“You have a good heart, Nicholas. That doesn’t change.”

– Delilah, Everything Must Go (Will Farrell Movie)

Tonight we watched ‘Everything Must Go’ starring Will Farrell. I’ve seen it before, drunk on the couch, and I believe I passed out before the ending, last time. It felt like I was watching it for the first time, tonight.

Apologies in advance as this post is a little all over the place, tonight, but my heart has advised me we won’t sleep again tonight unless I set this free. It’s not intended as a ‘poor me’ post, but I need to document a little revelation about how and why I’ve been feeling like I have been.

That one leading quote in this post just glued itself to my heart and soul about 45 minutes ago. A broken alcoholic, talking to a girl from high school he hasn’t seen in over 20 years, diminished by his shortcomings and struggling to find his footing at absolute rock bottom. Feeling unworthy and looking for some reassurance that he does, after all, have value.

I didn’t understand until tonight (quite accidentally) that I’ve been questioning the integrity of my heart.

I’ve been wondering if I’m actually a good person, or have just been masquerading as one all this time. At some point, the image I have of myself transformed into some avant-garde piece of sculpture made up of tin cans and found objects – hollow and pieced together with good intentions and garbage, held up by two crutches: one of all my failures and the other my bad decisions. 

I so easily forget all the good things I’ve done, but keep a very orderly list of every time I’ve let someone down, myself included.

I regret so badly everything surrounding “The Horrible Awful” (a post that may never make it to this blog, but is where the photo “Broken” came from) that happened last April – a turning point in my life, but branded forever on my heart, as it very well should be.

“You’ve ruined everything. You’ve taken absolutely everything from me. You’re a horrible, horrible person.” 

It’s hard to forget the events surrounding and leading up to it, and impossible to forget hearing those words. Harder still because they’ve woven themselves around my heart and ever since, my heart looks different to me.

Thank you, alcohol, for holding my hand on that Choose-Your-Own-Adventure chapter of my life where I chose every wrong page possible.

Prior to that, the collection of disappointments I began hoarding in my business, in The Drawing Hope Project, in even the simplest of tasks and my marriage. Disappointing my family, pushing away my friends, ruining work partnerships and taking everything for granted because I’d rather be drunk and not think about it. Forgoing life-changing opportunities because the bottle couldn’t come along with me.

“You have a good heart, Nicholas. That doesn’t change.”

I absolutely needed to hear that today.

Because I’m realizing today that it is such a huge part of what has led me here, what threw me into a deep depression, what accelerated my drinking to exponential and unsafe levels, and why I’ve been crying non-stop for the last 12 months.

I’ve been grieving (what I thought was) the loss of my heart which I always sincerely believed was, indeed, good. 

And it is.

That doesn’t change.

Our choices do. Our circumstances do. The consequences do. But do you believe people are born with a good heart, or a bad heart? Can people change what type of soul they’ve been given? Is this a Grinch Who Stole Christmas situation?

Or do we just end up pushing our heart aside, listening to the addiction instead, beating so loudly you can’t hear anything else? 

“I was standing over there, rusting for the longest time.” – The Tin Man, The Wizard of Oz

I have spent so long thinking mine had actually changed – and that I was, as I was told, a bad person. That has multiplied my grief into feeling absolutely worthless and like an awful person with a black heart – on top of feeling overwhelmingly guilt-ridden. I’ve been feeling like an impostor, when all along I’ve been a drunk with a good heart, submerged so deeply in wine and addiction I couldn’t see it anymore.

I feel like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, searching for his heart. 

Tap away at me and you’ll hear the echo – that recurring, hollow absence reminding me that something is missing. Over and over again, bouncing around my insides, searching but finding nothing.

“As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable” – The Wizard of Oz, to the Tin Man

I am hoping that as the fog continues to clear while I am here in recovery, I will discover my good heart is still there and has been all along.

It’s still the same heart, just made more beautiful by being broken.

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” ― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Written by SJ VanDee

Recovery Blogger. Sober AF. Photographer. Storyteller. Writer.


    1. Thanks…it’s amazing how one little line from one little movie can bring so much stuff to the surface. Being sober for a change is making a lot of things bubble to the surface right now…things I just ignored or pushed down so as not to deal with them….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You expressed your feelings so eloquently. I’m guessing you will have many more of these moments now that you are free to let things bubble up to the surface. Stay strong and keep letting them come up so that you can process them and find a place to set them aside, that will help you stay sober. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I see it as kind of like don’t hate the sinner hate the sin… or don’t hate the alcoholic, hate the alcohol- or the disease anyway. I watched my business fall apart and ignored calls, texts, emails, etc., and with each one… my despair grew knowing I was disappointing people. More regret, more drinking. When I looked at your project and knew you had halted on it, my heart really….REALLY felt for you because I know what that had to feel like. And it’s not your fault. It’s the alcohols fault. I hope that makes sense. 🙂 Maybe rambling. I do that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It makes more sense than you know! Your description of watching your business fall apart is happening CURRENTLY to me (the one that pays the bills…the project was something I did on the side outside of ‘work’ – but that too suffered because of my drinking. Everything has…ugh! It’s a cycle, and you’re so right – more disappointment, more regret, more drinking, and repeat. Worse and worse each time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well as strange as it sounds…what I found was that absolutely nothing is more important than recovery. So glad you are in there. And here I am playing hooky from my meeting. I need to listen to my own advice!! 😦😇

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Shawn
    There’s an excuse if you’re bad. That’s the escape route. Yes of course you’re good. As I learned to examine my interior self. It is naturally happy without condition, generous, kind and grateful. You’re doing great much better than I would have imagined

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I know I may be the only one here to believe this, but I believe we all have a bad heart. A heart that only thinks and wants for itself. That is why Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” I think God speaks to our hearts, trying to show us the right way. When we look at the wrong we have done, I think he is showing us how much we need him. Jesus says we are slaves to sin, which means we don’t have a choice; it is our natural bent to do wrong and be selfish. He says to become a servant of God by choice. But we must make that choice because God will never force us, only woo us to himself.

    When we want to live better lives and do good things, as you are doing now, that is the Spirit of God speaking to our hearts. Sometimes we listen to Him, as I can see you have, but sometimes not. You are drawn towards the good – that is evident. If you have already given your life to God then your heart is good. No doubt about it. But we never have a truly good heart apart from him. Someone may tell us we are a horrible person, but most likely, they are too. They just don’t know it yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah, what Belle said. All of that pretty “it wasn’t me, even if it was me” stuff sounds great, and your excuses are absolutely brilliantly well written (an impressive sales job if I ever saw one), but you’re a tornado in a whole lot of people’s lives. Your choosing the wrong page every time wasn’t a mistake, if it had been you’d have guessed right half the time. You didn’t. You guessed wrong, EVERY time. You did it, and you used people for the sport of it, for nothing more than a drink!

    You’ve got a rekoning coming my friend, and it isn’t pretty. You haven’t even felt pain yet. This is just the beginning. So put your kleenex away and save the tears for later. You’ll need them.

    Now, on to more pressing things… Have you made your decision to be DONE yet? This is mission number one – and where all of those fancy-pants treatment vacations fall short.

    If you want to get better, if you really want to fix what you’ve done, you actually have to have your come to Jesus moment and it should, if you’re doing it right, scare the hell out of you.

    It did me.

    I’m not impressed by your emotional fragility like others have expressed. I know who you are. I AM you – and I would say ANYTHING to be forgiven so everything would be okay, so I would get the reverse country song before I’d earned it… So the consequences wouldn’t be as bad as what I deserved.

    You’ve got a long way to go, so let’s get to it.

    Are you done yet, or is it all just pretty talk?


    1. The one little gem I’m pulling from this is the “you’re a tornado in a whole lot of people’s lives”. I’m just here and getting into the program – just scratching the surface a lot of trauma’s are coming up that I haven’t even / ever dealt with or acknowledged…so I’m damn well going to cry right now because it needs out. I’m not naive enough to think it’s not going to get much, much, MUCH worse (better?). The thick of it all starts tomorrow now that I’m out of detox “officially.” Not writing this to impress you – or anyone – with my ’emotional fragility.” This is my outlet to get my thoughts out whether they align with yours or others. I don’t even know what the hell I’m sitting down to write, when I do. If it comes across as fragile, then that’s exactly how I’m feeling at the time. If it comes out as “damn that was a great day” – then that’s what happened. This, though: “I know who you are. I AM you – and I would say ANYTHING to be forgiven so everything would be okay, so I would get the reverse country song before I’d earned it… So the consequences wouldn’t be as bad as what I deserved.” – this is spot on. I’m writing all of this here for myself. It’s my journal, of how I’m feeling. I didn’t expect an audience or any cheering squad – I just don’t like handwriting because it’s slow and my brain moves quicker than my hand, so typing seems to be my favourite outlet.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t agree with a few of the comments here at all, but that’s just me. You know who I am. I am NOT you. I am (metaphorically speaking) the one you hurt, the one you lied to (thought those lies at the time were probably not lies to you), the one who held you when you cried. But I had to take it a step further because I held you while you died. (Terrible unintentional rhyme). I don’t need god to know I love you. I don’t know the terrible things you’ve done in actuality, but I know anyway. I do know. And I am still here, just as I was for Adam. I can’t make you stop drinking, I can’t get you to the point where you will stop. But I will keep reading, even when you fail. Anyone else can call me naive. I don’t care. Because the worst thing that can happen to me has already happened.

    I am just catching up your week’s blog as I crashed hard this week after family and friends left. I’m back with you, supporting you on this path.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Laura 🙂 I’m with you on some of the comments as well. Oh, the interwebs. I’m so happy you had time with your family to celebrate Adam, and I’m so sorry that life took a turn where that needed to happen 😦 Right now I’m in the easy/hard part – moved from detox to my own room, and the not drinking is killing me – but the availability isn’t here, so there’s no choice but to NOT drink. The hardcore therapy starts tomorrow with 3 counsellors (did some scaping the surface stuff Thursday/Friday) but it’s already brought up a lot of ugly things I kept pushed down. It is getting a little frustrating around here (online) with a lot of the Jesus saves and God redeems stuff – I will be honest. I was raised Catholic but am not even close to practising (I attend churches for funerals, to photograph weddings – that is it). I believe in a higher power of course – but it’s more “the universe” and energy than anything else. I understand some people believe, verbatim, what is written in whatever version of whatever scripture they read, and I try to be grateful for their comments. But I think of you, and Adam, of my Dad, and so many others and I can’t possibly believe that any good “God” would condemn not only those good people but the ones left behind, as well. I made 100% certain the clinic I chose was *not* religiously affiliated. It follows the 12 steps but is completely open to our interpretation of it. Unfortunately, some people here (online) think that Jesus is going to come and knock on my door one evening (I’ll likely be awake so no big deal) and it’ll all fall into place. I’m not there yet. I just realized I am venting to you, and I’m so sorry :/


  6. It’s amazing how articulate you are considering you are newly sober and in rehab. I’ve been in rehab and I spent years working in a rehab and I seldom met a newcomer able to communicate at this level. This leads me to believe that you are either a well established author (I hope so) or you’re not really newly sober and in rehab. Sorry for my skepticism but I have been in recovery for 32 years and something about this just doesn’t seem right. And by the way, personal journals are meant to be private, not public.


    1. I’m sorry for your skepticism, too. I’ll try and be less articulate and less coherent in the future, as well as toss in some grammatical errors for kicks. I’m well educated, have kept journals my entire life (both online and off) in addition to being a visual artist. I’ll try and explain to the family I left behind, 3 failing businesses I’m trying to keep afloat and the three counsellors here that my sincerity and dedication to keeping my head on straight so I can get through this doesn’t please or impress you. In addition, I’ve surprisingly found incredible support here from many people who have been helping me GET to this point, and through it – so the public part has been a benefit, not a downfall. Not all alcoholics need to be completely out of their mind and incoherent to have their lives fall apart around them because of the disease. Not every alcoholic looks like you did. I’m sorry for your lack of open mindedness that though all alcoholics are the same – they may not all look alike. Trust me – there’s many things I’d rather be writing than what I do here every day. This is not one of the proudest moments of my life being here, but I’m damn sure grateful I have the ability to express my emotions and have an outlet for them, whether you believe them or not is wholly irrelevant to me. I know what I’m going through, have a terrifying idea of what I’m about to go through, and that is more than enough for me to handle at the moment. How is this any different than sharing at an AA meeting? The fact that I’m not ‘anonymous’ about it? I’m proud of having the balls to put myself out there and admit I have a problem and talk about it. That’s a HUGE problem that is wrong with this world and so many effed up religions that are within it. The not talking about it CAUSES THE PROBLEM. The world needs more talking about our feelings, and less being told how we are supposed to be feeling about our feelings, how we are supposed to be acting on how we’re feeling and less bullshit overall pulled from a 2000 year old fiction novel.


      1. I’m so glad your an author and are really in rehab. I will attempt to have more constructive language from now on. Of course your angry reaction just pointed out the problema with public journals. I wish you no harm and must remind myself that you are a newcomer who deserves to be treated with kindness and compassion. And by the way, I didn’t attend church the first 14 years of my sobriety and appear to be much more open to ones spiritual journey than you are.


      2. By the way if you believe it’s a 2000 year old fiction novel why did you start following me? My title is 12-Step Lutheran.


      3. I’m not following your site, though I’m very open to everyone’s personal beliefs and spiritual journeys. I may have liked one of your posts, however, meaning something must have rang true for me. I’m just at a stumbling point where I’m having 300 different versions of it being thrown at me and I’m coming to terms with some of my own religious upbringing. Apologies that I’m a little (lot) irritable today.


  7. Hi, Shawn. I think our addictions hide our good hearts, but never change them. Remember all of the times the Tin Man cried before he officially got his heart from the Wizard? (in the poppy field when Dorothy falls asleep, on the way up the mountain to the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West) Yep, that’s right, he had his heart all along! And it was a good heart all along! (Just watch out for those Flying Monkeys!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much 🙂 And yep – those flying monkeys…they’ll cling onto your back, too!! I was just having a super emotional day yesterday and watching the movie plucked that one emotion out of me that I never really put my finger on before.

      Liked by 1 person

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