There’s an old saying, write what you know, and Neil Steinberg, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, has written about his addiction and recovery in several books including his memoir Drunkard, and Out of the Ashes I rise, where he wove together a number of AA truisms into a great narrative.
For the last year, Steinberg has been touring and promoting Ashes, including a recent appearance at Harper College, where the university described the book as “structured to follow the arduous steps to sobriety…the book shares the wisdom of centuries and explores essential topics, including the importance of time, navigating family and friends, Alcoholics Anonymous, relapse, and the reward that is recovery…The result is a mosaic of observations and encouragement that draws on writers and artists spanning thousands of years,” whether it’s the great Greek philosophers to rock n roll poets.
The introduction of the book is “Why Put It Off?” and as he tells DNAinfo, “Poetry helps…philosophy helps.” He also quoted a British novelist, Zadie Smith: “Other people’s words are the bridge you use to cross from where you were to wherever you’re going.”
Many writers fall in love with literature and storytelling, and as Steinberg continued, “You cannot just give up something. You have to have something to replace it…For me it’s reading. When you’re an addict, recovery is an intimate thing, and reading these quotes is almost as if you take your deepest, darkest secrets and every great poet and writer is going to talk to you about it.”
These AA truisms have helped Steinberg stay sober, and he concludes that “recovery is the path of the hero. It’s a difficult, arduous effort…It’s like climbing a mountain. And these people, these writers, can help you make it.”