Voice of Recovery: Meet Carol Weis

How old are you? When the kids I teach poetry to ask me this question, I tell them I’m older than dirt and that I knew dirt when it was still a rock. In other words, I’m old enough not to commit to that question. Until I got sober, I was stuck in my 3-year-old self, the age I was when my mom was hospitalized for a year and a half with tuberculosis and the year I was sexually abused. It deeply affected my life and my emotional maturity.

Where do you live? I’m a Jersey girl living in Massachusetts.

Who are you, and what do you do? My name is Carol, and I’m a recovering alcoholic. I’m also a freelance writer who’s work has appeared online at Salon, Good Housekeeping, Cosmo, The Fix, Addiction Blog, Scary Mommy and numerous other sites and has been read as commentary on NPR. I’m the author of the picture book, When the Cows Got Loose, and the poetry chapbook, Divorce Papers. I started writing when I got sober. My husband and I split up after I stopped drinking, and writing was a way to process the confusion of feelings bombarding me at that time. I also teach poetry to fourth-graders, illustrating that poems are a great place to go with tough feelings. I’m currently working on two memoirs: a project with my daughter about our challenges as a single mom and teen and a solo project about my years of alcohol dependence and recovery. I’ve done all this after scoring 423 on the reading and writing section of the ACT.

What is your relationship to addiction and recovery? I grew up in a family of heavy drinkers and ended up following in their footsteps. I remember the relief I felt after having my first drink — relief from the anxiety and sadness I’d been lugging around since early childhood. I had a good run with alcohol and, for a while, had lots of fun, but after years of trying to control my drinking with little success, I finally realized I needed to give it up. I’ve been sober now for 26 years. A good portion of my recovery came from 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Co-dependents Anonymous, along with years of individual counseling with a wise and loving therapist and working with a wonderfully compassionate homeopathic doctor.

If you went to school, where did you go to school, what did you study and when did you graduate? I graduated in 1994 with a master’s in education from Westfield State University, four years after I got sober. I did poorly in college and needed to prove something to myself.

What is on your bookshelf? Because this is a recovery site, I’ll name some books that I love and have helped me: Lit by Mary Karr, Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp and Liar by Rob Roberge — those three are memoirs; The Language of Letting Go by Melanie Beattie; Healing the Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw; Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps by Charlotte Davis Kasl.

What is a superpower you’d like to have? Omniscience would come in handy for my writing.

What’s something most people don’t know about you? I wash Ziploc bags in the washing machine and hang them up to dry.

What is on your bucket list? I’d love to see my Mets win another World Series and a woman elected president.

What is one thing you are glad to have done but wouldn’t do it again? I recently rode the Flashback roller coaster at Six Flags. I will never do that again.

What would you do if you won the lottery? I’d donate a large portion to arts education.

What item in your closet do you wear the most? A threadbare, tear-stained Mets T-shirt

What actor would play you in a movie? Meryl Streep

Who is your ultimate dinner date? My daughter, who’s also my best friend

What brings you the greatest joy? Riding my bike, dancing, taking trips with my daughter and laughing hysterically with my sister

What is the best gift you’ve ever received? My daughter, who came to me to help me get sober

What are you proudest of? Getting sober

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life? If you think you have a drinking problem, you probably do, and perseverance is the key to success.

What is your favorite quote? One of my favorite’s: “To thine own self be true.” — William Shakespeare

What is the best advice you’ve been given? Feel the fear, and do it anyway.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger? Commit to something you love doing, and stay with it.

What does your future hold? I hope to continue publishing writing that helps people to release their guilt and shame, to love and forgive themselves, and ultimately, helps those struggling with alcohol and/or drug addiction to get sober.

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