James Ryan is an addict in recovery. He is now over twenty years sane and sober, married and a father of two, and a PhD graduate who researches the power of writing to heal. In Recovery Writing, Ryan tells his own story and the stories of the addicts he interviewed in the course of his research. These narratives, informed by existing research on writing’s physical and psychological effects, lead to a social understanding of healing. While writing does enable us to emote and confess, this is not the limit of its power. Writing heals our relationships as much as our bodies and minds. It attunes us to our social reality and improves our way of being with others. The notion of a higher power and the divine are also explored. Included in this book are step-by-step instructions for writing exercises that offer a first-hand experience of social healing. These exercises, drawn from the backs of coffee-stained diner place mats and the hard-earned experience of addicts struggling to remake their lives, introduce those willing to undertake this journey to the powerful, life-changing world of recovery writing.
“Deftly weaving together his own recovery journey, the stories of other addicts, and ways of ‘writing through recovery,’ James Ryan, in Recovery Writing: Discovery and Healing in the Twelve Steps provides a useful and breathtakingly poignant set of observations on how the act of writing is integral to healthy recovery. Part memoir, part how-to book, Ryan’s book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the power of writing in overcoming the cunning, baffling, and powerful pull of addiction.”—Michael Bernard-Donals, Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Forgetful Memory: Representation and Remembrance After Auschwitz and other titles.
“If writing connects us with energies and powers beyond ourselves, how does writing contribute to the mysterious process of healing from addiction? Drawing from extensive research, the stories of other addicts, and deep reflection on his own experience, Ryan explores the power of writing to help people in the Twelve Step program move from selfishness to compassion, from isolation to relationship, and from resentment to serenity. Because of its honesty, thoughtful analysis, and imaginative sweep, his book is often thrilling to read and makes a real contribution to the literature of addiction and recovery.”—Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, author, Holy Hunger: A Woman’s Journey from Food Addiction to Spiritual Fulfillment; co-editor, Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis
“A brilliantly humane, authentic contribution to the writing and wellbeing movement that will resonate with readers struggling with addiction, working with those who have addiction, or anyone seeking a practical, self-determined way to reach their full potential in life.”—Dr. Stacey Cochran, the University of Arizona
“Over the last few years, I’ve read every book on recovery I could get my hands on. None has been more enlightening than James Ryan’s Recovery Writing. Ryan succeeds in communicating the essence of recovery through the voices of people who use language to transmute the gift of desperation into a new way of life. The book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the promises of recovery, and how to claim them for one’s own.”—Stephen R. Haynes, Author of Why Can’t Church Be More Like an AA Meeting?: And Other Questions Christians Ask about Recovery
“Finally, a book that brings fresh insight to one of the most well-traveled paths of recovery. James Ryan shows that for many people, written self-examination is not the onerous chore it is often imagined to be, but is actually one of the most powerful (and mystical) aspects of Twelve Step spirituality. This is less a book about recovery than it is a deep dive into the little explored practice of spiritual writing.”—Piers Kaniuka, MA, MTS author of Real People, Real Recovery and curator of the Resistance Recovery podcast and FB group
“For those who are hungry for relief from their suffering, this book is a feast that satisfies on every level. Interwoven within these pages are stories of hope that highlight the value of connection and revel in the mystery of faith while offering practical and specific suggestions for writing our way into recovery. For desperate people looking for a pathway through their pain—this book is a must read.”—Teresa J. McBean, former Director of the National Association of Christian Recovery and co-pastor at Northstar Community
“Dr. James Ryan combines personal experience and his doctoral research in writing studies to examine what many popular self-help books take for granted: writing’s potential to heal. Ryan shares the stories of people in recovery with respect, love, and humility. In doing so, he teaches readers about the power of expression to help us see ourselves more clearly and grow in community with others. I read it with my journal and pencil by my side.”—Kate Vieira, author of American by Paper and Writing for Love and Money
“Recovery Writing shines new light on the key role writing plays in addiction recovery. From the serious research of science to Bill Wilson’s seances and Ouija boards, Ryan blends his own writing experiences with motivating stories from an array of addicts who dared pick up pencil or pen and found a doorway to their souls. His book may give more addicts the courage to do the same.”—Fr. Bill W., Episcopal priest, and researcher on Two Way Prayer