Reason To Write: To Save My Life

Amy Gesenhues

For the latest entry in our Reason To Write series, I present Amy Gesenhues, a marketing director, wildly prolific blogger, columnist… and the newest addition to my LoveMom family! That’s right. Starting… now-ish… Amy will be reporting to me! Muah-ha-ha! I’m excited about this because I love Amy’s voice, and I feel as if she has so many fantastic stories to tell. That and she obviously gets the LoveMom ethos.

The following is not at all mom-related. Rather, it speaks to the reason that Amy writes in the first place: to save her life. I feel grateful that Amy was willing to share her incredibly personal story here. Without further ado…

From the day I could spell my last name (which was quite an accomplishment for a kindergartener—Gesenhues is a doozy), I was a writer.

I wrote poems about Holly Hobbie and pretended that I was Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I wrote diary entries about my heartbreak over Jeff Libs not loving me like I loved him. (Is there anything more crushing than unreturned grade school love? Oh right, high school breakups.)

I wrote short stories in college about bulimic 20-year-olds who suffered through tragedies of suicidal boyfriends and drug-addicted fathers.

And then, I got paid to write.

I wrote ad copy (“Bank with the people you trust”) and sales e-mails and newsletters; and then it was 1998 and I wrote e-newsletters and web content and online press kits. Colleagues paid me to write resumes and cover letters.

My writing was a vital part of my career. It still is. As a marketing director, most of my work day involves putting together words to define, promote, and sell my company’s services. I’m hitting the high marks in the do-what-you-love career category. One of the reasons I write is to earn a living (dollar, dollar bills y’all).

But the sole reason I write is to save my life.

Three years ago—almost exactly to the day I am writing this post—I was overweight and depressed. I had been sober for six months at the time, but felt completely lost. I had thought that when I quit drinking, all of my problems would be resolved. But six months without one sip of alcohol, toke, or smoke and I was still a mess.

Why wasn’t my life in order? Why couldn’t I wake up before 7:56 a.m.? When was I going to feel that Zen-thing Martha Beck kept writing about in O magazine?

During those years when I had been drinking, a bevy of emotions had been pushed to the very bottom of my psyche. When the valve was finally released, the only direction they could go was up. And up they came. To say I was an emotional wreck is like claiming that Charlie Sheen only parties on the weekends.  Most days, you would have thought I was auditioning for Bette Davis’s role in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? It was ugly; something had to change.

So I did what any normal 12-year-old would do: I wrote in my diary. But instead of using a five-inch-by-eight-inch journal with lined pages and a hardback cover swathed in upholstery fabric, I started a blog. I committed to writing one post a day for 365 days straight, no matter what. No matter if a month into keeping my blog, I ended up with child (which I did). No matter if my husband decided to buy and then flip a house during the biggest mortgage industry crisis EVER (which he did). And no matter if we decided to renovate every single room of my childhood home—while living in it, and while I was pregnant—to sell the following spring (which we did).

According to my very first post, my goal was to, “…keep me accountable to myself.” During that year, my blog kept me more than accountable. It earned me a weekly columnist gig in my local newspaper that I still write today. I have used that column to write about my alcoholism and about being sexually abused as a young child (one of the things I had kept in the bottom file drawer of my drunken psyche).  I have written about my marriage and about being a mom.  Not so long ago, I wrote about losing nearly 40 lbs last summer, which earned me a regular column in a local fitness magazine.

My writing continues to beget more writing. It also saves my life every single day. I haven’t had a drink in over three years. My writing is the reason why.


  1. I’m a huge fan of Amy’s writing – and it’s so good to see her getting around. Thanks for the introduction to the Reason to Write series, Amy.

  2. My dear Amy,
    How can I tell someone I have never met how proud I am of her? I know all the problems you speak of too well. Not from my own experience but from the perspective of a practicing psychiatrist. What you have overcome is so significant, so remarkable that I’m not sure anyone who hasn’t been through it could fully understand the internal resources that are required.

    You have turned adversity into something amazing and in turn have chosen to share that with the world. You are truly an inspiration and I don’t throw that word around casually. Being accountable to yourself comes from such a position of self love that it’s no wonder it brought you a career. Soldier on and keep doing what you do everyday. You are the expert on you and every single experience of your life has had the purpose of bringing you to where you are right now.

    So I thank you for your courage, for recovering, for sharing your journey and for having the ovaries to look to look despair in the eye and say ‘not today sucker’. I wish you every happiness.


  3. Go Amy. You are on a roll, girl.

  4. Good for you! It’s amazing how writing opportunities can snowball once you take the first step.

  5. It’s wonderful how writing goes both ways. It helps the writer and the reader. Each time you share your stories, you’re shining the light a little more, making it easier for each of us to share.

  6. Congratulations, Amy. Well done. Well said. (as always)

  7. Hey Amy–I am so pleased to see your writing prolifically, gaining more columns (did not know about the fitness column!), and that more readers are finding you. Here’s what I reposted to FB:
    Another great column by my friend Amy–her first on Freelancedom–congrats Amy (too bad she’s not on FB anymore–she is more focused now and does not even have a smart phone!) A lesson there??


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