Since late 2014, I have been sharing my poetry and prose through Instagram under the pseudonym, The Poetry Bandit. During these years, the common question I receive from fans and other writers, is “Why do you write?” and though, in their minds, they have already crafted my answer in hopes that it is the same as theirs, my response usually shocks or worries them.
“So that I never drink another drop of alcohol again,” I say, or write, as honestly as I can.
The response usually elicits a soft gasp, or stammer, or chat silence and sometimes reverence, because people, for the life of them, always think the answer will be something romantic. Unfortunately, that is not my answer and this is how it happened.
I can attest that writing for me, at one point, was all about romance and love poems, love songs and sonnets. I began writing at the “fragile” age of 14, writing songs in my bedroom for a few girls in high school I had crushes on. As I grew, my love of the folk ballad did as well. I had classical guitar training since I was seven years old, and my father was a closet folk rock genius whose records would only ever be heard by me, my mother and a few businessmen in the 70’s who heard it as elevator music after a record company stole his demos. So, I began the journey he decided not to take.
Songwriting through high school, I entered university with a love for language and rhyme and set out to complete an English Literature degree. Upon completing university, I had solidified myself as a local singer/songwriter and played in many a tavern and coffee shop with one of my two bands or as a solo artist. I recorded a few LPs and learned a lot about the indie music industry in Canada.
Fast forward to 12 years ago, I eased into marriage, three kids, a good job in the insurance industry and writing took a backseat. Not so much because of all the blessings evident in the previous sentence, but because I had taken that love for writing and replaced with an unhealthy idol: alcohol.
Looking back, I don’t know how it happened, but the guitars got dusty, the songbook laid bare, and my love poems to my wife dried up along with her garden I neglected to tend. Stress of the job, the demand to be present and sell myself in the insurance world to prospects and clients, my life began to be swallowed up by long liquid lunches and dinners.
It wasn’t long, say five years ago, when our son received an autism diagnosis, and I began to drink more heavily and with abandon. I began to do things I would never do sober. I’d disappear into the city, walking some scummy side street, drinking the night away with whoever would come my way. I’d come home late, my mouth full of excuses and sometimes vomit, but mostly excuses and regret and guilt. And still, and still! It would start all over again the next day. I couldn’t see what my life had become, and I could not see that I alone could fix it.
My wife, seeing a need to retreat, bought a typewriter and began to write small poems about her experiences with depression and bipolar 2 because if it wasn’t enough what we were already going through, we had two miscarriages earlier and my wife had begun to spiral. We were just about to begin a longer journey through her mental illness at this time, and that is her own story to tell. I saw it only as an opportunity to be more angry at life, at God and to make friends with harder liquors to drown that pain. I couldn’t help her, so I simply helped myself. But when I saw what light that this typewriter brought into her dark world, a similar light that the children did when they awoke each morning, I took a chance on it. She inspired me to try it out and find my voice again. And for a while, it brought peace to our little family.
Still, alcohol had its way for I had not properly addressed the dark cloud that was currently staying in our home. My poems were dark, foreboding, angry, and lost. Love was nowhere to be found. For the next two and a half years, I wrote through my addiction and never once wrote something I was proud of.
Then one night, after coming home drunk again, the writing was on the wall and on her face. The camel’s back was finally broken, and it was time to get sober. This was late 2014 and still for the next eight months I struggled to get sober on my own.
Writing took on new life as I began to struggle to find a way to not drink, be happy, be present, and be a man. But nothing was working, until I set my mind to a project. At the behest of my uncle (also a recovered alcoholic) I went to a meeting of like minded men and women to work a 12 step program. Here, I have learned to stay sober. My last drink was July 29, 2015. This program saved my life and I say that, because, it allowed me the opportunity to take my mind off the booze and back into my writing. I started to share my sober journey on Instagram and Facebook under the pseudonym, Jon Lupin – The Poetry Bandit, and through it have helped many people find sobriety, or at least get a taste of what’s in store for those who want it most.
But how did it help save my life, you ask? What writing did for me was get me through all the moments when I was alone. When you’re alone, and used to fill that time with drinking or drugging, you need to do something to take your mind off of old habits. Reading can only get you so far.
Writing is therapeutic for me. It is an elixir of the mind that covers old wounds and applies a bandage. It is like prayer and meditation and it keeps my mind in a state of learning, learning about my new surroundings, my new life, and keeps my old life in perspective.
What I am most proud of is the chronicle of that journey, “My Sober Little Moon.” It is a collection of poems I wrote when I was going through early sobriety and relapses in 2014, before I found the program. I examine the self, psyche, relationships, and the soul in this book.
So when people ask me, why I write, the answer is easy for me. My life is better for it and that is a beautiful thing to share. If there is anything I can pass on to those who want to know the answer for themselves, it is easy: healing. Writing is a form of healing and my new life is a perfect example of that.