Removing alcohol from my life has created space for better things. There are literally hours returned to each day in which I am free to do more, plus my emotional capacity has increased by leaps and bounds. Sobriety has given me the courage to seize upon my heart’s desire and lifelong calling to be a writer.

The Ember Ever There by Jean McCarthy
The Ember Ever There
by Jean McCarthy

Even so, this book happened by accident.

I was working on my second novel and expected it would be a piece of cake compared to the complicated historical fiction I completed a year earlier. The new novel would be fun and light, the misadventures of a modern woman reluctantly embracing sobriety. Totally in my wheelhouse.

Then the pandemic hit. I went into lockdown assuming that my novel would be completed in record time, only to discover that it’s hard to write contemporary fiction when the world is in flux and no one knows what normal will look like when it’s all over.

The story was to include a few poems. Whereas I’d stare at the computer blankly trying to move the book’s plot forward, creating poetry was a delight. I only needed two or three poems for the novel but before I knew it I’d written more than 50!

I flipped back through the pages and felt a rising awareness that there was power there, that together those poems were the bones of my own story.

Stay hidden,
I said to the girl inside,
How can I keep you safe
if you laugh so loudly in a crowd?
How can I make them like you
if you shine in their eyes…

excerpt from “The Girl Inside” by Jean McCarthy, The Ember Ever There

I spread the pages out and sorted them into categories: getting started on change, feeling lost in my dysfunction, the grief of leaving old ways behind, and the beauty of healing. I wrote about the affection I’d heard others express for their own process and added a poem for each of the 12 Steps in order to shine a light on the experience for those of us who struggle with those concepts.

This is the result–not a novel as expected but a collection of poetry about recovery, The Ember Ever There.

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Below are some readings from my Instagram feed. I’ll be posting more videos on Instagram and Facebook over the coming week. If these words resonate with you, please consider adding my poetry to your recovery toolkit. I’d be honoured!