BY NATALIE SWAIN
Christmas morning. My brother has a secretive smirk on his face.
“This one is from me, Natty,” he says.
I lift the impressive gift bag with some trepidation. I have not got him anything. I remove the layers of tissue paper cautiously. Mont Blanc. I open the box. A beautiful Bohème pen sits gleaming up at me, squat and snug, itching to write.
“It’s beautiful, Matt.”
I have tears in my eyes; I am overwhelmed.
“It’s for good luck for you in your writing career.”
This gift comes to me with great love and expense.
“I will treasure it,” I say.
As the years go by, my poor choices in lifestyle, partners, habits and friends come between my brother and me. I move away to another city. Experimentation with drugs becomes a full-blown addiction that I hide from my family. I live with an abusive partner, and my writing dreams dry up like an arid desert. Every now and then I take out my Moleskin journal and stare at a blank page, not even daring to pick up my precious pen, or remove it from its leather case. I am supporting both myself and my boyfriend, who taunts me that I just do not have the talent; that I am not an “artist”.
One dreadful day when the financial pressure is just too much, I find myself standing at the counter of a pawn shop, pen in hand. They give me a pittance for the pen. I stand there a long time after the deal is done, wondering how I could have done this. What has my life come to? I am a monster.
My parents soon find out that I have been pawning precious things to make ends meet due to my drug habit. The neighbours also report to them that they have heard crying coming from my flat late at night, and the manager of the pawn shop emails my father that she has seen me with a black eye.
My parents fly me and my three pets home to stay with them. They are understandably devastated by what I have done and the choices I have made. I have broken their trust in so many ways, and let both them and myself down. I stay clean for a while, but this is ultimately only the beginning of a journey to recovery; one that includes a number of bitterly disappointing relapses.
I write my life story, a number of times, for therapeutic purposes. I work on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I journal. I go through many a Bic pen. When I relapse in rehab and my parents come to fetch me, they have truly had it with me. This is the final straw. At home, my brother barely greets me. Later, he sits me down and reads me the riot act. He says that at this rate I will not be invited to his future wedding or be welcome in his life. He says I am killing our parents, so I had better change, fast.
In a daze I go to my room. I desperately start searching online for Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings nearby. I have to beat this. The next morning I am up early. I ask my mother to take me to the local NA meeting, which she gladly does. And I submit to the process of recovery. I surrender. If it is their best will for me that I attend rehab in a stricter environment for six months, then that is what I will do, wholeheartedly. I will just believe and have faith that my two dogs and my cat will still be mine when I come out the other side. God’s will be done.
I continue working on my step work in my spare time and make progress with recovery-based readings. Then out of the blue my parents approach me. Would I consider doing outpatient treatment, living with them and abiding by their rules, for as long as they deem appropriate? This option would be instead of going down the coast to do inpatient rehabilitation for six months, and would mean I could be with my animals. I am overjoyed.
I work hard and begin writing again. I process the drug use and the abuse through writing poems, short stories, and essays. Something begins to stir within me; something long suppressed, neglected and forgotten. Driven by the need for self-actualisation, self-mastery, and the basic need to contribute, I start applying for freelance writing jobs in my spare time. The arrangement with my parents seems to be working out. I surrender my life and my will to a loving Higher Power.
Christmas comes. My brother has a secretive smirk on his face.
“This is for you from me, Natty,” he says.
I cautiously peep inside the elegant parcel.
About the Author: Natalie Swain is the winner of the September 2016 My Writing Journey Competition.
Photo credit: Flickr.com_frankieleon