November 27, 2022

33 years clean and sober

By Curt Swarm

Nov. 3, 1989, I lay on my living room floor covered with blood, bleeding to death. It was 2 a.m. I had drunkenly pitched through the glass top of my coffee table and cut myself to smithereens. It was the wake-up call I needed. I had to have help. I could no longer quit drinking on my own. I entered a program of recovery and my whole life turned around.

About 30 days clean and sober, I had a spiritual experience so profound it changed my life completely. (I write about it in my first book, “Protected,” available through Amazon or me.)

It was a November to remember. Each year during the month of Thanksgiving I like to take stock of what it was like then and now, and give thanks for all the blessings I have received. Today I am happily married, have two kids and four grandkids, and am living the life I dreamed about. I’m the writer I always wanted to be.

Profound discovery: the same high I used to get from drugs and alcohol I get from writing. (Writing is a mood-altering substance.) However, the high I get from writing doesn’t end up in a blackout or find me coming to in another state, wondering how I got there. The writing high is constructive rather than destructive. It doesn’t drain my checking account, beat the crap out of me, or leave me waking up in a jail cell. The end results of my writing high are that my Empty Nest newspaper column is published in about 50 newspapers, the recent publication of my third book, “Task Force IED,” and the completed rough draft of a fourth book. You get the drift? A benefit of sobriety is goal achievement, the making of a legacy.

I’m a “respectable” person of society now, doing socially acceptable things rather than socially unacceptable. I’m invited to give book signings, am welcome to return to places I’ve been, and have become an elder in our church. ME, AN ELDER! THE GUY WHO PITCHED THROUGH THE GLASS-TOP OF A COFFEE TABLE! — an elder in the same church where I attended recovery meetings. Now that’s recovery!

Here’s a biggy I learned in the program of recovery: I’m the problem, not everybody else. It’s me that has to be relieved of the bondage of self. I have to change. Whammo! What a piece of Humble Pie! There’s a little prayer that I memorized and refer to quite often. Within the prayer are these words: “Relieve me of the bondage of self. Take away my difficulties.” It’s not everybody else. It’s me that’s the problem.

I even teach creative writing in our home. If piano teachers can teach piano in their home, and artists can teach art in their home, well then, by golly, I can teach creative writing. In fact, I’m going to fire the creative writing class back up this winter. I took a year off because of COVID, but I’m raring to go again. The class will start in January. We will meet once a week, on Saturday afternoons, for six weeks. I limit the class to six serious wannabe writers. First come, first served. Call or email me if you’re interested at 319-217-0526, or Several of the former students have published books and poetry.

BTW: You don’t teach creative writing. You just get out of the way and let the students write. The writing is critiqued by each of the students and me. Having a weekly deadline is a great motivator. (No doldrums here!)

How did I celebrate my sobriety birthday? I accidentally dumped coffee onto the keyboards of both my computers — my main computer and backup, rendering them inoperative. My whole world was turned upside down. I hate to admit it, but my life is tied to computers. I went from celebration to panic in a heartbeat. Shows to go me how easily my world can be shaken up. But I’m the one who killed the computers. No one to blame but myself.

Contact Curt Swarm at