A Soft Return (Or Hitting the Digital Bricks)

I took a Christmas sabbatical, a time to clear my head and let the cobwebs spread across the old keyboard. Cobwebs don't agree with electronics, or so my brother-in-law the IT maven says, so today I'm pulling out the canned air, spraying down my workspace. Today I'm hitting the digital bricks. This is a sort of soft return, an easy reentry. And as any good book provides a little introduction, a preface, maybe a foreword, allow me a little space to introduce the roadmap for 2016.

I've been working on a journal companion to my October release, Coming Clean: A Story of Faith. I hope it's a helpful tool for those of you leaning into the conversation about addiction, doubt, and the problem of pain. I'll give more information about the journal in the coming days, but know this: on Tuesdays of 2016, I'll provide you with reflections that I hope you'll use as journal prompts. If you want to keep up with these reflections, sign up to receive the blog content in your inbox. (See that maroon box over in the left sidebar?)

I'm also reopening the Recovery Room, a place where guest writers hop in to discuss addiction, doubt, pain, and the process of their own coming clean. Look for these posts on Thursdays (perhaps not every Thursday). The guests writers who have contributed to this series are incredible, and I have no doubt this years contributions will be stellar. (You can read the Recovery Room archives here.)

Amber and I hope to pen a few more Marriage Letters this year, and we hope you'll come along. There's nothing quite like writing personal letters to your spouse to keep the home fires burning. Trust me.

This years resolution? Be a tad more consistent with my Weekend links. On Saturdays, I'll recap the highs and lows of the week, and with any luck, I'll give you something smile-worthy.

It's 2016! Are you ready to get cracking? I am.


CC Austin OuttakesThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you'll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin Outtakes. The Outtakes share the story behind my latest release from Zondervan, Coming Clean|A Story of Faith.

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The Art of Sobriety

I'm still in Montana enjoying the big sky and cooler weather. While I've been away, Coming Clean entered the world. You can pick up your copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Givington's, or wherever books are sold. In the meantime, today I'm sharing this piece I wrote for addiction.com on the the connection between drinking, sobriety, and creative writing. Enjoy.


Hi. My name is Seth Haines. I am a writer. I am an alcoholic.

There could be no truer way to begin a piece on the intersection of writing and addiction unless I were to confess that, on par, I have an addictive stripe that runs as true and as hot as the Mississippi River. Alcohol? Yes. Words? Yes. Any old thing? Perhaps.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a taste for language. My mother was a literature teacher at the local junior high, and she taught me the power words wield in poetry and prose. I took her message to heart, playing with words from an early age. I stretched language like taffy, spun words together like cotton candy. I sold my first short story at the age of 11 to Jenna Kohler on the playground for 25 cents. It was a piece about the resurrection of frogs in the final days of the world’s spin-cycle. It remains, to this day, some of my best work.

My taste for alcohol developed at a later age. I imbibed for the first time after my 21st birthday — a modest two bottles of banquet beer — and in the years following, eased my way into a penchant for liquor. The more I drank, the more I discovered that either God or my family tree, depending upon your view of the world, had gifted me with a strong German tolerance. It was a fortuitous discovery, if not an epiphanic one, and in it, I became a most accomplished drinker.

I cannot point to the moment when I began to combine drinking and writing. When did I put whiskey and words into a shaker with cracked ice and cocktail them together? I do not recall. But in the years leading up to my sobriety, I wrote articles, poetry and what I’d like to call the Great American Novel (which remains unpublished on my computer desktop), all under the influence. Alcohol became jet fuel for the creative fire. It was the medium for the muse.

Continue reading along at addiction.com...


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Happy Birthday To Me... Again.

On Sunday, I stepped into my thirty-eighth year of life in Billings, Montana. I found a local cafe, McCormick’s—open 7 days, says the pink and blue neon sign—and ordered my birthday breakfast. Two eggs, over easy, toast, bacon. In the McCormick's, the morning light tendrils through the windows, cuts shafts through the slight mist of floating bacon grease. Bacon grease—could there be a better incense of the people? It's a beautiful thing. I opened my laptop and connected to the mccormickcafe network, and when the signal strength bars filled, my Facebook birthday notifications began streaming in. Facebook—I don’t care if Mark Zuckerberg is a socialist; hasn’t he created a platform that makes us all feel inordinately special on our birthdays? On Facebook, every birthday is an exercise in rediscovering that, yes, you actually did hang the moon.

I watched the cafe patrons—the young father stealing his son’s nose, his mother ordering cinnamon rolls at the counter, the old men waiving their hands and speaking in slavic tongues, the fella in the Auburn Tigers hat and the University of Montana sweatshirt shoveling four eggs down his gullet. We were a loose community, they oblivious to my solitary birthday celebration in the corner of the room. I smiled.

It was the happiest birthday. There was no sense of loneliness, only solitariness (the two should not be confused). Amber, the boys, and I celebrated before we left, and it was fantastic. Friends were sending their birthday wishes via the internet, and text message. I felt loved.

A birthday in Montana, eggs and bacon on your plate. Who could ask for more?


I’m still in Montana, and today marks another sort of birthday. Today, my first book, Coming Clean, hits the shelves. This time, I’m with a few good blokes, and we’ll have a smallish celebration. We’re without internet access, though, so aside from these fellas, I’ll have no idea whether Coming Clean released with the fanfare of a Facebook birthday, or whether it slipped onto the shelves in relative silence. There’s something that feels right about that.

Birthdays bring noise, bring celebration. Birthdays are the day when it’s okay to be the center of attention, to grab the limelight. Self-indulgent treats are occasionally justified. Perhaps a book birthday no different. Sometimes, though, self-indulgence does a body bad. I know this from experience.

In Coming Clean, I offer a raw account of my first 90 days of sobriety, illuminating the ways in which I numbed my pain with self-indulgence. My vice was liquor, but as we’ve learned in the Recovery Room over the past year, many numb their pain with various and sundry vices—sex, eating, puking, achievement, drama, theology. The vices, don’t they crowd out the voice of God? Don’t they distract us from the many ways God hopes to speak to us in our pain?

Today is the birthday of my book. I hope you’ll order your copy. I believe it’s important. But aside from this piece of writing, and a few scheduled social media messages, I’ll be relatively absent from the noise surrounding the release. I’ll be on the river, watching the trout fight against a fly line, and I’ll be thanking God in the quiet. The quiet--it's where I learned to escape vice; it's where I found God again.

Thank you for ordering your copy of Coming Clean. If you’d like to help spread the word, [tweetherder text="Coming Clean, by @sethhaines, is out today! Join me in reading this story of faith? #ComingCleanBook http://amzn.to/1QIsKGH"]CLICK THIS LINK TO TWEET.[/tweetherder] And if you’re more of the Facebook sort, consider sharing this little message:

Seth Haines’ book, Coming Clean, hits the shelves today. Don’t miss his story of pain, doubt, and the kindness of God that drew him into faith. http://sethhaines.com/books

After you’ve let your fingers do the clicking, find your own quiet space and ask yourself this question: is there some vice, some noise distracting me from the still, small voice of God? Is there something from which I need to come clean?

Walk into another sort of birthday, the birth of a new story. You won't regret it. I promise.


Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you'll receive access to my serial eBook, Dear Little Brothers.

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On Pain and Creativity (A Story Nashville Post)

This week, I'm traveling to the beautiful state of Tennessee to lead a breakout session at Story Nashville. I'll be speaking about the intersection of pain and creativity. It was my pleasure to the below preview piece for the folks at Story.


There are less awkward ways to introduce oneself, but for the sake of brevity, indulge me: I am a Christian drunk. Yes, there’s nuance to unpack, as everyone is so prone to say these days, and yes, I’ve been sober for some time. The truth is the truth, though, and the truth put another way is this: Gin and I are not good dance partners.

For a spell, I enjoyed the thought of writing the Great American Novel, and I gave it the old college try. I wrote in the evenings, always under the influence of gin or whiskey. The liquor loosened the voice of the muse—the Siren?—who distracted me from some very real pains in a very heavy season of life. At some point, the distractions became more more frequent, my lack of presence more pronounced. [tweetherder]Alcohol replaces things, see. Replaces responsibility. Replaces creativity.[/tweetherder] Replaces family, perhaps.

Continue reading at the Story Nashville blog.


Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In my most recent edition, I'm discussing the discovery of "The Quiet Sober." Sign up and receive access to my serial eBook, Dear Little Brothers.

How to Write Unafraid

I've been in a bit of a back and forth with a couple of friends, and we're asking, [tweetherder text="What would you write if you wrote unafraid? #WriteUnafraid"]"what would you write if you wrote unafraid?”[/tweetherder] Perhaps a more universal way of stating the proposition (so it applies not only to writers) is this: [tweetherder text="What would you say if you could cut the crap? #WriteUnafraid"]what would you say if you could cut the crap?[/tweetherder] It’s crass; I know. But it’s the sort of question that begs honesty--maybe too much honesty. I've been considering the question, really pondering it. I’ve been asking whether I hold back too much, or whether I write what I think folks would rather hear, or whether I’m namby-pamby with my words. If there’s anything I’d rather not be, it’s namby-pamby, so last night I wrote out my truth and posted it on my Facebook page.

My two cents went something like this:

If I were unafraid, I'd write that I'm weary of circumnavigating the revolving door of issues fed to us by the twenty-four hour news cycle. The tyranny of the urgent strikes lightning quick, sparks a flash fire of concern that sweeps across every social channel--CNN, Fox News, Facebook, Twitter. I’m a consumer (and sometimes a producer) in those cultural channels, so I react, spend my social capital on the tragedy du jour, the politics of the day, or the fad of the season. Sometimes I give the appearance of caring without caring much at all. Refugees, minority rights, genocide, terrorism, conservative/liberal politics--they're all subject to my whimsical feigned furiousness. Facebook posts, tweets, perhaps an article or two—I might spin yarns about my concern for the martyred, malnourished, or mistreated though I am functionally ignorant of the circumstances. Hoping to be first out of the blocks, I go to where the people are and shout, "here I am; listen to my opinion," or "check out how informed I am.”

Truth is, I too often care more about the appearance of concern than I do the condition of my capacity to give love or otherwise accept it. Too often my reactions to the news of the day are simply that—reactions. Too often I don’t approach the pressing social issues of our generation with the sobriety of spirit born only in quiet prayer and mediation. And so, I find myself bouncing from one issue to the next, never making an impact in any of them, notwithstanding the occasional fifty spot I might funnel through a donation website.

I'm a tennis ball Christian. Watch me bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce. Watch me entertain, or hope to entertain.

If I were writing unafraid, I'd ask the church this: are we still enough to notice where the Spirit blows? Are we stopping long enough to examine our motives—especially as it relates to social justice issues—to reflect on the whether we're living from the deep well of love or the shallow well of the cool? I'd ask whether we know our neighbors, whether we care to know our new neighbors.

And to those who are living it out good-and-proper, who are paving the way of social concern and justice with genuine spiritual love? I'd beg them to keep showing us how its done. Keep working from the well of contemplation and teach us how to love well, without return. Teach us the Godward path.

And after all of that what would I write? I think I'd write that I want a bowl of Lucky Charms, and I'd call it a night.