Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

What Does “IT” Mean?

When I finally admitted to the need for help and leave the cavernous existence of a wine and bathroom scale obsession, I wasn’t at all prepared for what lay ahead. I just wanted directions to course correct my life.

To confirm, I knew I needed help but still desperately wanted to keep drinking with little concern for nutrition. At the time, I would have handed you my wallet and the password for my credit card to have one more day quietly inside addiction isolation.

Yet when I opened my eyes to how easily I’d earned a seat in a meeting of recovery, I determined I’d be well served to sit down and listen.

After a few people spoke, my mind raced with questions I didn’t have enough nerve to ask out loud. Even though my head spun in query I didn’t dare turn my head to the person next to me and say, “So, how does this thing work? I just have to quit drinking and eat better, right?”

When I found the courage to speak with someone privately I asked, “How am I supposed to know if I’m making any advancement in recovery?” The response wasn’t an answer but more of a riddle, “You’ll know it when you get it. Just do what’s suggested to you. Don’t worry. Hang around here for a while and before long you’ll get it.

After thanking her for offering me time to chat, I turned and headed straight for the door. I didn’t want to let fly out of my mouth what screamed in my head. “What the hell are you talking about? Stop with these deeply intuitive portions of information! What is ‘it’? My life is literally hanging by a thread here. Why must you now torment me with these half-baked answers? Please, I beg of you, just tell me in very general terms, what must I do or ask to get through this godforsaken maze of information. I’m sorry but I don’t find what you’re telling me sufficient at all. And what’s with, ‘Do what’s suggested and you’ll get it’ game of mystery? Get what from whom? Is this really how this program works? Is this just an endless game of breaking the code?

When I was able to self-talk my way back to the willingness I’d promised myself I’d stick to, I took a much-needed deep breath, slowed down my racing thoughts and started to listen. I heard things like, “Bring the body and the mind will follow” and “Listen for the similarities not the differences.” Those suggestions seemed easy enough so I did. I carried on as though I knew what I was doing. After all, I had plenty of practice playing the game of pretend. I’d spent a good majority of my life trying to figure out how to blend in without ever asking how. I didn’t want to wear the badge of ignorance so I’d pretend to know what I very much did not.

What wasn’t so easy was figuring out to get “it” and be over the ever-present, piercing need to feel numbed out.  Yet I forged ahead if for no other reason than to prove to myself I’d found “it”.

In time I unwound the triple-knotted, wet shoestring tied around two simple letters making up the word “it”. What I revealed was the solution for achieving foundational, sustainable, long-term recovery is not a thing, but rather a shift in perspective. My heart, mind, and soul had opened to an understanding of how life, for me, made sense without the overuse of a substance or unhealthy behavior. No one could have told me what my “it” would come to mean, I had to create my description.

Fast forward 10 years.

I’d handed the piece of writing I’d worked on for a better part of six months to a friend who is well-respected in the literary field. After an impressive 20 years working with editors, publishing houses and skilled authors, I entrusted her with the dubious job of editing what I’d poured my every emotion into writing.

After a few days of nerve-racking fear she’d suggest I toss the whole thing and take up knitting, she handed my document back with these words, “There are a lot of people out there who will benefit from reading what you’ve written; perhaps even thank you for providing them the hope they too might course correct their life. In turn I thank you for allowing me the privilege of offering some suggestions to make your words shine. All this needed was a bit of polishing.” 

After a hug of gratitude and a promise to take her every recommended edit to heart, she turned to me and said, “One more thing. As you write, always ask yourself, what does “it” mean.

Upon noticing my look of immediate confusion she continued on by saying, “The reader deserves a more thorough understanding behind that two-letter word. There is always a better way to say what you mean. Don’t ever make the assumption your reader will just somehow know.” 

As soon as I waved goodbye, I dropped the edited document on my desk and got to work. I spent the next several days going piercingly through every line of the double-spaced, 12-point type, 90-page document transforming every single use of the word “it”.

Guess what? She was right. Each revised sentence exploded with more meaning. I felt an almost immediate connection with the reader, believing their eyes would trail my words and feel a friend by their side rather than some distant writer. I was providing them a far better opportunity to understand “it”.

Like my writing efforts, the only way I could have recovered from an obsessively hopeless state of mind, was by digging deep to find the right words and eliminate confusion. No one could do for me what I needed to work through for myself. Only I could awaken my understanding of what “it” means.

Get it?



A Moment to Breathe…

What are the “it’s” in your life?  Can you be your own editor and find a way to better express what “it” means? Or, if you’ve had an experience when rethinking your words helped to better connect with someone please share this with me!  Simply scroll down and leave me a message in the “Reply” section.

And as always, thank you for taking the time to breathe in this message from me.  

Single Post Navigation

One thought on “What Does “IT” Mean?

  1. Dear Alison,

    I like this post. It explains one of the reasons why you are able to connect so well with your readers — you always explain/spell out what you mean so clearly. Your editor’s suggestion that you always explain “it” was so wise. I believe it (that suggestion) has made all the difference.  Let me explain why I feel this way.  So many times I have read something, perhaps profound, yet I wasn’t sure why it was important.  I wasn’t sure if I was completely understanding the point the writer was trying to make, because I didnt intuitively grasp the concept, or because there is a limit to how much we can convey with the written word alone.  Many writers write as if the reader will automatically know what they mean, forgetting that the reader cant see inside the writer’s head, and hasnt had the same experiences.  Maybe that makes me appear less intelligent, but I believe there are many ways to interpret something, and if your aim is to communicate, its important to be clear. That may not be as “artsy” as some would like, but I think its important, if your aim in writing is to help others.  You have the gift of being able to explain what “it” is when you write.  Thanks for being open to your editor’s suggestion.

    BTW: The same goes for teachers.  The best ones dont get caught up in their own heads by assuming you know what they mean, without the benefit of a clear explanation.  The best teachers spell “it” out.  I dont think everyone can do that.

    From my Android phone on T-Mobile. The first nationwide 4G network.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: