Story Time

I am envious of my 3-year-old.

He can summon dragons, or the power of Thor in his plastic mallet. It is as real to him as bills and mortgage payments are real to me. His infinite realms of imaginative play clash with the rigid schedules and responsibilities of my workaday angst.

More entertaining than anything on TV is watching him create a world of make-believe. He is at once creator and chief protagonist in a variety of dramas. His cast-list would rival George Clooney’s on IMDB. Some roles are more challenging than others—anthropomorphizing as a flying lizard, or hopping amphibian.

I need a pot of coffee, a tin of tobacco, and social media stimulants to stay creatively active all day. All my toddler needs to do is watch the home screen of Medieval Times for 30 seconds and he pretends to be a knight for a week.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A. Note the sword and gloves, and of course the armor. Imagine if he watched A Knight’s Tale?

He is now able to sit down for longer lap books, and I’m having to extend story time to meet his expanding imagination, as I did Monday.

He’s also becoming quite a story-teller.

Here is an excerpt from a recent breakfast conversation.

“The bad guys went to fight. They flew way up in the air and then down into the ground. They were not good bears. They keep going and going and going. And grandpa and his son were there.”

“Who is grandpa’s son?”

“He’s the good guy and he loves them. And he went down—(incoherent mumbling that builds into a dramatic crescendo with)—LEAVE HERE NOW!”

My son has already learned to pause for dramatic effect. His eyebrows raised and his eyes searching for his next inspiration.

“Wow, then what happened?”

“He brought a gun and shot him!”

“Is that the end?”

“No because…”

When he gets going like this, I feel obligated to tell his audience that the performance will only end if they leave.


I’ve found no joy like the joy of creating.

I wrote about this joy here. In my “write mind” I care only for words, for the creation, not about how it will be perceived. This joy is spiritual in nature according to St. Francis, whose prayer pleas to understand, not be understood.

My boy gets lost in the joy of understanding.


The need for myth, the need for story never leaves us.

I believe the fanciful only sulks into abstraction as what we’re told is important begins to supersede it in our mind. It begins as chores or grades in school. It propels into our career and how we survive in a society that revolves around money. The adult condition becomes so crippling that we only identify who we are by how we make our living. But our jobs can’t define us.

Who we are is a woven tapestry of relationship and meaning.

I recall sharing my story early in recovery. I either exaggerated how much I drank or downplayed it. I was either trying to prove I was a bigger alcoholic and addict than you or that I wasn’t an alcoholic at all. But as my sober time lengthens, I’m finding the most satisfaction in truth-telling. There is no substitute for it, and there’s no confusing it when you read it. Without truth, how could I explain the miracle of the mundane?

Some believe sobriety boring, if only for the simple reason that we don’t lie, cheat, and steal anymore. Where’s the spice in life? The truth may lack the kick of boastful exaggeration, but it has the savor of beauty. You don’t go to a CGI movies for the cinematography. I don’t read stories (even fictional ones) for their fiction anymore.

Recovery has made me surprisingly honest, and ignited a passion for truth.

11 Responses to “Story Time

  • Another great story Mark.

  • Awww! Your son is adorable. Keep reading to him. He obviously has an amazing imagination.

  • Great post, Mark, as usual. I think your son has your gift of storytelling already.
    I can still find myself upgrading the truth or shelving it a bit, depending on my mood, what my ego is demanding, or the situation. I check my motives in all those cases. In polite company I need not get into the filth of my past, nor in a meeting do I need to exaggerate my litres and pints. What I do have to watch are the little things. I remember Ernie Lawson (sp?) talking about this – in how we can be asked what we bought at the store – and we say “gum” instead of the newspaper. why would we lie? It’s the stinkin’ thinkin’ happening. And I did that a lot in my early recovery. My wife would ask me how far I was from home, and I would make it sound like I was closer than I was. Why? People pleasing? I don’t know. So now I am just trying to be as truthful as always, even on the small things. Even when I think it doesn’t matter.

    Anyway, hijacked this and went on a tangent.

    Great stuff!


    • Love it, Paul. Yes, the little things. Why do we do it? Sometimes I think it’s that lower self in us kind of testing the waters. Seeing if we can pull off the big one. Your ramblings and hijackings are welcome here sir. I have this thing where I’ll be honest in spite of what my mind is telling me to do. This piece with the 7-11 clerk is an example. So often, I do or say the right thing in spite of my mind. It’s rad! Wishing you a productive Saturday!

  • Roger Lew
    2 years ago

    Hi Mark,
    Thanks for letting me in. Your writing is like getting to a five minute meeting. Sometimes so necessary but unavailable. Thanks again.

    • Roger! So glad you got in! Sometimes those subscription confirms go to spam. I’ve had a lot of other tecnhical frustrations too. I’m glad you find it helpful. Hope to catch you soon!

  • My brother told me something once before I had gotten sober. It was about seven years ago. “Dan, I have to create. I need to create. If I don’t create I’ll die.” He’s managed to create. Lots. He’s lived in NYC and was a landscape architect back then. Now he’s a film producer and an artist and a musician. Funny thing is, I seem to have inherited is aptitude for creativity since then and I’ve found that I’m a much healthier person because of it. Nice piece! I’d like to highlight this one on TIR if you’re game. I’ll reach out. Peace! – DDM

    • If be so honored, good sir knight. I mean Dan. Sorry. I’m on round 2 of the unabridged King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Anyway.
      Thanks Dan! I think we have similar transformation requirements. And how unique that your creativity is also at one with an ability to help people! I think that’s amazing. Also, thank you for taking a look at that other piece for me. That was really helpful.

  • First: I want to share one of my favorite bloggers with you. Its a momma in recovery, irreverent and uses the F-word a lot and doesn’t want to be told to tone it down…..I adore her. The post I am sharing with you was written a few months ago but it was one of my favorites….although her whole blog is wonderful and real and I think you may like it. : )
    Second: Your son. That precious, intelligent, full of adventure little boy who is grabbing a hold of his little life and thriving because his parents have given him a safe place to be 3 years old and to explore and to grow and find his way with confidence and security. Well done good and faithful servant.
    Third: Being honest…..yes. There is peace in honesty. Its a calm place to live, no trying to remember what you said last, its living an authentic life. It always amazes me that in recovery there are those who want to turn it into a contest. Even amongst parents….whose child was sickest in their disease, who has been to jail the most times, in treatment the most times, uses needles or not…likes its a badge of honor how much we have suffered. Yuk. I want to say, “My girl is well! Doing great, thank you for asking!”
    Anyway…..thanks for being here and sharing Mark. Also, my best friend when we were young stay at home moms used to call our daily life “the tyranny of the mundane.” I LOVE love love your version so much better.

    • Hi Annette. I’m happy to provide a rebuttal to the tyranny of the mundane–haha. The competing for the worst “war story” is something I was most certainly guilty of. But, I’m glad you got what I was getting at. I’m really starting to just love truth more than anything. Telling the truth, writing truthful things. And the better I get, the more I can call BS on the people who aren’t being truthful. I’ve become a much better poker player in sobriety…
      I will add that blog to the ‘roll’ on my site so I can see when new ones pop up. Thanks Annette! Have a great week.

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