July 29, 2015 marked an important day in Jon Lupin’s personal life, and career as a writer.
To begin with, it was the day he poured all of his wine down the drain, and vowed to never drink alcohol again.
It also marked the beginning of his campaign to use social media to help others, rather than just himself.
“Instagram was a place where I met people like me, where we had been told we had a problem with drinking, but we hadn’t really gone that extra distance or done another step to deal with it definitively,” said Lupin, who grew up in Langley and now calls Aldergrove home.
“From October, 2014 to July 29, 2015, I was sharing on Instagram and building a following and it was more out of selfishness — I just wanted to get it out there and get it off my chest.
“But after I got sober, I realized there are a lot of people out there who need help, and I needed to have a message and I needed to define what it was that I was doing there, or else what was the point?”
Lupin — a pen name he chose that means ‘wolf’ — came up with the ‘Poetry Bandit’ identity, and created a small online network with mental health professionals, where he can refer people who reach out to him through his Instagram account.
The ability to help others through poetry is “very gratifying,” Lupin said.
“Sometimes I want to cry about it, because I feel very blessed,” he said.
“My higher power has been with me my whole life, and growing up a Christian didn’t seem to help the fact that I was still sunk into addiction. I truly believe it is a disease. I didn’t choose to become an alcoholic, but I did choose to get sober, and that’s a powerful thing. When people make those choices because of watching what I’ve been through, it’s humbling.”
HEALING THROUGH WRITING
The idea to write and share poetry online came from his wife, Rose (@roseclu), who was suffering from depression and other mental health issues after experiencing two miscarriages. Around the same time, their son, one of three young children, was diagnosed with autism.
As their family went through these difficulties, Lupin, who was also working a stressful job in the insurance industry, found himself turning to the bottle more and more.
“I didn’t start my career as a social drinker thinking it would spin out of control,” he said.
“I started to drink more at home by myself, I started to drink more with people I didn’t know. I disappeared into Vancouver a few times, and my wife put her foot down and said, ‘You need to deal with this and control it.’”
Rose’s sister then gave her a copy of the poetry book, Chasers of the Light by Tyler Knott Gregson, and it inspired her to buy a typewriter and begin writing her feelings out.
“She was putting her feelings down on paper, and I believe someone said to her, you should share this with other people,” Lupin said.
“There were a number of people sharing typewriter poetry on Instagram, so that’s what she started to do. And I saw how much it was doing for her — positive things it was doing for her — so I slowly followed suit.”
Why do you write or read poetry? I’m always interested to know why people follow me and what they get from reading! #thepoetrybandit #poetryofig #healingquotes . . . App used @mytypewriterapp . . . . #bornagain #mondayquotes #nothingisordinary_ #favouritepicture #bymepoetry #untwineme #untwineusa #omypoetry #artlixirpoetry #madewords #grandviewcornerssouthsurrey #langleyfresh #parkroyalindigo #booknbean
After experiencing success with his work online, Lupin has now published his poems in book form.
My Sober Little Moon, a collection of 130 poems, is available in most book stores and online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Originally self-published in November, 2016, Lupin has re-branded, expanded and relaunched it as a way to commemorate three years of sobriety.
“That’s what this summer is all about, it’s to celebrate that I’m feeling really good and that I’m doing well again,” he said.
“I’m still sober, and I have a good mental basis from which to operate. My family is doing really well, we have a handle pretty much on almost everything that goes on in our lives now.”
His favourite piece is the title poem, My Sober Little Moon, as it marks the first time he turned to writing, instead of alcohol, when he felt the urge to drink.
“I was by myself, I could have gone out and I could have relapsed. And instead of that, it was the first time I sat down at the typewriter and typed out exactly what I was thinking,” he said.
The illustrations, by Kathleen Rule, reflect his recovery journey through the image of a bear. This bear, sitting on a moon, grows and becomes healed as the moon changes phases.
Since re-releasing the book, Lupin has also been approached by Arlene Dickinson from Dragons’ Den, and by MacMillan Publishers. He is now working on the international release of a second book, You Only Love Me When I’m Suffering, this September.
LOWER MAINLAND TOUR
Lupin is currently doing a book tour to stores throughout the Lower Mainland.
On June 23 from 1 to 3 p.m. he will be at Chapters in Park Royal in West Vancouver; on June 30 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. he will be at Coles in Willowbook Shopping Centre in Langley; and on July 7 from 1 to 3 p.m. he will be at Chapters in Port Coquitlam.