Interview with Dan Maurer
Daniel D. Maurer is an award-winning freelance writer, journalist, editor, and public speaker. He has authored two books. His first, Sobriety: A Graphic Novel is a new resource from Hazelden Publishing for youth and young adults. His second is the story of a victim of Human Trafficking. Its title is Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking.
His third book to be released in the fall of 2016 is a large project with Augsburg Fortress Publishers, the details of which are forthcoming. Daniel is currently in the process of writing a fourth book dealing with the psychological concept of resilience and how spirituality and narrative facilitate change.
Daniel has also written to create children’s curriculum for Sparkhouse and Amicus Publishing. He keeps the blog Transformation is Real, sharing stories of personal transformation. He enjoys gardening, writing, reading, walking his dog, serving as slave to his cats, and playing with his boys. Daniel lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota with his wife, Carol, and his family.
For more information about Daniel or his work, see Transformation is Real.
Interview with Dan Maurer
Liv: I adore the following quote on your website:
'Writing is the only art where the canvas stands ready for the brush and paint - in the mind of your reader.'
How is writing an art for you?
Dan: Thanks for noticing that quote. Amazingly, it’s one of the few I had come up with all by myself! (Most other quotable sayings I have borrowed.) I believe that writing is very much an art, but it’s different than many other, more obvious forms of art like painting a picture or crafting a pottery bowl. Writing has certain rules—the constraints of language—that you have to follow.
I suppose other art forms have their own rules, too, but it seems like writing is one of the few that uses written language directly in order to communicate what the writer wants to with her or his reader. To communicate emotion, a piece has to be written well too! Above and beyond that, it means that I need to grab your attention long enough to have that effect! So, writing—as an art form—is a very difficult task. I wouldn’t trade it for anything though. I love it!
Liv: How did Transformation Is Real come about?
Dan: Transformation is Real used to be called Dan the Story Man (the one carryover I still have on my Twitter account). I wasn’t happy with that brand, because well . . . it’s totally cheesy and stupid!! Like many bloggers, I didn’t start out knowing what I was doing. But that’s okay. It’s fits and starts for lots of us. Actually, Liv, I think you’re doing fabulous with your branding and you blog, so kudos to you!
But to get at your question: I’ve experienced a radical transformation in my own life when I got sober. I have to continue to continually BE in transformation in my recovery life too. It got me to thinking about how important it is for people to think about change—and not only for people in recovery either. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t continue to change, that would mean that (spiritually speaking, I suppose) I’m dead!
I don’t want to be dead. I want to be alive. And creatures with life . . . change!
Liv: On your site you talk about change, and your dislike of it, liking instead the reassuring nature of your habitual patterns and your 'comfortable chair'. You lead on to say that sometimes we need to change; what led you to change?
Dan: Well, let’s deal with the first part of your question to begin with, since the answer naturally flows from the previous question. I believe that many people don’t like to change, because it’s very comfortable to sit where we are and just coast along. People are generally lazy. I know that I can be. That means that I need to push myself to improve, to change. However, I don’t want to convey that somehow you have to be changing everything in your life, constantly, in order to be spiritually alive. The main point is that often, the places of comfort are precisely the places where we can endeavor to grow more.
Here’s a great launching point into the second part of this question—how did I change? Well . . . I got arrested for felony trespass while I was in a complete blackout from dropping nearly 2mg of Xanax with about twelve shots of vodka! My change was instigated by an intervention from the law. I credit part of my Higher Power today as the Williams County Sheriff’s Department in western North Dakota, where I was living at the time. So you see, sometimes great changes don’t happen until we’re forced to make them happen.
Still, I don’t regret anything from my past. I will not shut the door on it, but I don’t stand at the door and stare into the horrible situation from which I came. I don’t dwell on it. After all, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without having made the mistakes that I did! That’s the gift of the program. I want to pass on this gift—not only for people in recovery, but for others too, because positive change is for everyone, not just for people with this illness of addiction like us.
Liv: You talk of change having one central question underpinning it: 'how do I live more authentically, find more meaning and become the person I know I was meant to be?' - how have you approached authenticity and the discovery of your identity?
Dan: Honesty is a big part of my recovery now. Let me tell you, it’s still a huge challenge. I still lie about stupid bullshit. Honestly, working on authenticity—not only with others, but with me first--is what I believe I want the site to be about. Some of the stories that people share with me have such honesty and vulnerability. Well, Liv, I simply humbled and honored. Please understand that I get something out of the deal, too. The more authentic I can be as a writer, the more my own writing will improve. That’s something I want to do, because I’ve had to work hard at this writing thing. It’s tough! (But I seem to be getting there.)
Liv: In your mission, you state that 'Sharing our stories makes us human. Sharing our transformational stories makes us redeemed children of the Infinite One.'; what do you mean by that?
Dan: Oh boy. You had to notice that one!
I’ll try to answer this as concisely as I can . . . my faith is very important to me. However, I’m not “in your face” with my beliefs with anyone (unless they ask). I believe that to share intimate details about how a particular transformation or change happened to you . . . well . . . it’s God-like. It’s the closest thing we can come to in sharing what the ministry of the Buddha, of Jesus, of any guru who touched the center of what it means to be human really is.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that human beings are story-creatures; we understand the world through stories. When we share how we changed (and one example would be the stories that many of us hear “in the rooms”) well . . . that’s something holy. It’s sacramental. And believe me, I know—I used to be a Lutheran minister for 11 years, after all! (Yup. That’s what I was. A pretty unhealthy one too, I’m quick to add. Life is much better now!)
Liv: Is there a theme to the stories you share?
Dan: Topics like: Change. Transformation. How that change happens. How pain is often a wonderful motivator for change. How empathy is even more so. Resiliency . . . this one’s been one I’ve grown especially attached to recently. In fact, resiliency (the ability to bounce back after trauma and thrive) is the topic of my fourth book coming out in November!
Liv: These stories are powerful and impactful; how do you feel when you read one? How does it change you?
Dan: Oh boy. That’s different for each one. I will say that I’m honored by every one of them. I suppose it also allows me to see a different aspect of change I hadn’t yet seen before.
Liv: Speaking of feelings, those of us in sobriety share often that we had an aversion to them in our addiction; how has your relationship with your feelings changed since you have been in recovery?
Dan: I’m a bit of an anomaly with that one, I think. I’ve always had a deeply emotional life and “been in touch with my feelings.” My issue is that I loved to control those feelings at specific times when, and on my own terms. So, if I’ve changed at all with my emotional life, it’s that I’ve learned to realize that any emotion—positive or negative—doesn’t last forever.
Liv: You describe yourself as in long-term sobriety, what does that look like?
Dan: Um. Not drinking or using drugs!! That’s first and foremost. But (for me) it also means that I work a program of Twelve Step recovery. It looks different for everyone though and I’m not sold on the idea that Twelve Step recovery is for everyone. It’s not. Hey, whatever gets you sober and keeps you thriving...I’m cool with that. I love the Twelve Steps though and I wouldn’t have them if I hadn’t so utterly f*cked up. However . . . I believe that is the Infinite One’s infinite sense of humor.
Liv: I love your blog post 'I Didn't Get Sober Just to Make My Life About Recovery', you explain that it's not just about living, eating, breathing and pooping recovery, every day, all day (!), and this is something I really identify with. What purpose does your recovery have?
Dan: Yeah. Pooping recovery is really not very appetizing, is it?!
My recovery is there to allow me to live a better life than I was living with lying, hiding, puking blood, stealing, drinking to blackout, etc. etc.
But “staying sober” is only one part of it. I got sober because I really want a good life! I want to be able to love my kids and stay with my wife and hold down a job! I want to make great recipes like you share on your website! I want to share . . . life!! That’s recovery for me—not going to ten meetings a week and becoming a counselor. (Not that some aren't called to that. It’s just not me.)
Liv: One of your books is a comic and on your site you state that comics get a bad rap, when really they are the 'most effective and entertaining teaching tool in the history of humankind.' Why?
I have to go into an answer that’s more complicated that I would like to for a Q&A here, so let me post
this link right here. This comic will tell you why!
Link for the book here
Liv: A story close to my heart, you feature your wife on TIR sharing her story. And what a great story! How has your journey impacted your family?
Dan: Yeah!! That story is great! I believe me getting arrested also—ironically—was the breaking point she needed to finally be healthy with herself too.
I guess the main takeaway I’d like to communicate is that: “Nobody’s story ever has to be ‘finished.’” We all can begin again . . . and change.
Liv: Last, this is something I ask of all Recovery Warriors - what are your top five recovery tools?
Dan: 1) Honesty; 2) My Men’s Group I attend on Thursday; 3) My sponsor; 4) My work; 5) God (which really should be #1, but I place it last so you’ll not think I’m a religious nutcase!).
Thank you so much for taking time out to share your purpose and your transformation.
Thank you! I love your site and I love what you’re doing!! In our family, we’re big foodies and strive to eat healthy and delish as much as we can. So, again, nicely done!! Peace!! - DDM