Our lives are all interesting. Some people’s lives are certainly somewhat more interesting than others, but everyone has a story to tell. As someone in recovery, you have likely been – fairly literally – to hell and back, and the story of your rise and fall and rise again may be extremely helpful to others going through the same thing. Also, retelling your story will help you to more deeply understand where you have been, the successes you’ve had, and what lies ahead for you in the future. Writing an autobiography is a wonderful activity for self-discovery and undertaking a project of creating one can be extremely rewarding.
What is an Autobiography?
An autobiography is a self-authored story of a person’s life. Often, autobiographies by celebrities are written with the help of a professional author, and you can seek one out for assistance as well, but it often isn’t necessary. Even if you think you are not a good writer, you may be surprised to see how easy and how quickly the writing goes onto the paper or computer screen when the subject is yourself!
Autobiographies are sometimes confused with memoirs; they are similar, but different. An autobiography usually begins from the subject’s birth, or even earlier, whereas a memoir generally focuses on one aspect of the individual’s life, such as his or her career, and almost always only describes events that the author personally witnessed. Autobiographies are inspiring stories of their authors’ lives, but memoirs focus on a shorter, narrower portion of the person’s life. The latter mostly deals with the individual’s memories, feelings and emotions, and is generally shorter than an autobiography since it focuses on one theme.
Since even short active addictions are usually the result of many factors and are influenced by so many things, most people writing about their addiction and recovery will choose to write an autobiography rather than a memoir. This will help readers and the author to look at his or her entire life in the long view, or big picture, and will likely increase the impact of the tale. However, if you feel a memoir is more your style, then write one of those instead! The important part is getting your story down, into written form, in a way that it can be accessible to you, people you want to share it with, or to the greater, larger public, should you choose to publish it.
Tips for Writing Your Story
Writing your autobiography will be easy in many ways but you will also encounter obstacles. First of all, it may be difficult for you to remember some details with sharpness and clarify – especially those events that happened while you were actively abusing drugs or alcohol. To remedy this issue, you can reach out to other people – your friends or family – to find out how they viewed a specific period or event. Combining their memories with yours can be quite helpful in giving you a comprehensive understanding of what actually happened.
Secondly, try to keep it interesting. This may be easier said than done, and it may be best to tackle this issue in your editing phase. If you find that you are rambling on and on about something, or keep repeating the same things over and over, you will likely want to whittle down your piece into manageable chunks that can be digested and enjoyed by others.
Using lots of emotion is an important aspect of writing your autobiography. You don’t want to just tell your story, you want to show others what it all felt like for you as you lived through it. Use imagery to explain to people how down you felt when you were down, and how elated you felt when you were happy. You may want to incorporate similes and metaphors to help get your points across. Don’t be afraid to illustrate a dark time in your life with all the darkness you felt at that time; understanding someone’s feelings – and identifying with them – is exactly why people read autobiographies. Your readers want to understand you, and in turn, feel understood themselves.
Know Your Audience
Most importantly, though, you must understand your audience. Who are you writing this autobiography for, besides yourself? Perhaps you are writing it just for you, and that’s fine! It is often helpful for an individual to get his or her story down in written form to understand himself or herself better. Writing an autobiography for your eyes only is really just journaling in a more organized manner. This can be very cathartic, certainly.
Or, maybe you are writing your autobiography to help explain to your friends and family what you have experienced and been through. Although they have likely seen your ups and downs and have felt your struggles alongside you, it may be interesting for them to read about it from beginning to end in your own words. If you have a child, writing an autobiography may be your way of telling him or her what happened when he or she gets older, or may exist as a cautionary tale for that child for the future.
You might be writing your autobiography with plans to have it published. Today, it is easy to self-publish an ebook and sell it online through various channels, or, you may want to shop around to publishers to have it published professionally. If published, it’s likely that your story will reach many people who you have never even met. The possibility of helping people with whom you have not even crossed paths is highly inspirational, and can help give reason and further purpose to your life.
As you can see, each of these audiences is different, and therefore the writing for each will be different as well. Decide who you want to write for in the beginning and write with those readers in mind. If you decide to change course, you can always change your writing style to suit your audience in the editing phase.
How to Get Started
There are many steps to writing an autobiography, but don’t be overwhelmed. Simply approach each step one at a time, and move forward in telling your story.
First, you should map out your life on a timeline. This will be a useful tool to help you cover everything. Your autobiography does not have to begin with your birth; it can begin earlier, before you were born or even several generations ago, or later, such as when you were a teen or when you entered college. Identify the main characters other than yourself, and use your timeline to help to determine what stories are important and which ones are not.
Once you begin writing, write in first person, and try to use your speaking voice. Tell the story as if you were orally telling it to someone else. Be sure to include both the negative and the positive, and give your reader a chance to get to know you well. Make sure your overarching plot is clear, which in your case is likely overcoming addiction. Try to build suspense in the beginning, create a climax (perhaps when you entered treatment), and include a resolution. Include the lessons you have learned, and how you got to where you are today. If you struggle coming up with things to write about or figuring out what direction to go, you can start by asking yourself some questions, or use a template, or gather some inspiration by reading great autobiographies by great people.
When you have a draft complete, it’s time to edit. Make sure your chapter divisions flow well and make sense. Check your facts including dates, places, and other details. Have someone close to you read it over, and consider hiring a copyeditor for a fresh, objective pair of eyes. Come up with a title that fits you, and perhaps alludes to the main idea, but doesn’t give too much away.
Once you have a final manuscript, it’s up to you to decide what you want to do with it next. You can self-publish online and sell it on Amazon or another platform, or you could go a step further and try to get it published professionally. Consider hiring a literary agent to help you shop around to potential publishers. Good luck!
Writing your autobiography can be an eye opening and life changing experience for you. Although it may be difficult to revisit some of your darkest periods, writing about them can help you to release your past and move forward. An autobiography can help you to share your experience with others in a thoughtful, organized way. Your story might be just the tale someone else needs to get himself or herself into treatment, too. Give it a try! You may be surprised at the beauty in what you create!
Let Clear Sky Recovery become part of your story. We are here, standing by, to help you begin your recovery journey. Ibogaine detox treatment, offered at our facility in Cancun, Mexico, is effective at helping users get to the root cause of their addiction. Please give us a call today; one of our intake specialists will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Dr. Sola is one of the world’s leading experts in medically-based ibogaine treatment; he has more clinical experience with safe and effective ibogaine administration than any other M.D. in the world today.