(Disclaimer: This transcript was made using AI technology. Please excuse any errors.)
Welcome to the Atheists in Recovery Podcast, where we talk about finding hope in recovery. And now your host, Dr. Adina Silvestri
Adina Silvestri 0:11
Bonjour Guys, and Welcome to Episode 64 of the Atheists in Recovery podcast. And today, we are talking to Valley Haggard, and she has a really interesting story. So interesting that I probably could have listened to her for hours, but we did not have hours. So she talks about growing up with both parents in active addiction. And so how her early formative years were very much aligned with 12 step meetings and, you know, going to these meetings and listening to her mom, tell her don't do as I did, you know, I'm telling I'm teaching you what not to do. But Vallely said that didn't really work that she wanted to go out and experience her own story. And boy, did she, I think that her story could be made into a feature film. So so we talk a lot about her story, her and her recovery journey, and how it wasn't until she received a 20 page letter from her ex fiance, the same ex fiance that threatened to kill her and himself that she decided maybe drinking was no longer the solution. So we talk also about life and 10, which is this writing community that valey has created. And it's quite amazing. We talk about how writing can really lead to healing in so many ways, and she even likens it to what church should be okay, under our guest, Valley Haggard. Valley is the founder of life in 10 minutes and online lit mag, press and community for writers who are brave and true. She is the author of the halfway house for writers and surrender your weapons writing to heal. She has been practicing recovery for the last 21 years. Okay, guys, onto the show. Valley Haggard, welcome to the show.
Valley Haggard 2:19
Thank you so much. I'm excited to be here.
Adina Silvestri 2:22
So I want to start our conversation, the way that I start 99% of my conversations, which is maybe you could take us back to your deepest roots from childhood, just kind of give us a framework.
Valley Haggard 2:37
Oh, gosh, okay. Well, I was born in Richmond, Virginia, and a little house with my parents lived in they'd met in the Shenandoah Valley, which I'm named after, and I was conceived in a tent in the Shenandoah Valley. That is nothing true. It is very specific, very specific. I do know that detail on my mother's birthday. I was born nine months later. And so my parents were as you might guess, hippies, even though they would never use that term themselves, but they definitely were. And there was lots of, well, art. For one thing, there's lots of art in the house, but also lots of drugs and alcohol. And the story goes that I knew I knew the difference between a joint and a cigarette. By the time I was two, I could say this is a joint This is a cigarette and my mom was like, oh, because she was afraid I would like you know, say it in the wrong place kind of thing. There was a lot of drinking and, and mostly pot smoking, but they probably did whatever they they kind of could. And when I was about to that same year, my dad decided to move out, he left and that year, my mom started going to Al anon. And then after allanon she found her way into a so my mom has actually been sober since I was two years old, which is 43 years now.
Adina Silvestri 4:03
Valley Haggard 4:04
Yeah. Meanwhile, my dad continued to kind of move around and he ended up moving 15 times in my childhood. In Richmond, Virginia, he moved until I turned 18 he moved every year just about and had maybe a different girlfriend or a different wife with kind of each move so and i idolized my dad, my worship to my dad and I want it to be just like him. And that you know, that came with the idea of wanting to be unsettled. ungrounded always looking for the next thing always on the move, always kind of on the run in a way. I did grow up going to a meetings, Al anon meetings and my mom actually started her recovery business. So she sells and makes pins buttons with inspirational slogans. And she sold them all over the country at different conventions. So We would get in her minivan with her button maker and the whole setup and drive to a na CRA conventions all over the country. California, Texas, Florida, New York, Wyoming.
Adina Silvestri 5:16
You had an up close and personal view of recovery
Valley Haggard 5:20
I did. And, you know, I had such mixed feelings about it. I didn't understand it. For one thing. When I was 13, I wrote an article for a teen magazine about how I was going to break the cycle of addiction in my family. Because I knew so much about alcoholism, I wasn't going to use drugs or alcohol myself, because I knew that you know, the damage and harm they could cause. So that's when I was 13. And by 14, I was drinking all that I could as often as I could kind of really set out to live that my dad's life at that point.
Adina Silvestri 5:54
And the person you idolized.
Valley Haggard 5:56
Yeah, and I was off to the races at 14, I fell in love with Boone's farm Strawberry Hill, and, you know, really kind of joined, you know, we weren't really a gang, but we kind of were because none of us really went to the same school, we were from all different parts of the city. And we would get together to well, we would have, I think everybody in that group was brilliant. And everybody was also very alcoholic. And we felt kind of outside of everything else. And alcohol was our glue with each other. And it helped us. We had a lot of our identity was wrapped up in drinking and escaping and kind of being outside of society, that kind of thing. Yeah, I also had to, you know, kind of that split personality that that is talked about in the big book, because I still made on a roll A's and B's, you know, did everything at school that I was supposed to do, and really showed up in that way. You know, I spent my life going back and forth between my mom and dad. And they lived such different lifestyles. And I would like for example, my mom was always on a different food plan like macrobiotic or blood type or vegan or bone marrow, or you know, just always on some kind of extreme food plan. And my dad's food plan was eat as much good stuff as fast as you can. Take me, I mean, you know, we, we went to Burger King, and Wendy's and Pizza Hut, and we ate TV dinners. And we would go to the mall, and people watch and eat ice cream. And so I'd go one week, like eating tofu and raw broccoli. And the next week, like, you know, cheese burgers and milkshakes. And it was back and forth. And there were you know, there were a lot of other kind of major differences between them. And I do want to say both of my parents were absolutely fantastic people. As far as being super creative, very loving. My dad did get sober. And he was kind of in and out of sobriety, a lot of his life. I think he was mostly sober towards the end of his life.
Adina Silvestri 8:15
Did he follow the same avenue of sobriety as your mom did with the 12 steps or just
Valley Haggard 8:21
Well, he went, I know that he went to a for a number of years, and he did go to rehab. And I don't really know that much about his program or anything like that. But when he remarried, when I was 13, and he met his that wife in a, and after they met, they never went to another meeting. They got married.
I know. They got married
Adina Silvestri 8:46
They were each other's sponsors.
Valley Haggard 8:48
Yeah. They moved out to their dream home and the country. And I swear to God, this sounds insane. But they lived there happily, until they both died within the last couple years. For 30 years. They spent 30 years and so it's like my dad, once I got once I was old enough to leave home is when he got grounded and settled and really became kind of a constant. And he was faithfully married at this time and remained so until they both died recently, and it's there. There's been a lot of grief and sadness around them. They were amazing people. But that, thank you. But you know, I still grew up with and the time that my consciousness was forming, and being shaped and my earliest sense of self and my primal sense of the world that was formed was really during a time of a lot of using and instability. And my mom, you know, I look back. Once I had a child of my own, and look back at what she was going through. When I was two years old and my dad left and she got in recovery. She was getting sober and Her mother died that year. And we were also on food stamps. And yeah, didn't have really any money. And my mom had a lot of rage, a lot of rage. So she was getting sober. And she stayed sober. But she had a lot to work through. And being a single mom was really hard. So I started to understand that better, like what she was going through when I had a two year old myself, but we, you know, there was a, there were a lot of battles in our household, let me say, she also thought that I should be able to learn from her mistakes. And I remember my motto was pretty much I will not learn from your mistakes. I will learn from my own mistakes. Yeah, she thought because I grew up in a and because she was sober that would transmit to me. That's what she hoped. And of course, you know, I understand that now. But I was determined to go have my own story. And I sure did.
Adina Silvestri 11:00
Yeah. Well, that's probably a good segue for you to tell us a little bit
about your own.
Your own story.
Valley Haggard 11:07
So I went to school in New York. And I like to say that I majored in heartbreak and drinking, there was just lots and lots of got so much whiskey and so much, so many of those big jugs of Carlo Rossi wine that I would carry them back from, like the liquor store over my shoulder that were huge and heavy, I had a fake ID I, they also didn't card you in the same way back then I never had trouble getting like what I wanted, right. And although school started out, for me kind of academically and intellectually and creatively on a on a strong note. It really kind of like I won first place in the school wide fiction contest my freshman year. It's amazing after that, though, as my drinking really kind of started to take over. And really what I now know was love addiction, as well, that kind of obsession and codependency and having my heart broken and being the victim and I love Dorothy Parker, I wanted to read really dark caustic writing by alcoholic women who I idolized. But when a year in Italy, which my first my junior year and it was pretty amazing that I got out of that experience alive because there was lots of hitchhiking you know, all over eastern Europe, running out little bar tabs going home with strange men really reckless
Adina Silvestri 12:38
How old were you at this time?
Valley Haggard 12:41
Adina Silvestri 12:42
Valley Haggard 12:42
20 Yeah, aren't we I got an apartment and it was right above a county store. I mean, there were drug dealers on our street, lots of them. We live kind of near the train station in Florence. And I tried heroin when I was in Italy just one time and I'm so I feel so blessed. That I didn't do it again. After that. I think what happened is my my roommate and girlfriend at the time, had such a bad experience. And it was really scary watching her have the bad experience that we kind of stayed away from heroin after that, but lots of hash. Lots of paths. And yeah, Europe, you know, it was about like just jumping on a train and then jumping off and not even knowing where you were, it was that kind of thing. Wow. I went back and finish school in New York. And I decided that being in the intellectual environment of New York City was the cause of my problems. Okay, because it was too intellectual. Like, everybody was overthinking everything I hate. And I felt like everyone was wearing a mask, and there was a lot of pretense and pretension. And I felt really claustrophobic. So, I found a job on the most remote dude ranch in Colorado, and went to work there as a cabin girl, after graduating from New York, and promptly became engaged to a Wrangler.
Adina Silvestri 14:09
You were actually engaged to a wrangler?
Valley Haggard 14:12
I was actually engaged. I mean,
Adina Silvestri 14:14
this is stuff of like the movies. Yeah.
Valley Haggard 14:17
You know, we've dated and by dating, I mean, we went like, we dance to Desperado around the campfire. We played poker every night. We hit our beer in the creek. We would go like sneak into cabins before I clean them up the guests, you know, to have our to have our wild steamy affair. Yeah, he did ask me to marry him. And I knew it was completely insane. But, you know, I was completely insane. I said. I said yes. And we're his ring. And, you know, there was so much I loved about that experience. It truly was, like I lived in a little cabin without electricity. We had oil lamps. There was one generator at the whole lodge that would be used for a few hours a day really to kind of, you know, keep the fridge and the freezer cold, but most everything was kind of done by like camp stove and, and it was beyond gorgeous. I mean it was really beautiful and I felt such a deep connection with the horses there and I learned how to horseback ride and, and in the mountains It was truly gorgeous. But I also had the experience of a note was the pastry chef or pastry chef, she did all the baking at the dude ranch. And she was about 850 years old. And and her and I were supposed to sell sold. She was old. She was older than Methuselah. So we were supposed to sell glasses of wine, from boxes of wine like they they, you know, equipped us with boxes of wine. But Edna and I drank every last box of wine, we did not sell one glass, we drank it all like, I mean, it was gone. So that's like how my drinking was progressing. During this time, it was all about drinking. And then I remember going with another cabin girl on this pilgrimage to look for a horse who had died. She was the first horse that I ever rode. Her name was hooker. And she had died. And they had brought her body out to like a far pasture. And so Jeanette, the other cabin girl, and I decided to go like on this pilgrimage to look for her body. And I remember as I sat there, like with her rotting skeleton, and this is such a strange pairing, but it is how how it happened for me, I I faced the fact that I was pregnant. I knew that I hadn't had my period for a long time. But I was in a lot of denial and was drinking a lot to just kind of not face that. But that was the moment looking at hookers dead body that I that I realized I had to kind of own this. And I ended up big will Jr. was the Wrangler. So big will took me we went to Planned Parenthood and in Denver and I had an abortion. And this is really kind of one of the this is the really the beginning of the end for me of like thinking that drinking was working for me, I'd already had so much darkness around drinking. But this caused so much pain and confusion, this experience, especially because a few weeks later, back up at the lodge where the phone doesn't really work and you have to it works. Sometimes you have to scream into the phone. And it's kind of it's in the kitchen, so everybody's around. And it's like, but my mom had been trying and trying to call me and she finally was able to get through and was able to tell me Planned Parenthood had called her because they couldn't reach me to let her know that I was still pregnant. The abortion had not been successful, and that I was going to have to have another procedure. And just remember the horror of that because it was so difficult the first time and it just felt like the the bottom fell out. That's how it felt it felt and I went and had another procedure and I think there's a lot of trauma around that. Like for me hyperventilating, like it was painful. I had a whole lot of side effects that were very painful cramping, bleeding, they gave me some coding prescriptions, and I flew home. So I flew back to Richmond, Virginia. After that I didn't finish learning season in Colorado, which by that point we actually had, we're all moved into the bunkhouse, everybody who has left. So big will and I were sharing a single bed top bunk. It sounds horrific. Yes. And a bunk house with all the other Wranglers and dogs. And that's how I was living.
And so you know, I couldn't do this while trying to heal. So I went home and my mom was caring for me. And I was getting better. And around this time it was coming up on Thanksgiving and I decided the next thing that needed to happen was for big will to move in with me. in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia of Richmond, Virginia. I'm sure he would love that. Oh, and he did. So he packed all his stuff up into a trunk. Got on a Greyhound bus came to Richmond, moved in with me in my childhood bedroom. And it was as you might imagine a disaster. He got a job as a bouncer at a bar and choco bottom. I got a job at a preschool and Lakeside. We shared this like $500 Honda Civic I bought and it was miserable. It was miserable. What we had in the mountains of Colorado did not translate very well. transfer it. Did you know I was so unhappy. And at one point, he actually suggested that we go to a together and quit drinking. And I said no way. If you go to a I am breaking up with you, like, drinking is my solution. It's not my problem, and I'm not quitting. So what I decided the solution would be, would be to move with bidwill to his father's farm and Arkansas. Yeah, I thought this would be, you know, is another brilliant geographic cure. Because once again, the problem was where I was living, not what was going on with me or the relationship that I didn't know how to end that that was pretty much dead. So we packed up my little Honda with all of our stuff, and moved into his dad's. Well, actually, we moved into his dad's tool shed in this little farm in Arkansas, population 69. And the dad's cabin was so small that there was nowhere for us to live there. So we lived in the tool shed, there was like a mattress on the floor. There were rakes and shovels, you know, went to the bathroom, outside there. But there was a farm that was beautiful. There were horses, a little baby horse was born, like the fourth day that I was there, and I fell in love with her. But I also, you know, I think I kind of transferred she became my baby, the baby that I had lost like this, this foal became my substitute baby. And so in the course of living here, I'm the only one with a job on this farm in Arkansas. Okay, so it's bidwill senior. Pikeville senior is kind of between jobs, shall we say? And he is working on his cash crop of marijuana, but it's not ready to be sold. So he's kind of staying just piecing things together. And we're in a dry County. So I got a job at a resort up on the hill, huh? So I was waiting tables and cleaning hotel rooms. And I would come home every night with my little apron stuffed with cash. And we would take that cash and drive it across the county line to Ruby's liquor store where we would buy every kind of alcohol we could but our favorite was big Will's specialty called a blackberry Cadillac, which was Manischewitz wine, and ginger ale. We drank a lot of that.
Adina Silvestri 22:39
Valley where do you think your head was? At this time? I know, you said that you were drinking was the solution, not the problem. But was it the solution to do you think at that time?
Valley Haggard 22:48
I knew, you know, I knew I was really unhappy. But I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. I really couldn't. My mission statement, right I have one at that time was that I wanted to experience everything. And I thought experiencing everything meant saying yes to everything. It also meant doing the things that probably went the strongest against my intuition that had the biggest red flags that were the most on recommended. You know, traveling the path not recommended by anyone else. I felt like that was my way to experience everything. I also felt like, that's what I kind of had to do to earn my place in the world of writing was to have these experiences that caused great emotion, you know, that were very emotional and dramatic. So
Adina Silvestri 23:43
I'd say that you you won on that front
Valley Haggard 23:46
Well, it'd be good without such a thing. Yeah. Then I decided that I was no longer in love with bidwill Jr. But that I was in fact in love with pivotal senior. So I really ran up to the drum of volume up quite a bit. And yes, yes. Big will. She left the farm and I stayed on with big bull senior. And the night that big will Jr. left the baby horse died. Her name was moon feather, and we buried her. They will senior and I buried her that night and then I went to sleep with him and his big king size bed and the cabin. I moved into the cabin that night out of the bunkhouse out of the tool shed. But I knew like it's this thing where your heart is screaming. And I thought that's just the way I was supposed to feel. I didn't realize that I needed to listen to that voice. I thought I needed to quiet it drown it. But I did leave there after a couple of weeks and packed up and headed out to Colorado to meet up with a friend I had some really beautiful, great friends who are in Colorado and they seem like sunshine and sunlight. And I was coming out of this kind of dark cave. Join them in the sunlight and one of them and I decided we weren't going to roadtrip and he wanted to. He wanted to ultimately land in Alaska. And so we drove my little $500. Honda still across the western part of the country. We stayed in the Olympia for a bit. And then we flew to Alaska. And we were living with his boyfriend's friend in her trailer park outside of Juneau, Alaska. I'm 23. I'm also broke because my wallet had gotten stolen at a bar, not that I had that much money in it, but I was completely broke. And come to find out. This boyfriend's friend was not that pleased that we were staying in her trailer. When people are unhappy that you're in their trailer, you know, you've hit a new bottom. Oh. So I at that point, knew that I needed to get a job. I had no idea how to get a job in Alaska. But I walked down the highway into Juneau. And I remember saying a prayer, which was Dear God, please help me find a fucking job. And it was a sincere prayer.
Adina Silvestri 26:26
And were you had you had you prayed to the gods before? Was this like it? You were just at such a low?
Valley Haggard 26:33
I was told Well, you know, I don't remember having a I don't remember having a relationship with God, Edina. I really don't. You know, my mom always talked with me about God and higher power. But I don't think it's stuck. It was very intellectual. It was very, like something out here that I could learn about or think about. But it wasn't in here. And I think that prayer was so genuine. The first place that I walked into an Alaska was called Glacier Bay tourism cruises. And I was hired on the spot by the captain of the fleet. He said, Can you leave tomorrow? And I said, Yes, I can. But he also said, Can you take a drug test issued by the Coast Guard, and he saw the look on my face, which was a motor car. And he said, Well, if a certain person were to go to a certain health food store, and buy a certain kind of tea, and drink a certain amount of it, they might pass the Coast Guard drug test. So that he knew that you needed that job. Oh, he knew. I mean, I think many, many people coming in and out of Alaska, we're not dissimilar to myself. And there was a very high turnover rate on the boats to I mean, it's an it's intense work, and they're very little breaks and you're very smushed together in a very small space, cramped quarters. So I did you know, I got the job. And I left, I left on that boat and I was a stewardess on a cruise ship. And I really didn't know until pretty, you know, after the contract was signed, and the deal was done that I wasn't allowed to drink. I wasn't as a stewardess, I was not allowed to drink during my time of service on the boat. Because I was, you know, in charge of passenger safety and small things like that. I did sneak off the boat and drink a couple of times at bars. But I would say this is when I really kind of guts, sober will dry I was forced into a state of dry ness. And it was like this kind of horrifying state of consciousness, where I was really forced to see where I was coming from what had happened. What I'd done some of the pain that I had pushed down and you know, I had this habit of moving places where there was no phone. But I called my mom collect from the pier in Alaska. At one point I was really tired of this job is exhausting. You know, and you get like four hours off every two weeks or something. Oh my god, robbing, that you scrubbing heads and making beds and vacuuming cleaning up after crab night. You know, and I mean, there were whales, and I got really obsessed with Jonah and the whale. I felt like I'd been swallowed into the belly of the whale. I was also reading Joseph Campbell's here with 1000 faces. I was really into the hero's journey, but I saw I had some awareness but also like zero awareness. So I call my mom and tell her I want to quit this job. And she said Valley. I just got a call from bidwill Jr. He found out everything about you and his dad. He has a gun and he wants to kill you or himself. Stay on that boat. Oh wow. Oh wow. Not get off the boat. Do not Find drive land. So I stayed till the end of the season needless to say, and I,
I counted down the days until I could be like until the boat would finally dock on the west coast. And when I could drink again and drink the way I wanted, and there were a few other people like me, who were also counting down the days and minutes, when the boat finally docked. I ran to a bar. And I was not able to get drunk. It just made me tired. So I went to a different bar ordered a different kind of alcohol could not get drunk, only got a headache. And from that moment on, I was never able to get drunk again. Every time I tried, I would just get to feel that kind of tired and like, have a headache. I was not able to achieve that escaped that euphoria that like blissful unconsciousness. And so this was in October of 1998. I was on the phone with my mother. And I told her that I wanted to keep traveling. I wasn't ready to come home. She was asking me to come home. It was about to be Russia, Shana. And it my uncle was getting married. And there were all these reasons she wanted me to come home. And I said, but I'm not finished traveling mom. And she said, the real journeys are inside you. They're not outside of you. And something about that clicked for me. Like I could hear that. So I ended up getting an Amtrak ticket home, took a train cross country, the house that I'd grown up in, he actually moved across the street when I was 15. But the house that I'd grown up in she'd been renting out this whole time, and her tenant moved out the week I came home. So I moved into the house I'd grown up in, I'd left my car out on the west coast, but my stepbrothers girlfriend who lived on the West Coast had left her car on the east coast. So we just decided to trade cars love it. And I had a car and a house and my mom. And then I got this letter from Big Bill Jr. That was like the most, you know, he was in so much pain, it was 20 pages of rage and pain. And I said to my mom, I need therapy. I think I need therapy. Like maybe I need therapy. I don't understand what's going on here. Like, yeah, it could be that it didn't hurt. Start to try therapy. And she said, Well, I know some therapy that's free. And I said free therapy. And she said, Yeah, there's this Friday morning women's meeting that I go to, and it's a and I said, Well, but do you have to think you're an alcoholic? To go? And she said, No. You can wonder Hmm. And so she was just vague and not and not pushy, like she had our perfect Ellen on program at this moment. And I went to that meeting, and I did pick up a weight chip. I didn't plan to I did not plan to. But I did. And I actually after picking it up, I thought, well, I'll just have to give this back. Like I'll return this. I don't really need it. But my head started to clear and I remember that afternoon thinking. I associate every single period of my life with a different kind of alcohol like there, the Boone's farm years, the bottles of Schlitz years though, like mad dog, 2020 years, you know, whiskey, vodka, all, it was all associated with a different kind of alcohol. And I knew that my parents were alcoholics. And I also knew my friends were alcoholics. And I knew that lots of bad things that happened when I'd been drunk. But I still couldn't call myself an alcoholic for a really long time. And the cool thing was, I didn't have to, I can just wander and I did continue going to a and I went every day for a really long time. And I definitely don't go every day anymore, but I have stayed sober since then.
Adina Silvestri 34:03
What do you think those early days of AA did for you?
Valley Haggard 34:08
They really well, they gave me a framework that I didn't have. I was like a blob, like a jellyfish like that thing of where I would do anything. And I would do what felt wrong. Because I thought that would be right. It kind of like held me in a container instead of letting me like, just keep oozing out all over the place. And I really probably the most powerful there are many powerful aspects of the program, I believe, but one is the storytelling. Listening to other people talk about how they feel, and being able to relate to how other people feel, and not feel like you're you're the only one or that you're so bad. Like I believed I was bad. And he helped me stop feeling like I was bad. It gave me a much more holistic To view of myself like as a person, I also a helped me became what my sponsor called right sized, because I thought I was either an angel or the devil. And I had to come to terms with being a human being, which was very hard. I did not want to be a human being did not. I did not want that.
Adina Silvestri 35:22
What did being a human being mean to you?
Valley Haggard 35:25
Well, really not, you know, not having superpowers. Well, really what I think when it comes down to it being human meant that I had to feel everything. Yeah, yeah, it meant feeling everything, I couldn't just be like a static all the time, which is what I wanted, or miserable. Like, those were my two reference, ecstasy or misery and anything in between was so uncomfortable. Ah, so you know, learning to accept that I had these feelings and that, that I had to feel them that was a huge part of accepting my humanity, my humaneness. Also just being sober, like, not drinking, allowing the mind and the body time to kind of rebalance to heal to Lord. I mean, I started listening to my intuition instead of, like, adamantly going against it, I started really listening to it, and it's taken listening to my own intuition, has taken my life in the most beautiful direction imaginable to me, and I think, when I'm drinking it, like clouds, that intuition, it alters it, I have a different sense of who I should be and what I should be doing when I'm thinking of a different sense of what's okay and what's not. Okay, what's a good idea and what's a bad idea? So it really it kind of, it blocks my intuition. So having that kind of constant access to my inner voice is a real game changer. It's a life changer. It's a world changer.
Adina Silvestri 36:58
Yeah. Well, that's probably a good segue to life in 10, which I want to cover as much as we can with the time we have remaining. So I think it's so awesome. So I actually heard of you through my clients that would come to see me, oh, for therapy, and they would say, you know, part of part of seeing you Idina is writing and I thought, well, that's great, because I also love writing, but tell me more about this life and 10. So, you know, one day I just jumped on the website, and this is what, this is what I saw, I'm gonna read this real quick and this is on your your website. Okay? This is the life in 10 website. 10 minutes is long enough to uproot your life. Get caught in a storm. drink a cup of coffee, memorize a child's face, wash a sink full of dishes, recite wedding vows fall in love with someone you shouldn't eat a sandwich, remember a dream, call an old friend, sketch, a figure model, read a chapter, listen to your favorite song, get on or off a train that will change the course of your life forever. 10 minutes is enough time to write something strange and beautiful and true without editing the strangeness and beauty and truth out of it. We all have 10 minutes, many times a day. So it's hard to come up with convincing excuses, even to our secret innermost selves. Why we don't 10 minutes is everything. We can't fit into a Facebook status. It's a slice of life, short shorts, a Polaroid picture, poem, a prayer.
Valley Haggard 38:34
Yeah, yeah. Thank you for reading that. It's been a while since I've looked at it. It's been a while since I heard that. Thank you.
Adina Silvestri 38:44
Tell me a little bit about life in 10 and how you utilize this community to heal not just yourself, but others.
Valley Haggard 38:54
Yes, well, I came into life in 10 minutes, I started doing it truly out of desperation. But it was in 2008, or around them right after then, when the economy crashed, and I had just been laid off my job at a newspaper. My husband had just tried to become self employed. So we were like, holy shit, what are we going to do? And so I decided, you know, teaching was something I really wanted to do, but I felt highly unqualified to do but I also because I didn't know what else to do. I took that flying leap into, into trying to class and I really set up a workshop that I would want to take. I had taken lots of fiction writing workshops over the years, and most of them were critique based. And I had found critique to be not the most helpful way of learning for me actually. So I set up a workshop where and we would read a short piece, then everybody would write for 10 minutes, then everybody would read what they had written. And then I would respond with kind of positive and strength based feedback. And then we repeat the process three times. So that very first night that we did it, there were six or seven people in the class. And I remember leaving, feeling like I had found heaven. forests that were shared, written and shared were like, it was, like I found my people, I found my, my calling my my happiest place, listening to people share stories that weren't polished and perfect, that were just really honest and open and hilarious, we were crying, we were laughing all these things. And basically starting that was at the Black Swan Bookstore at Maine and Robinson, that I had that one night class and eventually, over time, it became two, then three, then four, then we moved and got our own place, then we started adding teachers. And then I added a website, then we added a lit mag, and then kind of a press, you know, it's one of those things that's just organically grown over time. And I still keep the same structure for a class 10 years later, that I did the very first time I taught, because it works. It's simple. It's so simple. And I think it's really powerful. And it works. And now I do retreats, and you know, people say things like, it's what church should be, you know, where people are telling their most honest truth, revealing their deepest selves, there's, and there's no criticism or judgment. It's where we get to reveal who we truly are underneath. Like, it's like taking the mask off and really showing who we are. And I do think this happens in meetings, it happens in 12 step meetings, but there's something about writing and element of storytelling, where you're not using like slogans, you're telling very specific stories from your life. And there's something very transformative, both about listening to people's stories. And I've done some real a lot of reading about what happens to the brain, when we listen to people share their stories, which is actually when we hear people share vulnerable stories, we get an oxytocin release. And when we share our own vulnerable stories, and we're listened to, we get serotonin, so we get this beautiful cocktail of chemicals in our brains during classes where our writing is read and where we hear other people's writing shared. So it just remains a really powerful form of connection. We write by hand, which I feel like is, brings us back to our most like kind of primal roots, expression, I think, when we're able to express ourselves, I think it hits on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. Like creativity, kind of, it just hits on every front. Being in community with people where we have, we don't feel isolated. It's fascinating because I feel like introverted and extroverted people. both kinds really take to this process, because you're in a group, but you're not interacting, per se, you're interacting in a very different way. We're listening is like the large it's such a huge gift that we give, we do sacred listening. And he is groups, we get to know each other in ways we might not know our own family, or even some of our closest friends really, you know, I have people who've been with me, for 10 years, every class like or, you know, they're every Thursday morning for 10 years. I have people who've been with me for a couple years, people who come for just one session, there's always more The thing is there's always more to uncover. There's always more to write, there's always more to process. If we live another day, we have another story. We don't run out of material,
Adina Silvestri 43:48
and love that. So I actually, for the listeners, I took one of Valley's life in 10 classes and I thought, you know, I'm an introvert. I don't know how this is gonna go. And also you're putting yourself in a very vulnerable position to have to tell you're just tough to tell your story. And, you know, I'm wondering for people listening, that maybe want to start their own life and 10 or maybe, you know, they want to do you want to look you up, since I know you have online classes. What would you say to them? You know that, that?
Valley Haggard 44:21
Yeah, oh, yeah. Everybody is terrified at first. It really I mean, it's so normal to be really scared. One person described it is like being pushed out of a moving vehicle. But then taught but then like, held and you know, it's like, it's like a freefall, but then you're caught in the biggest cloud of like, soft, buoyant love. That's, that's just what ends up happening. What ends up happening is we share and we can all go at our own pace. So I said, My advice is pushed gently against your comfort zone. You don't have to come in and on the first day First week, or even for six weeks, or even first year, reveal your deepest secrets, or like your most vulnerable stuff, you can take it baby, baby baby baby steps. And it's still powerful, and it still works. When we hear other people share what they're going through, it gives us bravery, it gives us courage, like when someone shares about their sexual assault, it gives us the bravery to write about our own when somebody writes about their addiction, their family trauma, their excitement, their joy, you know, whatever, it kind of gives us permission to also do that, to share our own experience or perspective. And so we were always encouraging each other by being there together, it wouldn't, it doesn't work the same way, if you're doing it by yourself, there's a very different energy to the collective, we encourage each other, it's almost like we turn the heat up on the oven. So we're cooking at a high temperature rather than cooking, like at a, you know, just a few degrees or whatever, we're kind of like for 15 class. Whereas on my own, I feel like I'm at like 150, and it's like, it's gonna take forever. So I encourage people to, you know, to take it slow, go at your own pace, know that you don't have to, and you don't have to ever reveal more than you're comfortable revealing ever, ever, you know, I each person is trusted to take care of themselves. And for some people, even if they're not revealing anything personal per se, just the very act of sharing, writing is still terrifying. And the thing here is that it's not about the writing about or it's not about perfect writing. It's about honesty. Yeah, it's about honesty. And I really think the writing, the more honest we are, the better our writing gets, like the content polls, the quality of this, the writing along with it. And it's such a supportive group. Everybody's just so proud of everybody else. There's been very few very, very, very few instances over the years of people feeling not heard or not kind of like, like the rest of the room is not hooking them or giving them support, even though it's unspoken. It's all the way we feel, but very few instances of it not working in this really supportive way. Yeah. And I like to say the greater your fear, the greater the benefit you receive from facing that fear. If you go and afraid, and you walk out not dead. It's like so miraculous.
Adina Silvestri 47:37
I can attest to that.
Terrified, virtually, terrified.
Valley Haggard 47:43
Adina Silvestri 47:47
I know, we're definitely short on time. You're just such an amazing storyteller. What would you maybe want to say in closing, any any final words that you could, that you want to say to the atheist and recovery? community?
Valley Haggard 48:05
Yeah, all thank you all, for listening to this. I think listening to stories, listening to other people's stories and sharing your own, it really is life changing. It really is one of the few things that we've kept around, or carried with us since Neanderthal days. You know, it's like the human family is kind of woven together through storytelling. And there are a million different ways of telling stories or writing stories, like there's no wrong way to do it, either. There's just no wrong way to do it. And I think it can give add so much benefit to your recovery process. And if you've had to do the steps or anything like that, or even just writing about your process of addiction or recovery, you know, that writing adds another element to it. So I just encourage people to try and you don't have to be good. You don't have to worry about it being good.
Adina Silvestri 48:58
Yeah, agreed. feely, how can people best find you and say hello on the social?
Valley Haggard 49:04
Yeah, so my website is lifein10minutes.com, it's the number 10. I would love for anybody who'd like to just submit pieces of their writing under the lid mag tab, there's a submit your own 10. I love publishing people stories from all over the world, within 10 minutes at a time. There's such a vast variety you can read for days and days and days. If you were to go back through the archives, I'm also we have a life in 10 minutes Facebook page, and we have a life in 10 minutes online group, which is kind of a community support group for people who want to talk about writing. So that's a group that can be joined on Facebook, and we're also on Instagram at just like in 10 minutes. And I have two books out as well. About the writing process. One is the halfway house for writers. Somebody in recovery in one of my classes said that's what they tell they describe my class. It's like a halfway house for writers, because we're really working on the process of healing our wounded selves, both as writers and human beings. So the halfway houses really, it's a short book. It's a fast read. But I think it's pretty, pretty packed with everything I learned about how to, to heal yourself in the writing world, through writing with writing, and heal your relationship to writing. And my second book is surrender your weapons writing to heal is kind of a hybrid of my own memoir stories, and more writing prompts and more writing advice or experiences that I've had. And those are both available either through my website or Amazon. And I'd love people to take classes with me now that we're online. I mean, I've been meaning to go online for a long time. And now that we actually are people, it's fabulous, because people can join from all over the world in the country. And I love, love, love that aspect of having online classes.
Adina Silvestri 51:03
would have thought? Right,
Valley Haggard 51:05
Adina Silvestri 51:07
Well, it has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Valley Haggard 51:12
Thank you. I so appreciate it.
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