Writing About Addiction; Blurring the Line Between Fact and Fiction

Eyes Wide Open 30-11a

As an addict in recovery, it was inevitable that these themes were going to creep into my writing sooner or later. In my recent crime novel Eyes Wide Open, sequel to the internationally bestselling When I Wasn’t Watching, two of my main characters are struggling with addictions of different kinds; one to a substance, one to a behaviour. Inevitably, there is always something of the authors own experiences in any novel, even if that only goes as far as how a particular character is drawn, but this one was probably both the most difficult and the most cathartic to write.

It was also the first book I had ever written entirely clean. Relying on caffeine (which I rapidly discovered is an addictive drug in itself) and self-discipline rather than Class As and manic creative bursts was harder than I thought. A lot more self-doubt crept in. And I experienced writers block on a whole new level. Now, I’m intensely proud of this novel.

But it begs the question; is fictionalising ones addiction story a healthy way of coming to terms with ones own experience? Now that the book has finished, I would certainly say so, but during the process of writing it I must have run the gamut of every emotion from anger, remorse, shame and ultimately gratitude.

The therapeutic benefits of creative writing for addicts in recovery has been well documented, and having a platform to tell our stories forms the backbone of many recovery programs. With this in mind and the help of the local drugs services and local council funding, I will be teaching a creative writing course for addicts in recovery, focusing on both literacy skills and the therapeutic benefits, exploring forms such as poetry, memoir and the short story. Finished pieces will be published in a not-for-profit anthology by Greenstream Publishing.

You can read a free extract of Eyes Wide Open here.


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