Rewriting Your Story – Amanda Nicole Corbin – Author of addiction is a sweet dark room

In the tumultuous journey of life, there are moments that define us, moments that test the very essence of our being. Amanda, a beacon of resilience and strength, shares a story that encapsulates the raw, transformative power of redemption. From the depths of alcoholism, grappling with seizures and hallucinations at a tender age, to the brink of despair where hope seemed elusive, Amanda found herself at a crossroads. Yet, amidst the darkness, a flicker of hope ignited, propelling her towards the path of recovery. Embracing an unconventional route, she wielded creativity as her guiding light, a testament to the boundless potential within.

Emerging from the shadows, Amanda embarked on a journey of self-discovery, navigating through the labyrinth of depression to unearth profound truths about herself. Unveiling layers of her identity, she confronted the realities of ADHD and OCD, seeking solace in the embrace of medication. Now, 4.5 years later, Amanda stands as a beacon of hope, her story a testament to the indomitable human spirit. With her debut poetry collection shedding light on the harrowing journey through alcoholism, and the joyous anticipation of motherhood, Amanda’s narrative echoes with resilience, echoing the resounding message that redemption is not only possible but worth every ounce of struggle. In this exclusive interview, Amanda shares her remarkable journey, her words a source of inspiration for those navigating their own paths toward healing and self-discovery.

Can you describe the moment when you realized you needed to make a change in your life?

When you’re an addict, you have so many would-be rock bottoms. So many moments that were my lowest, my biggest regrets, should have been my wow, this needs to stop moment, but they weren’t. The seizures weren’t it, the letting other people down wasn’t it–these were too heavy for me to face soberly. But when you’re in so deep and faced with more guilt for your own actions, the bottle becomes the shovel that keeps digging you deeper.

So, that is to say, my last moment was not my worst moment. I was in danger of losing the last things of stability in my life (job, relationship, health) and I could literally feel myself dying; I was having withdrawals while being drunk. I was fading. I was ready to die. I didn’t want to die like that. There was a glimmer of hope and I told myself: try rehab, then you can give up. Because I knew that, if I could just get there, I could do it.

What were some of the initial steps you took to begin your journey of rewriting your story?

There’s the cliche of admitting to yourself that you have a problem. Which is the first step. They just don’t tell you this step can take years to fully flesh itself out. I knew I had an issue, I joked about it, I tried to stop a good amount of times, but nothing was changing. I knew my life needed an overhaul. 

It started, as most things did, with getting drunk enough so I had the confidence to call a rehab center and then immediately call my parents to let them know. Then packing (definitely not enough clothes) and going there, drenched in sweat, the following day. Reminding myself I did not have to go through this again.

You mentioned using creativity as your higher power. How did you discover this as a coping mechanism, and how did it support your recovery?

In actuality, I had many higher powers: the universe, community, creativity, etc. I wanted to look at all the tangible ways I could use the world around me to get my footing back. I’ve always been interested in creative endeavors, writing being the biggest lifelong passion of mine. I often used the fact that “all the good writers were alcoholics” as a way to excuse my own behavior. But the more I drank, the less I could do. I would shake so hard during the day I could barely write my name, nonetheless create. My brain was in constant fight or flight. I knew if I wanted to create, I could not drink.

This translated into a way to fill my time, a motivation, something to focus on. I see the merit in AA and I attended a few meetings, but for me, I need to do something deeper and more hands-on to truly get to the crux of things. I’d been in therapy for years and I felt that a lot of things that AA explores, I had already explored; I was just finally admitting them to myself. So with that, I threw myself into a myriad of creative hobbies: clay miniatures, watercolors, and of course writing. I was so rusty it felt impossible, but I kept going because it was all I could do. And I knew I had a story to tell.

How did you navigate the challenges of battling depression while striving for sobriety?

Anxiety has always been my biggest foe, but depression took over the first two or so years after I got out of rehab. I was staying sober, but that was it. I didn’t get the point of life, everything seemed so hard, so boring, and for what? 

They tell you not to date for a year but I ended up dating my now-husband about a month after I got out. He’s a big reason I’m where I am today. He’s the most patient, understanding man I know. And, having gotten out of rehab in August 2019, we ended up being kind of forced to move in together after four months of dating and we shared a desk for the entirety of the pandemic. We figured if we could survive that, we could survive anything. I’m sure the pandemic contributed to this depression, though I reveled in the staying-inside in many ways, but I knew I just needed to keep going.

Also, having parents who never gave up on me. That made a huge difference. It’s the classic “can’t kill myself or Mom will be sad” meme. But it worked.

To be honest, I’ve always been guilty of seeking out instant gratification, hence the addiction issues. Getting sober and being truly content is not something that happens overnight. I did not think it was going to happen to me at all. But I told myself if I just kept going, I’d either prove myself right or end up in a better place. And fortunately, I was wrong.

What motivated you to seek a diagnosis for ADHD and OCD, and how have medication and treatment impacted your life?

For all the medications I’ve been on and diagnoses I had (primarily SSRIs and generalized anxiety/depression, respectively), I knew something was still wrong. I had begun trying everything: exercise, better habits, this, that. And something was still not working. I got back into therapy. Got the ADHD diagnosis and began Wellbutrin which is what I entirely consider one of the most pivotal moments of my sobriety journey. I finally had motivation. I could finally think. I almost felt human again.

This gave me the energy and insights I needed to keep going. I was better, but there was still more. I continued to talk with my therapist about how the medications were helping, but something was still off. The anxiety, the thoughts, the obsessions–these were still relentless. No amount of meditation or journaling would solve it. That’s when I got diagnosed with OCD–something I never thought that I would have. But now that I have a better understanding of it, it makes so much sense. My entire life makes so much more sense. And the good thing about an OCD diagnosis is, once you have a name for the monster, it’s much easier to face it and tell it off. The medication gave me the ability to think through things more clearly; the dignoses helped me separate myself from the illnesses.

Could you share a bit about your upcoming poetry collection? How does it reflect your experiences with alcoholism and your journey of transformation?

It is called addiction is a sweet dark room and it features over 60 poems about my struggles with alcoholism. I talk about the withdrawals, the loneliness, the regret, the mistakes, the sacrifices, the pain, and even the fun. I ruminate on alcohol’s place in society and how so many of us use it as self-medication. I talk about my toxic relationships with other people and myself, how I didn’t eat enough when I was drinking and how I ate too much once I stopped. It really is a lot about the misconceptions I held about myself and drinking and the reflections on the truth that lay beneath all of that. It’s also some of my best work.

My goal with it is to be clear, honest, and inspiring. I want people to know the hell that addiction truly is. That it is not a choice. That you can come out of it after and make something beautiful even after you think you’ve lost everything.

It is being published through an indie press called Another New Calligraphy and $1 of each copy will go to a local nonprofit recovery center here, Maryhaven! The book is available for preorder now and releases March 29.

What inspired you to speak openly about your story, and how has sharing it impacted others?

I’ve always had the gift (and curse) of oversharing and talking too much. I’ve learned I need to externalize things to understand them, for better or for worse. But as I’ve learned throughout my journey, people need that. They need to hear stories they see other people hide. Addiction is not an uncommon thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone come up to me and tell me about a loved one of theirs who is or was struggling. Everyone loves at least one addict, whether they know it or not.

I think the more we talk about things, the easier they are to overcome. Addiction is hard enough without the stigmas attached to it. We need to come from a place of understanding and acceptance if we ever want to truly get to the root of the issue.

As someone who has successfully navigated a challenging path, what advice do you have for women who may feel stuck in similar circumstances?

There’s no way to not sound cliche, I’ll admit. But many of the platitudes are true: don’t give up. It really, truly, does get better. It just doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not easy. You have to be willing to sit with discomfort for a while with no real reward and just have faith it will be worth it one day. And it requires honesty with yourself and a lot of work.

But it’s also not your fault and you should not be ashamed. It’s a disease and we treat addicts like selfish, terrible people while we have beer on every other billboard in this country (United States). For many people, there are underlying issues causing the addiction, such as mental illnesses or other invisible pain. Treat the symptoms, then treat the cause. The real you deserves better and is in there; she just needs some help getting out.

How has becoming pregnant impacted your perspective on your journey and your goals for the future?

Funny thing is, I never really wanted kids. I wavered between “zero and one” most of my life, but as my addiction took hold I was certain I would never want them. I couldn’t even manage myself, how could I expect to raise someone else? There’s also the notion of passing on genetic issues like addiction and anxiety. It’s scary. But as I overcame so many struggles and achieved self-actualization, I see life through a new lens now. There will always be issues and the world needs more good people and I hope to raise one of them. I hope my story, combined with good communication and understanding, will raise a happy adult, or at least someone who knows how to navigate through the challenges of life.

On top of this, getting a book published has always been my “Main Life Goal.” And I managed to accomplish that this past year, too. In fact, I actually got the acceptance from the publisher two days after I got my positive pregnancy test. After everything I have gone through and achieved, I am very fulfilled and content with my life. That is not to say I don’t have more goals and won’t keep pushing and writing, but I am ready to put my energy and wisdom into someone new who can hopefully get a good start on life.

Looking back on your journey, what are you most proud of achieving, and what are your aspirations moving forward?

  • Sobriety – 5 years on July 9 this year (2024).
  • Writing – managing to tell my story authentically and getting it accepted by an indie press and getting my message out to others by using my creativity
  • Mental Health – I don’t think I could ever say I “conquered my mental health” but I can confidently say that it no longer conquers me. I have all the tools now. I have more good days than bad. I can say I’m content. That’s all I ever wanted.
  • Getting through a miscarriage – This is another thing I’ve been writing about lately and plan to be loud about. Last year, I suffered an early miscarriage. I wasn’t prepared for how much it messed me up. It hurt in a new way I didn’t know I could. But I didn’t drink, I didn’t go crazy with spending, I didn’t overeat. I used healthy coping mechanisms and acceptance. Acceptance of knowing I would just be miserable and depressed for a bit and that random bursts of crying were going to happen. But I knew I could get through it. I wrote some of the best poems I’ve written. I used this past summer to finish my book. I proved to myself I can survive darkness without the bottle.
  • As for future goals, my main priority has now become what every parent wants: being a good parent. Using what I’ve learned to raise an inquisitive, well-rounded, honest person who feels they can talk to me about anything and wants to do good for the world. Someone who feels happy and safe.
  • But I do not plan to stop writing! I have been working on a collection of poems centered around the theme of miscarriage, pregnancy, and pro-choice politics in America. To have all the political ongoings that have been happening while I’ve been on this journey has created a complex web of thoughts in my head. And it’s scary. 
  • I don’t doubt I will be on a hiatus at some point once the newborn is here, but I plan to fill that time with reading, which I’ve been on a roll with this year. And raise a kid who always sees their mother reading.

Amanda Nicole Corbin is an Ohio-based poet who has had her work published in The London Magazine, Door is a Jar, Pile Press, Constellations, the Notre Dame Review, and more. Her debut full-length collection, addiction is a sweet dark room, (Another New Calligraphy, 2024) and her chapbook, they drink with the sun, (Bottlecap Press, 2023) both focus largely on her journey and struggles with mental health and addiction. Find her on Threads and Instagram at @mndncrbn.poetry.

You can find more on Amanda’s work here:

Website: https://amandanicolecorbin.com/

Book Preorder: https://www.anothernewcalligraphy.com/anc071.html

Threads: https://www.threads.net/@mndncrbn.poetry

by Harness Editor

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