My solution was to become somewhat of a hermit who ran a lot in the woods. I got off social media. And I started declining all social and professional invitations. In other words, I attempted to completely eliminate the need for alcohol.
I had also learned that I didn't even like alcohol all that much. I liked the emotional escape that getting drunk offers. One drink with friends wasn't delicious and it didn't get me buzzed, so what was the point? It was just empty calories that I didn't even particularly enjoy. I learned about something called The Power Of Zero and decided that I would drink zero alcoholic beverages. That was my first step toward sobriety.
Immediately, my world got small. When much of your social and professional life revolves around drinking and then you give up alcohol, things get weird. Sober, experiences and people were different than I remembered them being when I was buzzed. One surprising revelation was that I didn't really like watching sports anymore. Gasp! This lifelong Eagles fan didn't exactly bleed green while sober. Or maybe it's more accurate to say alcohol was too entwined with football Sundays. I couldn't really separate the two and I didn't want to drink anymore, so. Friends with whom I mostly drank slowly faded away. It wasn't nefarious. I didn't want to go places where I had previously imbibed. They didn't want to run ten miles in the woods with me.
I had Alicia and a few trusted buddies. I had screenwriting gigs. But I really wanted to write this novel I had been working on for a long time and it just wouldn't come. No matter how hard I tried. I told myself that it would eventually bubble up from the depths of my psyche and I kept running, pushing it to seventy and then eighty-plus miles a week.
I thought I was running to get stronger and healthier. And on one level I was. But I was also running away from that aforementioned emotional and psychological pain.
Then I started getting mysterious joint discomfort that the doctors and specialists couldn't figure out. All of the scans and X-rays and blood tests said I was fine. But the pain intensified enough to sideline me. With long distance running suddenly off the table, all I had was my screenwriting gigs. Then those dried up.
(I've come to believe that my joint pain—which entirely vanished once I entered into Jungian analysis—might have been psychosomatic. Maybe it was psyche's way of sabotaging the running, taking away my coping device, so I'd be forced to start processing the inner, largely repressed conflicts.)
Suddenly, I was facing the blank page again, trying to write a novel that would resurrect my career, make me feel whole again, and distract me from the internal pain that I didn't want to acknowledge. Only this time I didn't have the nightly escape into the bottle. And I no longer had running either.
What do you think happens in the story next?
If you guessed years of writer's block and excruciating emotional pain, you'd be correct!
Will Matthew Quick beat writer's block?
Well, you already know that I have. So this is hardly a proper cliff hanger. But tune in next month anyway and I'll tell you a little bit about what I learned from the experience. It might just have been the most important lesson of my life. And I want to share it with you.
As always, please feel free to tell anyone and everyone about the M.P.L. We are always happy to welcome new subscribers. Our family is growing every day. The more the merrier, says the introvert? Yes, this is an intimate conversation between good like-minded people. This isn't idle chitchat. We are trying to figure out important things here, right? Come one, come all.
Before we sign off for May, let's officially welcome the seventeenth and eighteenth countries to join the M.P.L.: Thailand and Israel!
And give thanks to Mitch Albom for this kind We Are the Light blurb:
"A timely, lovely and sometimes heartbreaking novel of grief and hope, beautifully told through a series of letters that shine light on our capacity to heal, even after tragedy." —Mitch Albom, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Stranger in the Lifeboat
Our local indie bookshops—Duck's Cottage & Downtown Books here in OBX—are already taking preorders for signed copies. Jamie Anderson has done a lot to support Alicia and me over the years. Help us return the favor by preordering your signed copy of WATL from her shops! Signed copies here.
Finally, Alicia and I are recovering nicely from our battle with Covid-19. Our Collingswood, NJ and Holden, MA events have been rescheduled. Hit this link for more info: Alicia Events Also, did you see the favorable Smile Beach Murder review in The New York Times? Jamie is selling lots of signed copies here in OBX. You can order one here: Signed Smile Beach Murder. We'll be using Inkwood Books at the NJ event and TidePool Bookshop in MA. Please support the booksellers who support us!