Connecting and Healing Through Stories

Last month I celebrated four years of sobriety. The reality that I do not want to drink alcohol today is a miracle. I spent decades trying to understand my compulsion to drink and looking for alternatives to the relief that alcohol gave me. Even when I was 16, I knew I had some dysfunctional relationship with alcohol that I could not understand. As many of you know my story, it wasn’t until I had a baby that I realized how much I needed help, support, and some external guidance.

At the time, I was already deep into podcasts. The early months of maternity often left me feeling isolated and podcasts were a way to connect with people back home and around the world. I think I did a heavy round of true crime, then politics, then a few storytelling podcasts. There was something in me that said, “Listen to addicts.” I honestly just thought addicts would have great stories (spoiler: they do). This was when I found the Recovery Revolution (SHAIR) podcast and even though I didn’t connect directly at first, the more I heard stories from other alcoholics I thought, “Oh my god, this is me."


What struck me at first wasn’t just that these addicts had similar experiences and feelings as me. It was that they had made this profound transformation. You wouldn’t recognize who they were in their stories from how they described their lives after recovery. I remember telling a friend about the podcast (over a glass of wine): “You should hear these stories! They recover and are like, completely different people!” At the time it was baffling me that someone could change so profoundly: “How could they do this? What was their secret?” In those early days I was still looking for a way to get that transformative feeling WITHOUT having to quit drinking… but alas.

I started listening to the stories for hours and hours a day until I ran out of episodes. I heard one woman’s story that brought me to my knees. I couldn’t deny how similar we were and eventually I heard this voice in my own head: “I’m an alcoholic.” The words were gut-wrenching, but also sounded like relief. Maybe this was the answer I was looking for. It was also around this time that I started talking to friends in my community, reaching out to people I knew who were sober and eventually getting more help on the ground. But for me, it was the stories that did it. It was hearing myself through others.

After a year of sobriety, I started thinking about how profound the experience of storytelling was and continues to be in my recovery. When I feel disconnected, others’ stories will always bring me back. I started About Face because I believed that this connection through transformational storytelling would also apply to other life conflicts and events: chronic illness, divorce, grief and loss, struggles in parenthood, trauma, etc. I believed that any hardship can bring about transformational healing, but more, that sharing our recovery with others is away to solidify that strength and give it to others.

A couple years ago, a psychotherapist, wrote me and said, “The work you are doing is really important. It’s basically narrative therapy.” I was like, “Whoa what is that? That sounds amazing.” So I started researching and discovered this whole methodology of narrative and story therapy. This is how I began my work in studying narrative therapy. What was also fascinated me is how closely it related to so much of the work that I had already done in cultural anthropology, narrative theory and research, as well as my approach to legal theory and deconstruction. My learnings in narrative therapy have totally invigorated me and I am so fortunate to have landed in this practice that I love so much and feel so connected to, both personally, and intellectually.


If you have questions about what narrative therapy is or how it could benefit you, please contact me. I am also looking for podcast guests who might be interested sharing their own stories of personal transformation or doing a recorded narrative session.

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© 2020 by Kate Marlena