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).
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.