The Art of Peaceful Living: Interview with Karen Casey, author of 4-million copy selling Each Day a New Beginning

Karen Casey is the renowned author of Each Day a New Beginning, a groundbreaking work in the genre of addiction recovery literature, and dozens of other meditative self-help books, including 52 Ways to Live the Course in Miracles: Cultivate a Simpler, Slower, More Love-Filled Life, Let Go Now: Embrace Detachment as a Path to Freedom, and A Woman’s Spirit: More Meditations for Women. Her own addiction recovery journey began in 1974 at her first Al-Alon meeting, and since then, she’s dedicated herself to strengthening twelve-step recovery programs by encouraging spiritual growth and empowerment in her readers. Currently, she enjoys participating in conferences, lectures, and workshops as a guest speaker.

1. I’d like to start by discussing your influences. What inspires you, as a reader and as a writer?

I’d have to say I’m primarily inspired by the conversations, the stories I hear from others. No conversation is without intention, thus meaning for both people. And of course my contact with God also never fails to inspire me. I have never felt that the words I write were mine alone but a collaborative effort with God. I think inspiration is an inside job and is available to all of us if we quietly await the nudge of the constant presence of God who is as close as our breath.

2. You mention on your website that you first became familiar with the demands of the writing process during your doctoral program. Can you share a little bit more about your academic background and its influence on your writing career?

My PhD is in American Studies and I graduated in 1979 from the University of MN. I really had never planned to go to graduate school. It simply became an option when my first marriage ended. I was surprised, indeed, to discover that the classes came easy to me, particularly writing the papers. In fact, my love of writing was born in graduate school. With ease I wrote every paper assigned and I was mystified by that ease. It seemed I was listening to a voice who was ever present to my process. I never felt the need to rewrite even a line. This remained the case even when I penned my 300 page dissertation. (For papers, my dissertation and my first 5 books I wrote them in long hand and hired a typist.) I didn’t actually realize while in graduate school that writing was to be my career. All I really knew was that writing gave me great pleasure and I when I sat down to write I always felt buoyed up.

3. Having just celebrated your 48th Sobriety Anniversary, how would you describe the relationship between your recovery journey and your writing career? How has writing as an activity and profession influenced your recovery journey?

My recovery was very much immersed with writing. I struggled to feel the presence of God and hungered for what my friends in AA seemed to have. I felt no connection to God except when I sat in a meeting. After 18 months of sobriety and a near suicide attempt, I began to journal and felt like God was very present and speaking to me. Those journal entries became my first book: Each Day a New Beginning. I didn’t set out to write a book at all. I was simply searching for God. In hindsight, I think God had planned all along for me to be a writer and that was why writing in graduate school came so easily to me. I was being “groomed” for what was to come. My recovery, all 48 years of it, has been under the constant tutelage of God. I do not doubt that my journey as a recovering woman and a writer of recovery books has been honed by the God of my understanding. I have done with my life exactly as it was written “in the stars.”

I think writing is a great tool for everyone, but particularly for women and men in recovery. It allows us to release what we are holding on to and it offers us greater clarity to what might be twirling around in our minds.

5. Are there other tools or tips that you’d recommend to people struggling with or still in the early stages of their recovery journey?

Early recovery is harder for some than others but the obvious tip I’d offer to anyone new in recovery is to get a sponsor and then arrange to talk to him or her on a frequent basis, even daily initially. Getting comfortable with all of the steps, what they actually mean and how they can help us to heal is a must. A good sponsor will be necessary to this process. And I’d suggest multiple meetings a week. Even after 48 years, I still attend 4 AA meetings a week. I also go to 2 Al-Anon meetings every week. Personally, I think codependence is a culprit in the lives of most alcoholics. I think, in my case, it preceded my alcoholism.

6. In a similar vein, do you have any advice for new writers? Perhaps advice that you wish you’d been given as a new writer?

Writing is such an individual thing that I’m not sure I can offer any advice other than to trust the inner voice and sit with pen in hand or at the computer for a spell every day. When I am working on a book, which is quite often, I make it a practice to write every single day. And it’s not the amount that counts but the commitment. When I was writing my doctoral dissertation, I sat from 8 AM until noon, Monday through Friday, until it was finished. Some days I wrote furiously and some days only a couple pages. It was the commitment that was important and that remains true for me. I actually don’t wish I had been given any advice. My way from the beginning has worked extremely well: just listen and write, every day.

7. Have you had an interaction with a reader of your books that really moved you?

My interactions with readers have been so touching and run into the thousands. The publisher used to forward handwritten letters to me years ago. And then with the advent of the internet and my decision to include my email someplace in each book, I have received emails galore, some long and rambling and others quite short. But always folks are thanking me for addressing some concern they had in their lives. I have heard from folks all over the world too and young girls also. One really endearing handwritten letter I received many years ago was in response to the book: Girl to Girl. The young girl who wrote was having a very hard time in her family with her mother. She needed to vent and I was the willing “listener.” Of course I answered her note and she wrote a couple more times. I guess the passage of time allowed her to accept that somethings might not change. Any way, I was so touched by her reaching out and trusting me. In fact, every message I get, by post or email, is answered by me. I figure if someone takes the time to write, they deserve to hear from me.

8. Finally, what were you most excited to share with new and old readers alike in the 40th Anniversary Edition of Each Day a New Beginning? And its recent companion work, Each Day a New Beginning Workbook: Daily Meditations for Women Faced with Adversity?

What I wanted to share then and always want to share is that there are no accidents. Whatever we are doing with our lives, we have been called for that very assignment. No two of us have been called in exactly the same way but we are on assignment. I have no doubt that God “assigned me” to write Each Day a New Beginning and the multiple books I have written since then. I have no doubt that He wanted me to share that there are no accidental experiences or visitors as we navigate life. And I am sure the companion workbook was an intentional assignment too. I have learned in my long journey in AA and Al-Anon, (48years now) that my companion, just like the “companion” who accompanies each one of us, is “on duty” to help us handle everything that we confront. There is nothing we ever need to worry over. Our lessons are specific to who we are becoming and that has always been the truth of our lives. Whatever questions we are encouraged to explore in life, through the workbook or with sponsors, is owing to where we are right now and where we might be headed. Nothing in life is superfluous. That may not always be a comfortable thought, but the sooner we grow into acceptance of it, the easier will be our journey.

A few rapid-fire questions:

1. Your most recent read? (title or genre)

The most recent book I have read: I read Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano. Loved it and the way she told the story from the perspective of her characters. The second book I am reading is for a Social Justice book club: Poverty, By America. The author is Matthew Desmond, a Princeton professor. The subject matter is disheartening. Our society simply doesn’t want to make the changes needed to benefit the truly poor in our nation. We seem to want the rich to stay that way and the poor to remain poor. Shameful indeed.

2. Favorite place to read?

I really don’t have a favorite place to read. Sometimes I read at my desk or in my easy chair in my study. Other times, I read on my front porch area. One place I never read is in bed. Whenever I know I’m going to be waiting for an appointment, I will usually have a book along to read. Because I have developed rather severe glaucoma, I am not able to read for long stretches like in the past. Life changes and adjusting to those changes is part of the aging process and I am, indeed, aging.

3. Favorite place to write?

My writing is always done at my computer which is always in my study.

4. Favorite post-writing session activity?

Because I write daily and fit it in among all the other commitments I have, I don’t really have a post writing activity. I love the act of writing so after I call it a day, I simply move on to another “assignment” that is calling to me.

Visit our digital bookstore to purchase the 40th anniversary special edition of Each Day a New Beginning, with a new foreword by NYT bestselling author Marianne Williamson!

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