Writers in Treatment: A Creative Outlet for Recovering Addicts
By LeAnne Bagnall
Writers in Treatment (WIT) is a recovery program unlike any other in that it offers support specifically for writers who are struggling with substance abuse, addiction, or a behavioral disorder.
Founded last fall by former publisher Leonard Buschel, WIT’s mission is to prevent writers from succumbing to substance abuse and depressive disorders while enclosed in their isolated work environments. Most writers work from home or in other solitary, nonsocial conditions, which may cause them to unnoticeably develop certain behavioral conditions such as depression or anxiety disorders, or engage in unmonitored levels of alcohol or drug abuse. Some writers may believe that their substance abuse, which may involve alcohol, narcotics, or a combination of both, may actually fuel their creative spark, like a muse.
The image of the tortured artist has often been romanticized throughout literary history, as in the idolization of Hemingway or Woolf, to the point where these emerging writers may excuse their risky behavior as custom to the lifestyle. However, these writers—ranging from journalists to novelists, playwrights, or screenwriters—do not realize that they are putting themselves in extreme danger. The abuse can carry on for unregulated periods of time, be taken in excessive doses, and lead to self-destructive behavior or overdose. The idea of slowly killing oneself while living and working alone in a dark, isolated state can be quite frightening; if something serious were to go wrong, it would be very hard for the individual to find immediate help.
Substance abuse and addiction may last for years, even after hitting rock bottom one or more times. It often takes a moment of epiphany for artists and writers to “wake up” and finally decide to get help. That’s where WIT steps in, offering a wealth of clinical, medical, and creative resources for writers to help them recover and overcome their addictions. WIT even offers financial options for residents without health insurance to help cover their expenses, such as no-interest loans that are set up to be repaid once the writer is reemployed.
Qualifications for WIT’s program require that the patient be at least 18 years of age and make at least a quarter of their income through writing. The goal is to remove the writer from that solitary struggle and into a group recovery effort. Writers can relate to one another while receiving proper treatment from trained counselors and medical professionals. WIT runs after-care programs, relapse prevention programs, and monthly meetings to help writers maintain sobriety, as well as cultural programming including book clubs, writer’s workshops, film screenings, concerts, networking opportunities, and seminars with celebrities and guest speakers.
This Saturday, December 12, WIT and It’s Perfect Malibu will be hosting a special gala holiday fundraising party called “Festival of Laughs” in Malibu starting at 7:30pm. The event will promote sobriety and creativity for struggling writers during the holiday season and will feature comedic standup and talks from a variety of guest speakers. Also, a new bookstore and 12-step store will be open to the public during the entire event. The Special Honored Guest, Christopher Kennedy Lawford, will be present to discuss and autograph copies of his 2009 success, Moments of Clarity.
WIT is aimed at teaching writers that there are other options available to them when it seems like their profession offers no other choice. The nonprofit organization offers outpatient and residential rehabilitation treatment backed by a strong advisory board of certified psychologists and other clinical professionals. WIT has partnered with other sobriety organizations such as the Betty Ford Foundation and colleges and theaters throughout the greater Los Angeles region.
Founder Leonard Buschel, who also struggled with addiction while living as a writer, sought help through rehabilitation once himself, and was inspired to create Writers in Treatment to help others writers overcome their addictions. Buschel hopes that WIT can help writers rediscover their natural muse and fulfill their writing aspirations through sober living.