Making Waves in Santa Barbara

Graduating a quarter early in late March and with a part-time job at a bookstore, Mack happily found himself with the luxury of time to start writing a novel. “I was meditating on the beach and observing my body’s call for a cigarette, when I started imagining how difficult it must be to meditate withdrawing from heroin rather than nicotine,” he says. “That’s when the idea hit me of opening a story with a relapsed heroin addict trying to do his 11th step for the day in a jail cell.”

Mack set a goal of 1,000 words a day, enlisting his father, an English professor, as his editor. The story began to take shape. “I’m attracted to writing about the deeper darker aspect of the self,” he says.

When he learned about the competition, he submitted the first chapter, which totaled 5,999 words, just under the contest’s maximum length of 6,000 words. When he found out he placed second, he let out a whoop of joy. “More than 30 people entered; it was competitive,” he says. “Writing is such a solitary endeavor, so it’s great to have a validation of my work.”

Side Note

Excerpt: “The Persistence of Delusion”

Leon failed to see the irony of his existential crisis: he was disenfranchised by the conception of God he felt was being pushed upon him while simultaneously using his personal conception of a “higher power” to justify his addiction. This type of inner conflict was quite typical for the 23-year-old college dropout, just a glimpse of what some might consider his insanity, which could best be described as a subconscious desire to do what he consciously knows to be in his absolute worst interest; a constant battle between the id and the superego magnified by a million. There were times when Leon considered this, usually during one of his brief stints of sobriety, although the idea that his subconscious was trying to kill him only drove him into a greater state of anxiety, and before long he found himself coping again the way he understood to work best.

How did I get here?

It was a question Leon found himself asking with increasing frequency as of late. Through realizing that he did in fact have a serious substance abuse problem, yet continuing to use in spite of this knowledge, Leon had discovered a way to accelerate his own demise. From the evident deterioration of his mind and body, to the increasingly sketchy characters he found himself associating with, to the decreasing quality of the places he found himself waking up, it was becoming clear that his options were thinning down to drastic change, jail, or death.

Written by Patti Zielinski


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