Writing a Memoir in Recovery

Writing a memoir can be a highly rewarding activity. It provides an opportunity to examine life and describe what happened from a personal point of view. By the time the writer has finished the manuscript, they usually know themselves much better. There is a type of healing that occurs with this type of writing, which is why it can be therapeutic for people recovering from addiction. If people understand their mistakes they will be far less likely to repeat them. Writing a memoir may be a way for people to strengthen their recovery.

Memoir Defined

A memoir is a type of writing where the author provides an account from personal experience. It is a type of autobiography but usually only deals with a certain period of time in the writer’s live. An autobiography is usually a chronological account of their full life up to that point. With both a memoir and an autobiography, the author typically writes in the first person.

Benefits of Memoir Writing

Writing a memoir can be a significantly rewarding experience. Even if nobody else ever gets to read the finished work, it can still be well worth doing. These are some of the benefits of memoir writing:

* This type of writing gives the individual insights into their own life. By the time they have finished their manuscript they are likely to know things about themselves that they did not know before.
* Memoirs are the nearest that people can get to immortality. If they are lucky, their words will be read by people long after they are dead.
* It helps people to save their memories.
* A memoir can become a cherished family heirloom. It can be passed down from generation to generation. It is a way for the individual to speak to their descendants and describe what things were like for their family in the past. A memoir can help protect the history of a family for future generations.
* These stories can inspire other people.
* Writing a memoir is a great way for people to develop self-discipline. It takes a lot of this inner resolve to be able to complete such a project. Once people have developed self-discipline it can benefit almost every aspect of their lives.
* Memoir writing can be cathartic. This means that the process of putting the manuscript together can lead to a type of emotional cleansing.

Memoir Writing for Recovering Addicts

Those people who have been addicted to alcohol or drugs can gain a great deal of benefit from writing a memoir. Here are a few of the major benefits of writing a memoir for persons in recovery:

* Those who belong to a 12 Step fellowship choose to write a memoir as part of step four. This gives them the opportunity to look back over their life in a more comprehensive way. They can then use this material for creating their personal inventory.
* Memoirs give people a different perspective on their fall into addiction. The individual may be able to figure out some of the wrong paths they took so that they can avoid taking them again.
* Writing the story of their addiction can be a way for that person to signify that part of their life is now over.
* This manuscript can be a way to tell other people about the fall into addiction from the addict’s point of view.
* An honest memoir can act as inspiration for other people battling with addiction. This is particular true if the writer also talks about how they managed to escape their problems.
* It is sometimes claimed that this type of writing is cheaper than a therapist and just as effective. This claim might be a bit exaggerated, but there is little doubt that memoir writing can force people to face their demons.
* It takes courage to write honestly and openly. When people are addicted to alcohol or drugs, they will usually have to contend with their own dishonesty. Not only will they frequently lie to other people, but they will also deceive themselves. The opportunity to be completely honest while writing this memoir can strengthen their sobriety.

Dangers Associated with Memoir Writing

These are the major risks associated with memoir writing:

* Those people who are mentioned in memoirs can be deeply upset and offended when they read what has been written about them. They may justifiably feel like their privacy has been violated. They may decide that what has been written is untruthful, because people will vary greatly in their interpretation of the same event. Even the most innocuous statement about another individual might upset them if they take it the wrong way. It is vital that anyone who is writing a memoir considers the privacy of other people – particularly if this work is ever going to be available to the public.
* If the writer manages to get their book published, or they self-publish, they may be legally liable for slander if they write negative things about other people. It is advisable to disguise the identity of people mentioned in the book so that they will not be able to take legal action later. This will also ensure that their privacy is protected.
* It is possible that this type of writing could take the individual back into parts of their life that they are not yet ready to face. If the process of putting this manuscript together makes people unduly distressed, they may need to seek help from a therapist or seek some other type of support.

How to Write a Memoir

When it comes to memoir writing there is a great deal of flexibility as to how people can go about it. This is even truer if the writer never intends to publish the manuscript. There are some guidelines that may be of benefit to people who are intent on writing their memoir:

* There are different ways to write a memoir, and the individual will need to find a style that best suits them. One way of doing things is to first write a detailed plan for all the chapters, and then use this as a guide for the memoir. The problem with this is that people can get stuck, because they have no idea what they want to write about. Other writers prefer to just write the first draft with no plan. They just allow their creativity to flow and keep on writing until they get to the end. In the course of writing the first draft, they pay no attention to things like grammar and spelling. They save this for the editing process.
* Writing a book is a lesson in self-discipline. The author needs to be willing to sit down regularly (preferably every day) and write some more. Most people say that they want to write a memoir, but only a small percentage have the self-discipline to make it a reality.
* A draft is a version of a piece of writing that still needs more work. A memoir will often require many drafts before it is finished. The first draft can be almost unreadable, and the writer usually will not want other people to see this. The manuscript improves with each draft until the author feels confident that they have polished it as best they can. The process of writing draft after draft means that a well-written book may take years to write.
* The key to successfully writing a memoir is complete honesty. The writer knows that they are on the right track when the things they are disclosing make them feel a bit uncomfortable. Later, they may decide to go back and remove or alter some of the more embarrassing details, but nothing should be left out of this first draft. The writer of a memoir is likely to say things that they have never been willing to admit to another human being.
* The individual needs to be aware that writing a memoir can be a painful experience. At times, they may feel like they were back in the middle of some of the most challenging episodes of their life. Writing a memoir usually involves shedding a few tears.
* Humans are fallible, but few are 100 percent bad. When describing other people, it is fairer to consider their strengths as well as their shortcomings.
* If a writer decides to have their memoir published, they must consider how this is going to affect other people. This is especially important for those mentioned in the book. Putting this type of book into the public domain can stir up old ghosts.
* If people do not feel capable of writing their own memoir, they might want to hire a ghostwriter. This is an expensive option.