Thursday, October 21, 2021

October prompt

 Recovery Writers Prompt October 2021

from: Beneath the Steps: a Writing Guide for 12-step Recovery by Christine Beck

Break-up of the Family of Origin

My mother didn’t leave my alcoholic father until I was fourteen.  By then, her job could support us.   By that time, we had nothing to mourn about leaving the farm.  But it had been home for fourteen years and was imbued with a strong sense of history. As we painted furniture in our old house to take to our new one, I knew we were moving.  

But, like many Adult Children I have big gaps in my memory.  How did we move our furniture?  Where was my father when we left?  What did he say about our moving out?  Logic tells me it was a huge melodramatic scene, but in my memory, one day we lived on the farm and the next day we lived in town. I don’t recall approaching the move with hope or even relief, although I imagine those feelings must have been there.  

But it was change, big change, and I’m sure the dread of change inspired feelings like the dead moth that appears at the end of this poem (an example of the surprise that can happen). 

Starting Over

When my mother kicked my father out,

silence tumbled in.

Our farmhouse had been furnished

in old wood, mahogany and oak--

the dining table, desk, and bookshelves,

even bedsteads, all evoked the color

of brown dirt, dark and dank, as when

the plow clears last year’s stalks away.

We painted it all white. For weeks,

we made each piece as pure as baby’s breath.

With each stroke, I covered fourteen years.

They lay stuck in drying paint, like a moth,

when it surrenders to the trap, its wings

turned hard and gray.

Connection to Recovery:

Like the moth, I was trapped in an alcoholic home. The feeling of being trapped can be triggered in adulthood.  Today, I can recognize the feeling and remind my inner child she is not trapped today.  I can help metaphorically to build her a new home. 




1. Think about a piece of furniture, flooring or wallpaper from your childhood home.  Let it speak for you about the loss of your home, even if you didn’t think it was a loss. 

2. Write about any move you made in childhood, trying to capture the mixed emotions any move entails.

3. Write about any breakup in your family when you were young.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

September post


                                            photo: Artur Aldyrkhanov on

September 2021 Prompt, from Beneath the Steps: A Writing Guide for 12-Step Recovery, by Christine Beck,p 125

The Bible is a treasure trove of stories that bubble up when I explore emotions of longing or disconnection.  The following poem speaks to the fear of abandonment. It also involves issues of class, which tormented me as a child.   It’s the story of Ruth and Naomi. Naomi is Ruth’s mother-in-law. Ruth, a foreigner, is married to the Jewish Naomi’s son, Boaz.  When Boaz dies, Naomi plans to send Ruth back to her homeland, which was the custom.  Ruth pleads to stay with Naomi. I’m exploring contemporary notions of meddling mothers-in-law before turning the poem in a loving direction.


Just when you think you’ve heard enough,

her suggested hostess gifts, secret signals

of how her people learned to recognize each other, 

the initialed cocktail napkins, pressed lightly to lips, 

never mauled into a ball, a wrinkled mess. 

Just when she starts in on the nursery

school, the kind where our kind

goes to get ahead, 

Your head goes to Naomi, the Israelite, 

mother-in-law to a heathen girl named Ruth.

Boaz, Naomi’s son, stone dead, and Ruth, his widow,

lonely as the wind on Mount Moriah, 

clings to Naomi’s skirts, begs not be repatriated.

Ruth wants any task, just to hold the hand

of someone who once held him.

Wherever you go, let me go there too.

Connection to Recovery:

We all have stories or myths that take root in our subconscious. This story of possible abandonment had a happy ending. Naomi let Ruth stay. This one reminds me of the power of women in recovery. I need to keep them close and ask for help, just as Ruth asked Naomi.


1.Think of any story from the Bible, Shakespeare or any well-known piece of literature in which the characters display your longings or fear of abandonment.  Transport those characters

 to a scene from your life and see what happens.

2.Write about any current conflict in your life and then “flashback” to a conflict in some myth or fairytale that relates.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Response to July Prompt by Anna


If I go away.........

Snap snap goes the belt

daddy can't see me under the bed

I'm invisible.

light streaming from the hallway

i look around my room

there's my record player on a small table

will daddy break that?

He knows how much love my records

45s smashing across my bedroom wall

there are my worn out, stained dolls in the corner

i continue to look around my little room

a room that was once cozy and safe

i see the pink and white striped wall paper i love so

under a tear in the wallpaper is a message I wrote with a crayon

if I go away will mommy stop drinking?

if I go away will daddy stop scaring me?

if i go away will daddy stop touching me?

I float up to the sky

snap snap goes the belt

daddy can't see me under the bed

I'm invisible.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

July 2021 Prompt based on fear of violence

 Violence and Feeling Unsafe

                                            photo credit: Dan Blackburn on

We who grew up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional family knew we were not safe. I wrote about walking home from school, fearing that I would find my father drunk and rageful.  He rarely hit us, but he swore, red-faced with anger and contempt.  His anger was inexplicable.  What had set him off? Would he be funny and want to play softball or would he be passed out on the living room rug? That uncertainty was worse than predictability. It created chaos, a roller coaster ride of emotions.

In this poem what is in a newspaper—words—can be more damaging to a child than being hit.  His words imprinted a belief that we were worthless and a problem.  We were shamed and felt abandoned emotionally.  This is true even if we witnessed these words being directed at others.  When I first came into recovery, I said my dad picked on everyone except me.  Today, I believe that was not true, but even if it were, I now know that if I was in the room, I didn’t need to be the one being derided and cursed at to register the blow.

Walking Home

It’s four o’clock. The school bus chugs off,

leaving me at the end of the lane to our farm. 

It’s called Princessville Road.

It’s lined with dirt, brambles, scent of wild things:

ink berries, bittersweet – their poison packed 

in blood-red berries bursting from their jackets,

cornflowers, huckleberries, honeysuckle,  

tiny drops of nectar shimmering on the stem.

Pull them through a slender shaft and suck it dry.

My mother isn’t home. 

She’s gone to work, and left me

to return to an empty house.

At least, I hope it’s empty. I hope my father

won’t be there, his rage rolled up like newspaper,

a weapon that’s supposed to leave no mark.                                           


1. Write about where you were when you realized you weren’t safe.

2.  Try to find an image, such as the newspaper in the poem above, to stand as a symbol for a weapon.

3. Try to put “contrary” impulses in your poem.  They create energy. Notice that the seemingly peaceful scene of walking down the lane with the berries and flowers becomes for the narrator a scene of danger when she imagines that the berries are “poison.” So the berries are simultaneously attractive and dangerous. This is one way to reveal what keeps us returning to dangerous or unsafe emotional or physical places.  We make choices that recreate our past, even if the past was painful.

Kevin's poem for the June 2021 prompt "In the Outside"

 In the ‘Outside’

by Kevin Cooper




Outside was freedom

Opportunity waited outside

Adventure awaits


Almost always alone…

What games can I play

With no one else?


Climb a tree: it becomes 

a rocket to the stars,

a pirate ship…

Ride my bike, I’m flying

or in a road race


Outside, the wide world

is mine

No walls, no doors

no silence, no chores


Even when it rains:

outdoors is puddles

and drowning worms

My same world transformed


The street of our block

was a connection to another,

bigger world

It pulls me away with promise

of destination

But here I remain 

secure in the familiar;

the places to hide

right outside my front door 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Prompt for June 2021

 From Beneath the Steps: A Writing Guide for 12-Sstep Recovery

by Christine Beck

Prompt for June 2021


I learned to deal with the fear of violence by being hypervigilant to the moods in my house. I learned to hide.  I wrote about it, using the game “Huckle, Buckle Beanstalk,” a game of searching for an object in plain view. The name had that wonderful sound of repetition that I treasure in writing poetry.  I thought the game was harmless fun, but uncovered a deeper meaning.   See if you can keep writing about a topic until you surprise yourself with a kernel of a buried truth. 

In this poem,  I surprised myself by turning into a tree. This is called a “turn” in poetry, a shift in tone or topic. Growing up, I always felt safe outside sitting under a tree, so it isn’t surprising that I turned myself into a tree. I made the tree a home that has “sustenance,” plenty of what is needed to nurture birds and bugs—and maybe me. 


Huckle buckle beanstalk, a game of looking

for an object hidden in plain view, which

refuses to be found, camouflaged

in the shift and twist of the material. 

An ordinary object, a pencil, say, or glove, 

something useful, or something useless,

a ticket stub from a movie, a dried rose

from a man whose name has frittered off.

I loved that game, where luck was immaterial,

where skill or speed, or being chosen for the team,

was unimportant, a game for which you needn’t trust

another, no secret word, no acting out a movie title.

Just silent vigilance, looking for what isn’t there, or

isn’t where it’s supposed to be, knowing you are what

is missing, which is why you love to hide in open air,

stashed in plain view, looking ordinary. Slowing down

your breathing, until you sink into a nearby sapling, not worth

noticing. Until you are the tree, a home for birds and bugs,

a stationary object that sucks up sustenance

from deep inside the earth.


1.Write about your backyard, park, or wherever you played outside as a child. Who was there? What games did you play?

 Did you feel safe? 

2.Write about your relationship with nature and the natural world today.  Is it a safe, inspiring place? Try to imagine a safe place and write about it.  Allow birds or animals to talk or help you if they want to.

Connection to Recovery:

The end of the poem reminds me to slow down and breathe when I feel agitated. It shows nature is my safe space. It reminds me that we are all connected in recovery. Being “ordinary” is actually a goal. Trying to be “special” got me in trouble. 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Recovery Writer Gretchen responds to May prompt

                                                        photo credit: Mathias p r Reding on

 No Award Will Make Me Proud

Carry those buckets of water to your 4-h sheep. 

I don’t care how heavy they are.

I also don’t care that you wanted to show pigs and not sheep.

Third place is not good enough.

Your best is not good enough. 

Try harder, practice more. 

All the awards you win and 

I’ll still never say I’m proud of you. 

Nor will I dare say I love you. 

I’ll teach you how to hang out with the guys,

Poach deer, drink like a fish and 

out work the best of men. 

But I’ll never allow you to be the 

Lady you were meant to be. 

Not as long as I’m in your life. 

After cutting me out of your life 

you’ll finally be able to learn all the ways

of a true lady with the help of

your wonderful, patient husband 

Whom I hate, because he was your 

ticket to a mentally healthy life style. 

Thru out your life you will have 

Ultimately abandoned and lost 

yourself with chronic people pleasing. 

You will lie about your likes, dislikes, 

wear makeup that you hate, buy the same 

clothes “your friends” wear and chronically 

beg for others opinions so you can please others. 

Always reading their behaviors and moods 

to see if you pleased them well. 

You will eventually get to the point where 

you realize you don’t know who you are anymore. 

You will try all the eggs like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride

And realize you like them scrambled with katchup

Not fried over easy like I taught you. 

This will be the true beginning of your journey

to self discovery and overcoming people pleasing. 

You will become so addicted to learning who you truly are

that you’ll never want to please anyone for the sake of losing 

your identity again. Keep on trucking. 

Written by a recovering people pleaser~

Gretchen Marie Walters