Revisiting Reversion: Fictional Non-Fiction

Several years ago, my major life goal was to become a counselor in the field of substance misuse.

I was a promising student with perfect grades and a reputation for innovation and leadership.

But I was restless, and felt myself pouring all of my energy into school and career aspirations. I realized that if I became consumed on that path, I may have had to abandon my life-long dream of creative writing.

Plus, I don’t like rules. Not the bureaucratic kind that get in the way of actually helping people, anyway. I’ve been on the receiving end of mental health and substance misuse services enough times to know that there are a great number of barriers to receiving good treatment. Put me on the other side of that equation as a helping professional, and you’d probably have someone getting terminated for breaking rules to remove those barriers.

In late 2013, I decided to drop out of the Human Services program and focus on creative writing. It seemed like an authentic calling, more suited to my desire for freedom, transparency, and creativity.

One of my major projects was a novel called ‘Reversion: A Cautionary Tale to Myself’. In it, I imagined an alternate version of myself, 50 years old in the year 2031. This alternate me stayed on the Human Services path, earned a doctorate, started a family, and founded one of the most successful substance misuse treatment centers in the nation. He’s successful and secure, has an impeccable reputation.

But he’s restless, primarily because he gave up on his dreams of writing and traveling.

When I started writing Reversion, I’d been clean of my drug of choice DXM for over five years, and had no intention of ever using it again.

I imagined my fictional 50 year old self, a well-known and beloved mover and shaker in the global recovery community. What would happen if, in his restlessness, he relapsed on DXM after all those years?

The original idea was for him to rediscover his passion for writing through a process of losing everything precious in his life (family, work, reputation, sense of home and security, and more), and for him to pretty much plead with the universe to send a message to his younger self: Write, like your life depends on it.

Of course, me as the author, was supposed to be that younger self. Message received. All meta and shit.

Things became infinitely more complicated in 2015 when I started using DXM again in real life.

When I first used it again, I thought my life was over.

But my perception on the drug slowly changed, and I began seeing my use of it as positive and life-affirming.

Through that process, I completely lost track of what I wanted to say about DXM in Reversion.

I didn’t want to glorify DXM use too much, and definitely wanted to show its hideous and painful features, but I didn’t really know where to draw the line. What morals and philosophies did I want to convey?

Perhaps more importantly than glorifying or damning DXM, I wanted to work on destigmatizing it. Writing an accessible story that anyone can relate to, with a realistic look at a drug that is highly misunderstood.

I’ve nearly abandoned the Reversion project a multitude of times throughout these past couple years. Not only because the subject matter is so deeply personal, but also because it is the largest, most complex writing project I’ve taken on to date, and it becomes increasingly arduous to dive back into it, as more time passes.

It might be a relief to just let it go and look at the whole experience as practice.

Besides, at the rate I’m going, it’ll be 2031 before the project is done anyway…

Alas, I will endeavor to pick up the pace and get this beast out sometime within the next year…

During the writing process, I’ll be posting rough drafts of each chapter. Feedback of all kinds is welcome and encouraged.

Originally published at Andrew L. Hicks.