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Disability Network West Michigan’s Recovery Cooperative Writers Group

If someone had to walk a mile in your shoes, what would it feel like?
If choice were an object, what would it be?
If the road to recovery runs through Oz, who would your Tin Man be? What does the Yellow Brick Road feel like? What would Oz say to you when you are finally face to face?
These thought-provoking questions have been writing prompts over the last year in our Recovery Co-op Writers Group. Led by Kim Lilly, the group meets weekly at the Recovery Co-op, a drop in center, to explore their individual stories of recovery – from addiction, mental illness, abuse.
“Everyone has a story in them,” says Kim, an Independent Living Specialist with Disability Network West Michigan. “The writing prompts help group members approach their stories within a framework that leads to self-discovery. When our writers share their words, we see them break through the isolation of their personal history and form connections over shared experiences with other group members.
“Their writing is beautiful. I don’t focus on spelling or grammar, but just let them tell their stories of who they are, who they have been – and who they are becoming.”
Kim stepped in to lead the group in January, using the Oz prompt as the first with the group. She says the universal themes in The Wizard of Oz resonated with the group, who are all working to find the strength of self to lead them on their individual recovery journeys.
Lori W. started her story this way:

The days were bright full of sun and lots of color. I smiled and sung songs as I walked thru the days of green fields and flowers. Then I meet what I thought was a great and wonderful man who turned my world into my great tornado. My world into a windstorm that throw me to a place way, way away from my normal state of normal mental health. I found myself in the world of the great Oz of mental illness. It was a dark and cloudy world with no more color just sadness.

She went on to detail her journey, which included her parents (the Lion), a good friend (the Scarecrow) and her son (the Tin Man). When she finally met with Oz and asked him to reverse the last 20 years, he said he could help with medication – but that she had to do the rest.
Lori concludes her Oz story with:

The next thing I know I was back to living a normal life doing volunteer work then with some time I was as a peer support specialist and working as an Activity Director for my local drop-in center. My life has color I sing smile laugh it is a joy and yes I do take the magic pills thou they really are not magic. I also work every day on my mental health looking forward looking for sunshine with a good attitude and take care of myself with good diet exercise and sleep.

“Their internal message is about everything they have done wrong in their lives,” Kim explains. “We need to put a new message in – and these writing classes are giving them the tools to do that. We have come really far together.
“I love working with this group. In the chaos of my busy days, that is my one hour where I can sit and really get calmed and centered. I spent most of the days with my foot halfway out the door. When I am there, I am centered and present. I get so much from watching members explore a hidden talent that they didn’t know they had.”
Kim and the group members are working on a collection of the writings in the class, which they share in a book “Writing Through Recovery.” We also plan to share occasional notes and essays on our Facebook page.
If you are interested in learning more about the Recovery Writers Group, contact Kim Lilly at Disability Network at 231.332.4031 or Lori Wells at Recovery Co-op at 231.722.3741.