Conversation with Mark Goodson, The Miracle of the Mundane
This week Liv has a Kitchen Table Conversation with Mark Goodson. Mark is a writer, poet and creator of the blog: The Miracle of the Mundane. Mark found writing to be the creative foundation for his recovery from drugs and alcohol. He has been sober since 2007. Mark lives with his wife and children and teaches English as a day job.
Hi Mark, thanks for taking the time out to talk to Liv’s Recovery Kitchen. Your words ignite something in my soul. I just love the humility and beauty with which you present your thoughts to the world.
Mark: Thank you Liv! That makes me feel like it’s all worth it! It’s my pleasure to contribute to your beautiful site.
What was your experience with drugs?
Mark: I first smoked weed in high school. I remember not thinking much of it until I turned the corner in the small town where I grew up and felt the sensation of floating. Still, I told myself I didn’t like it.I snorted coke for the first time on my 21st birthday. Lying in the back of my buddy’s pick‐up, I felt powerful, like I could touch the stars. Although, I again told myself I didn’t like it. Both reactions were a result of a strong pattern of denial. I needed them both so much I couldn’t admit it to myself. Eventually, I was juggling cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol in an unmanageable and clinically‐insane cycle. When the cycle continued around the clock for five sleepless days and nights, I was committed and diagnosed with a drug‐induced psychoses.
Liv: You go on to say: “…Now, I depend on creativity to sustain my soul. It is my crutch that gives me wings.” How did you make that transition, from using drugs to writing?
Mark: I was in Los Angeles and writing a screenplay while working at a Talent Agency. I was obsessed with the script I was writing and used the writing process as an excuse for my drinking and drugging—my idols were Hemingway, Thompson, Dylan Thomas, and the like. Writing is arguably the only piece of me that remained when I got sober. I find natural highs when I get going, whether I’m writing a poem, a reflection, a story, or even composing a tweet. I am utterly reliant on expressing my thoughts. But it is a dependency that catapults me into mystical realms, whereas drugs crippled me. So that piece was just appreciating and playing with that paradox.
Liv: You explain that “…The spiritual high has no peak or valley; it catapults you into new dimensions where all you need is what you’re already given. You become the instrument of something great.” What do you mean by that?
Mark: When I am actively writing, the egotistical ME and all his cares, worries, apprehensions, and insecurities dissolve away back into that nowhere ether they came from. Those things don’t really exist. When I’m writing, I am actively realizing that by not paying them any mind. I am creating. Creating comes from the soul, and the true soul is not weighed down in the ego’s misery. The soul does just fine without all the accolades and recognition that our egos want to adorn our life with.
“There is nothing like laying that first stone in your recovery’s foundation. As your sober house is raised above it, don’t neglect what unites us, the strength in the admission that we are alcoholics and addicts.” How does that admission unite us?
Mark: There are a million ways into addiction and a million ways out. But all paths merge at this simple crossroad: we admit who we really are. It is like the axis binding the goliath sober collective together. It is where we all start before diverging on our unique journey in sobriety.
Liv: What is your recovery strategy?
Mark: I guess you’d call it traditional. I have a sponsor; I have a sponsee. I attend meetings. I work a program of recovery. All the other bliss, the miracles of the mundane I’m always writing about, are the flowers of that seed for me.
Liv: I was really touched by your poem The First Leaf Seen
The Eden of
the first leaf seen
is peace enough.
After that green,
I only need
blind I was when
vision was mine
to lose; I trained
my eyes to paint
bright hues—Sight is
too plane: the mind
can trick the brain
to never use
the light again.
Liv: What does that poem represent to you? What do you mean by the trickery of the mind?
Mark: I wrote that poem one afternoon in one Portland’s many parks. Tree limbs were swaying brilliantly. I was around one year sober and enchanted—like I’d never really seen leaves before, never appreciated how they let slants of light sift through their wavering green canopy.
I realized in that moment that this is the only way to see trees. Every other time I’ve seen them, I was looking through a deceptive filter. I imagined it was what Eden must have felt like. The trickery is how I was deceived for 25 years to not see trees that way.
So, I wrote the poem to never forget how that tree looked when nothing else interfered with my seeing it.
Mark: I was utterly unhappy until I let people in on the real me. Let them share in my misery. Letting people in was the start of my contentment in life. That contentment has grown. I now am happy to share in other people’s happiness. In my prior life, I could only be envious of other people’s happiness because I never acknowledged that I was miserable.
I’ll add that having two kids with my loving wife has changed the happiness game. Being a father has robbed me of so much selfishness. It’s no longer about me. And while my pride wails and moans at the destruction of my ego, I am growing into a satisfaction I never imagined possible.
Liv: You wrote in your post “A Sober Alcoholic Walks into a Pizza Place” about the manifestation of your addiction. You said: “…I am addicted to anything that gives me a notion of control over the way I feel. I haven’t taken a drink or a drug today. But if my sobriety were left up to me, I would … someday … soon.” Can you elaborate on this? Specifically in relation to the notion of control and if your sobriety was left to you?
Mark: Right, so I wrote that post because I tried to give up tobacco for lent. But I placed tobacco tins in 5 different places that day. I gave myself 5 ways out. This is an example of one of the many ways I can trick myself into a relapse.
If I don’t turn the decision to drink over to my Higher Power whom I’ve never been able to fathom or understand, I know I will drink again. I’m one who lost the ability to choose not to drink or drug. I was beaten into a state where I couldn’t distinguish truth from falsehood. What I mean here is that I have experienced ample evidence to not trust myself. I do trust God. So I try to let God make the important decisions for me.
Mark: My life is remarkable. I teach high school English. I’m married with two kids and I’m in over my head with a 30‐year mortgage. For many, on the outside looking in, my life is dull and ordinary. And if the drunk and stoned me were looking at my life, he’d agree.
But what I hope my writing can achieve is that what appears mundane is a marvelous, jaw‐dropping ecstasy of existence. I really believe that. And naturally, the variety of writing I offer reflects that.
Liv: Last, I like to ask all of those who share their journey, what are your top five recovery tools?
Mark: GOOD ONE, Liv!
1) My program of recovery: the steps and my sponsor.
2) Writing. Anything. Just spit‐firing words. Throwing them on the wall like spaghetti until something sticks. Every time I write, I am discovering a new piece of me I never knew existed. It’s my soul’s Chia Pet. Add a little water and watch it grow!
3) Music. Preferably live. Beats, rhythms, harmonies, lyrics. Poetry is the root of song, so I’ll sneak that into music as well. All sonic reverberations that bleed and moan and wail and praise!
4) Fatherhood and husbandry. When I am present for my family or being of service to them, drinking is as far from my thoughts as those stars behind the stars we can see at night.
5) My job. I teach and coach. It’s sustainable service. I get to pass along pieces of me and get paid for it. Truth be told, teaching is the most creative endeavor I’ve undertaken because you cannot separate yourself from what you aim to create. I stand up there every day and my job is to inspire others—I do this under the guise of ‘teaching’ books, but that’s not what I’m doing. I am tricking juveniles into a lifelong love of literature—those I can fool anyway.
Mark can be followed and contacted here:
Mark: Thank YOU Liv! I love what you’re doing. These questions helped me reflect and re-affirm what I’m doing with this blogging business.