Conversation with Zach Nelson

This week, Liv has a Kitchen Table Conversation with Zach Nelson. For those of you who don’t know of Zach’s work, he writes The Napkin Chapters, a series of mind blowing poems: Sublime poetry and recovery collide into something really quite beautiful. Dan Maurer, of Transformation-Is-Real, describes him beautifully, as follows:

A friend turned me on to Zach’s poetry about six months ago. Since then, I’ve come to realise that people NEED to discover this guy’s work. He’s knocked the arrow, drawn back the string, and let it fly—and he’s hit the bulls eye too many times than I can count. His work is developing, for sure, but I know the transformational machinations of the images you see below will affect you, too. Zach’s story is one of resilience and radical change for his own life; his artwork speaks the truth like no other medium I know.

Pass on the news—you’re seeing a wunderkind developing before your eyes.  –  DDM edit.


Kitchen Table Conversation

Hi Zach, I am so happy that you agreed to come and share at The Recovery Kitchen’s table, I adore your words. They have such depth and evoke real emotion in me, and many others. Truly stunning.

 Zach’s Journey to Recovery

“…over the course of many years, I built this very elaborate prison and called it home without realizing it.’


Liv: In this post you talk of the powerlessness and repetitive nature of being in another drinking session. What are the barriers you talk of here?



Zach: Well you see, over the course of many years, I built this very elaborate prison and called it home without realizing it. Imagine that, a drunk drowning in a delusion. Towards the end of my self destruction, it was almost as if I would black out BEFORE drinking. I knew the drinking had to stop and tried on my own, but somehow always ended up on my couch wasted, drink in hand. The madness was so strong that even purchasing the booze sober became a blur. It just happened. The barriers came mostly from ridiculous bullshit I made up in my head. How could I live without my numbing agent? What will they think of me? If I quit, doesn’t that make me less of a MAN? Pretty much a laundry list of fear driven rubbish. There are plenty more bricks in the barrier that came from never letting go. A hoarder of failures. Last but not least, I was passionate about my drinking ability. I had some dumb idea that I was stronger because I could drink with the best of them. I had created a self image in hopes of being liked.


Liv: I really identify with this! Can you describe that domination of feelings and thoughts you talk of here?


Zach: I’ve done almost every drug, man made or nature produced, and a shit ton of it. Heightened feelings and emotions are something I have always chased. Crazy enough, that most radical high I’ve experience is that of being sober. Not only is life beautiful and pure, but I think a lot of the high come from being reborn again. Maybe its knowing you are going to make it and experiencing REAL emotions and feelings. Its extremely awkward when you become sober for the first time and find yourself crying for absolutely no reason. Happy or sad, emotions are powerful

 Death and Love…


Liv: In this poem you say ‘I had been days from death…’ tell us about the place that your drinking took you?

Zach: Death had always scared me. For the most part, I think it kind of scares everyone. Then all a sudden I accepted it and not in a healthy way. I would lay in my bed at night and my body would be stressed from the cocktail of booze and cocaine. As if that wasn’t enough, I would toss in a couple Benzos for a “good nights rest”. My heart would make rhythms only exceptable in music and I could feel as if I might be slipping away (I don’t mean passing out). The life I was living, I was sick of, and had all a sudden been ok with letting it kill me. I considered suicide, but I couldn’t do it. I still loved my family. 

Liv: In that same poem, you talk of finding a passion and retiring the dice. What did the dice represent to you?Zach: There are 6 sides to a dice. 2 dice equals 12 sides. That’s 12 sides that read “Fuck It”. Too late to party on a week night? Roll the dice. Not enough money to eat AND drink? Roll the dice. I need to drink light because tomorrow is Christmas? Roll the dice. The list is infinitum.

“I truly believe in the commonly used statement that love is not a word, its your actions.”

Liv: And how did drinking inhibit you from loving, properly?
Zach: I truly believe in the commonly used statement that love is not a word, its your actions. My family has always been something I am very proud of and love however, I showed little love. That goes for my relationships with women and friends in general. I would get what I wanted out of it and be gone. My family knew that I loved them; they just knew I wasn’t well. As far as friends and women, some of the love was genuine and some of it was victimized by delusion of false reality. Yeah, its sounds horrible. 



Liv: What does awake represent to you? Can you describe the abundant love in your blood?

ZachIt goes back to re born sober emotions. They are so incredibly strong. I’m alive, I always have been, but now I’m really ALIVE. The grass is greener, the sun sets slower, that ladies dress is beautiful, that book came to life in that coffee shop. The list of feeling awake is endless. 

 Liv: I love this metaphor! What does it represent to you?


ZachIts represents many things. That’s what I love about poetry. On the surface, it is what it is. Dig deeper and if becomes anything you think it is. The idea simply sparked from a conversation with I had with a fellow friend who is also a writer and a teacher of the art. We conversed about people who take a course in writing and proceed to carry the idea around that they are an educated writer. Then again, maybe that’s just my character defects getting in the way.  

 The Rooms

Liv: What a wonderful description of the rooms, and the level of empathy one can expect. Can you describe how the absence of judgement creates that buoyancy enabling you to navigate the waters of life?


Zach:  We, as humans, get locked in our mind that others are constantly judging us. Once we feel that that isn’t in our presents, we can talk about anything and everything. Regardless of your story or what happened in your day, you can get it off your chest. Your ideas and views are probably not far from the next person.

Liv: What are you grateful for?

Zach: Everything down to the last cigarette. Although I may not act like it all the time, I can’t image a life without everything that is presently in it. Showing more gratitude is a part of my process. Whether it’s the amazingly beautiful things in front of me now or the loneliest, dark days of my past, I am grateful for them. Everything has played a part in why I am here and who I am, while I am here.


 Love and Sex

Liv: Your writing of love is breathtaking. Tell us about blindness between love and sex, and how one makes that distinction?


 “Love is just way too much, of so many things, to be taken lightly.”

Zach: The way sex has become in the world, is sad. Its free, fast, and meaningless (not to everyone, just in general.). I feel like so many people revolve the word “love” around sex. People hardly know each other and start having sex. After having sex for so long, they call it “love”. That’s sad. Love is just way too much, of so many things, to be taken lightly. I consider, actual love, very special and ive been taught that’s what it means to be a man


Liv: This is so beautiful. Can you describe it to us?

Zach: It pretty much just relates to letting go. I held onto so many things as if they held some value in my life. It reads so beautiful because it’s truth. We have nothing to prove to anyone as long as we stay true to ourselves and loyal to others. 

 Learning to be Lovable

“What I am now, if I am being honest with myself, is a guy who had the will power to help himself and the patience to relearn EVERYTHING.”


Liv: Can you explain the process of learning you’re lovable? How has that enhanced your recovery?

Zach: Believe it or not, I’m an alright dude. Haha. My past may not be ideal but I’ve accepted that. That is not who I am now. What I am now, if I am being honest with myself, is a guy who had the will power to help himself and the patience to relearn EVERYTHING. That’s amazing. I am amazing. WE are amazing



Liv: Can you describe the presence you talk of here, and how desire might fuck with the bigger picture?

Zach: All the time. Anytime. We as humans like to try to manipulate and control whatever we think we can in order to get what we want. Its fucked. A selfless life is the only life worth living. Period.

Top Recovery Tools

Liv: I could read your work all day – I have spent several days doing so – but I will ask one I ask all the amazing people I interview: what are your top five recovery tools?

  1. The Big Book of AA has all the answers. Read the shit out of it and then read it again.
  2. Meet some of the kick ass people in recovery. There are amazing relationships to be had.
  3.  Progress Not Perfection.
  4. Get a sponsor. Especially one that you could see yourself being friends with.
  5. Help others. Tell your story, your story is cool. If they don’t take your advice, at least you know you will stay sober for THAT DAY.


A reminder of Zach’s work: click HERE


Thank you for taking part in Kitchen Table Conversations.

THANK YOU SO SO SO SO MUCH   __Z.nelson__ aka  Zach Nelson