He is doing that through Sobriety: A Graphic Novel, a project he conceptualized while in recovery at The Hazelden Betty Ford Center in Center City, Minn.
He was there from March 1, 2011 to May 30, 2011. “I woke up in the middle of the night, I kid you not, after having a dream to produce a book about addiction and recovery in the form of a graphic novel and how effective it would be,” said Maurer.
He got on the Internet the next day to see if there was anything available like the book he had conceptualized. There wasn’t, so he decided to start work on one. He hired Spencer Amundson, a graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, to draw the comics that would accompany his story. It wasn’t long before the story started coming together.
Sobriety: A Graphic Novel presents the Twelve Step recovery process in comic strip form.
The story takes place as five addicts in recovery share their stories. The characters include Debby, who is addicted to benzos (pills primarily used for the treatment of anxiety) and alcohol, and Hannah, who had survived a heroin overdose after someone—and she doesn’t know who—gave her a shot of naloxone, a medicine used to counter the effects of an opiate overdose.
Maurer points out that while in the past comic books have been on the sideline of “real” art or literature, they have grown up in recent years and today are mainstreamed into our culture. “That is because they are simple without being simplistic,” said Maurer. “They tell an engaging story in a hybrid format.”
Research shows that because of the way our brains work, learning that happens with both text and pictures engages a person’s brain more effectively than text or pictures alone.
Intrigued by the ability to reach people with a story about the Twelve Steps in a different and innovative way, Hazelden Publishing’s senior trade acquisitions editor Sid Farrar made the decision to pick up the title.
It was released in 2014.
The mission of Hazelden Publishing is to provide products and services to help people recognize, understand, and overcome addiction and closely related problems.
“My motivation for picking up the title was I had been looking for a way to communicate the complex and abstract ideas contained in the Twelve Steps—in a concrete way—with the younger generation of readers, and those who struggle with literacy and comprehension. It seemed to me a graphic novel was the best way to do it,”
said Farrar. “Based on the feedback we’ve gotten, I think we’ve really hit our mark, particularly with those who are not linear thinkers and learn better through a combination of the printed word and pictures illustrating the power of the message.”
William Cope Moyers is the Vice President of Community Affairs and Public Relations at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. A gifted communicator and a New York Times bestselling author, Moyers knows that different formats of printed materials reach different demographics.
“To see and understand the power of addiction, the promise of recovery—that’s always the challenge,” said Moyers.
“Sobriety: A Graphic Novel tells the story like nothing I’ve ever read before. With words, illustrations and potent insights that will resonate with young and older readers alike, the book leaves everyone with hope.”
Copies of Sobriety: A Graphic Novel are available online at Hazelden.org, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com.
They can also be ordered at any traditional bookstore. More information, including a webstrip Maurer has produced about the power of comics to educate and inspire, can be found at www.danthestoryman.com.
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