from now. Where would you like to see yourself? Write a letter from your future self, to the you of today.  

Those folks in rehab have been there. Their courage to re-invent their lives is amazing. Here are some of their responses to this prompt:

A year from now I will hopefully not be back in another f*ing place like this. It’s basically been a year since my first inpatient and there’s been three this year. Outpatient, sober living, therapy, medications, what the f* is going to fix this besides me? There’s no answer, nothing someone can give me. I have to give it to myself. I just pray I really have it in me to get this, and not to have to have it get even worse before it gets better.

(in a year)
My toes in the sand
Wind blowing through my long hair
Feeling very serene

One year from now working hard making a living.
Family proud but far away.
Have a nice place where they can visit and stay. No more poison
In my body, spreading love to everybody.
Hitting meetings, not forgetting the beating.
Knowing that my addiction
Is still alive and breathing.
But with this family of addicts by my side
There’s nothin we can’t achieve now.

In the middle of the night, one of these three exercises could come in handy. So grab that notebook and pen.<footnote-text> (4)<footnote-text> Write down all that messes with you. If you keep writing out the chaos, you’ll eventually get to the good part, the hopeful part, that message your Higher Power is sending you.

I can tell you from my own experience, a five-minute exercise might transform your attitude, your perspective. They say in the 12 Step programs, “move a muscle, change a thought.” And…”if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten!” So go for it! Anything that’s going on in your head right now, just put some words on it. You name it, you own it. It doesn’t own you. You gain power from writing.

Whatever exercise you try, now read what you wrote out loud.  Read it LOUD, like you mean it. Listen to your voice. Your voice expresses courage. How do I know that? If you did one of these exercises, it shows you were willing to try something new. Our willingness and courage are strengths. Those strengths bring you to a new threshold. Just as your words have helped you find where you’re at, your words can also show others where you are.  Which brings us to the third part of our Poetry of Well-Being Practice, COMMUNITY.

4. Which you keep by your bed in case something like this comes up :)
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