181,260 words 4,028 poems (or thereabouts) – a story I write, changing my life each day. I began writing and posting a poem each day beginning in my first few months sober. I didn’t know how long I would do this – I didn’t have a long-term plan other than I knew that I needed to stay sober, and writing and sharing with others helped, as I wrote in my article “Recovery Through Poetry.”

In a spiritual practice that I’ve incorporated into my recovery, the words I use, “Right Speech” often guide my thoughts, intentions, and actions. Prior to getting sober, I used words to impress, to defend, to defeat too often. I routinely used words as weapons to cut others hidden behind the pretense of intelligent, witty, wry, sarcastic humor. I now see that I hid my fear, anger, disappointment, self-doubt and shame in the words that I didn’t say.

As I recover, my words have softened, towards myself and others. For me, honesty came/comes hard. Saying what I wanted or needed, even harder. But being aware of the words that I was choosing and using has helped me to change attitudes and behaviors (my own especially and sometimes those of others). I try to be aware that the words that I use can unite or they can divide, heal or harm. As an agnostic in recovery, I try to use words that describe what I believe rather than what I don’t believe or by defending my beliefs/practices; what I feel rather than what I know.

I’d rather build bridges, windows and doors, rather than walls with bars and locks. The image above is a ‘wordle’ or a ‘word cloud’ generated from the poems I’ve written since getting sober. The larger the word appears in the image, the more frequently that word appeared in the poems I wrote (connecting words such as the, but, and or omitted in the algorithm).


Better words
We do need
Kinder gentler
Honest and true
Words that help
Rather than hurt
Heal instead
Of cut and sting
Words that lift
No matter
How heavy
The weight
Words freely
Given and received
Spoken with
A smile rather
Than shouted
With a sneer
Words that rise
Above the din
Cut through
The chaos
Of anger
And fear
Words that
Let tears flow
When they must
We do need
Better words


I hold the words
With gentle hands
For this is language
Born of the heart
Words that soothe
Comforting whispers
Freely given
Gratefully received


What do we say
When we speak
The truth
Showing another
What lies beneath
Our protective skin
Thickened and roughened
By yesterday’s scars
That hides our pain
Sorrow and joy

About the Author

Robert B. is a sober alcoholic in Madison, WI participating in AA and AlAnon at Fitchburg Serenity Club. He has been sober since April 21, 2007. He also began writing and sharing poetry on Facebook during his first year sober as part of his recovery from alcohol dependency, acute anxiety and chronic depression. He has found that creativity expressed primarily through writing poetry and playing various stringed instruments helped him heal and thrive.

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