I've got a major girl crush on my fellow July '07 member, Claire. I'm SO SO SO excited to read her new book (details within). She's a phenomenal writer and expresser of thoughts--and a warm, supportive, lovely friend. I'm not much of a betting woman but I'd put money on a major legacy this gal will leave, and Claire is quickly making her mark in this space. Viva la recovery revolucion!
Name: Claire Rudy Foster
Location: Portland, OR
Recovery date (turning point for addiction or mental illness): 7/06/2007
Creative niche (art, music, writing, entrepreneurship, etc.):
I’m a writer and a lifelong reader. I fell in love with reading when I was young: I was allowed to read whatever I wanted, even the books and magazines that my parents read, so reading was an early, illicit pleasure. In reading, I explored places and experiences that made me believe that adulthood would be wonderful, bursting with interesting people, gorgeous meals, and excursions to every corner of the map. In recovery, I’ve found those people and places, and they populate my novels and short stories.
It might sound trite, but sobriety has made my dreams a reality. When I was drinking, and deep into my heroin addiction, I was trying to write and just going in circles. I saw a few stories published, and knew I had potential, but when I was using, it was just that: potential. Nothing more. Inevitably, I couldn’t write because I had to be high all the time and when I was high I could barely form a coherent thought, much less tell a story. Once I got sober, the pieces starting coming together again. Next month, my first book is coming out, and that’s a dream come true for me.
I never thought I’d have my name on the cover of anything; I thought that I would be one of those tragic, unacknowledged writers who OD’d in her apartment and nothing to show for her life except a trunk of unpublished, not-very-good pages. A few times, that was a real possibility, and I think it’s my pride that kept me plugging along. I’m not gonna fucking die without accomplishing something, I always told myself. And here I am, with a book, and I don’t want to die anymore and I’m not going to overdose or drink myself to death. How’s that for a plot twist?
If applicable, drug of choice (or not of choice...):
Heroin and alcohol. I stuck with the classics. In a perfect world, I would have been blacked out at all times. I loved blackouts at first, because it was like being in a time machine. You walk in one end and come out the other, and you’re in a totally different spot, with new people and better music and hopefully more of whatever put you in the blackout in the first place. The problem was that the more I drank, the scarier it got. I would come to and I’d be with people I didn’t recognize, in dangerous places, with bad things happening. It really frightened me. Whenever I think I miss getting loaded, I remember those times: the sensation of falling into this dark, dark pit and not knowing who or what was waiting for me at the other end. There’s nothing romantic about it, and as awful as it was, I’m glad I spent so much time at the bottom. Heroin may love me, but I don’t love it back. And I don’t love who I was then, either. I think part of me was addicted to suffering, and getting loaded was a more efficient, dramatic way of getting into that dark place. I’m grateful that I don’t live there anymore.
Recovery Story in a Nutshell:
In a lot of ways, my story is boilerplate. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. Like I said, there was this void inside me, a hole that opened up and was impossible to fill. I was a really lonely kid---that’s not a reflection on my parents, or my family, I was just that way. I was a dreamer and I think I figured out really young that there was no place in the world for people like me, and instead of believing that things would get better, I gave up hope. You can only weather so much. And I wasn’t brave then, and I didn’t know who I was, so I was basically like “fuck it” and pulled a vodka blanket over my head and refused to come out. I started drinking and using fairly young, and it felt right to me in a way that was scary. You could say that it was my first love, and I had absolutely no interest in fighting it. I didn’t realize how deep my addiction went until I finally tried to quit on my own. I couldn’t stop. I tried everything, from moving apartments to switching substances, to therapy and yoga and being a vegan and getting married, and I was still an alcoholic and a heroin addict. I could dress it up and say “it’s because I’m a writer” or “it’s because I got raped,” but neither of those things are completely true. “I’m self medicating.”
I ended up getting sober at 23. I think that everyone has a few windows of opportunity, when it comes to addiction---and the longer you wait, the fewer opportunities there are. For whatever reason, I jumped through this one and I haven’t gone back. I got sober on my own, detoxed in a tiny studio apartment I shared with my then-husband, and decided I could just muscle through it. I didn’t know anything about addiction or alcoholism and figured I was just insane. I thought I would have to go on a mood stabilizer or antidepressants---in fact, I was prescribed both of those things by a well-meaning psychiatrist in my first few months, because I described my symptoms and they were concomitant with bipolar disorder. (Of course, I hadn’t told this doctor that I’d quit drinking and getting loaded, so she thought I was having a mental break of some kind.) I stayed sober on my own for close to three years, and my life got smaller and smaller. I lost all my friends and I was so lonely. I rarely left the house, and I was afraid to walk down the wine aisle at the store. Finally, I got a suggestion to go to an AA meeting, and that’s where my recovery really started.
Top 5 Recovery Tools
1) AA meetings
For me, staying physically sober wasn’t enough. I needed to learn how to grow up, work on myself, and be brave, and I learned all of that in AA. I’ve been sober for almost 10 years now, and in AA for more than 6. The contrast between having a community and trying to go it alone is like night and day for me. I don’t think AA is for everyone, but it can help anyone. It was exactly where I needed to be, and I use what I’ve learned in the rooms every day.
I keep a journal, write letters, and stay creative. Cultivating the playful, imaginative part of my mind is critical for my recovery. I was surprised and pleased to learn that getting sober didn’t turn me into a different person: it’s helped me to live up to my potential. I was a writer when I was drinking, and I’m a writer now: a sober one. A few years into my recovery, I went to graduate school and earned an MFA in Creative Writing. It feels like such a gift to not only be able to finish what I start, but to say “writing matters to me,” and be able to invest in myself.
Where would I be without my people? From AA to the #xa community on Twitter and the awesome friends who have come into my life over the past decade, I feel loved, supported, and seen. When I was drinking, I felt invisible: like I didn’t matter, and that nobody would miss me if I disappeared. Now, I have friends who fill my days and nights with laughter, music, and fun. I have a man in my life who makes me feel like I’m full of stars. I would also say that, in sobriety, I’ve learned how to make new friends without feeling nervous or inhibited. These days, I’m grateful to have quality friends I can count on, and who keep me honest and grounded.
Emily Dickinson said, “Hope is a thing with feathers.” That’s how I live today. I have heard people describe hope as a kind of faith, and I think that’s true, too. For me, recovery is what happens after the initial pain and excitement and drama of early sobriety has passed. Life continues to be life, and I continue to learn. I try to go forward believing that good things are possible, for me and everyone. I write about my hopes, talk about them. I remind myself that my best days are ahead of me, and that if I stay sober and keep going, I’ll get where I need to be. Of all the things I rely on, I’d say that hope is the thing that has truly given me wings. One day, I decided that I had trudged far enough; instead of giving up, I learned how to fly.