The period between Thanksgiving of 1974 and December 1975 was the toughest year in the life of Diana Fisher.
Now anticipating her 70th birthday, the Ahwatukee Foothills resident looks to share her message with her newly published book that has been 36 years in the making.
“Peace from Within,” a collection of short poems, describes Fisher’s release from a triad of death, divorce and alcoholism.
Fisher originally composed the book during the 1980s while living in Loveland, Colo., but she had refrained from publishing until recently.
“It was just this manuscript sitting there on my dusty closet shelf,” Fisher said. “I looked at it, and I started reading [it] and thought to myself, ‘Boy, there’s a lot here I’d like to pass on to other people.’ ”
Fisher grew up loving music, particularly the piano. She enrolled at the University of Colorado at Boulder and graduated with a degree in piano performance.
It was shortly after her graduation when the Colorado native got married.
“Sad but true, I got married a week later, and that’s when a lot of the unhappiness started,” Fisher said.
The newlyweds didn’t have much in common. She was a Christian who grew up spending her Sundays playing piano in church, and he was a nonbeliever who ran a nightclub in Hollywood. Nevertheless, she moved to L.A. with him.
Their first child, Scott, was born in 1972, but his arrival was met with an uncertain prognosis. There was a lump on his back, which doctors repeatedly tried to drain.
They decided to operate on the lump when Scott was older, and the time came when he was 22 months old.
“It was supposed to just be an easy, in-and-out procedure,” Fisher said. “The anesthesiologist overdosed him.”
Thanksgiving was spent coping with the loss of her firstborn.
“The autopsy showed that he never would have needed the surgery at all, that it was just a horrible tragedy.”
This came two days after Fisher learned she was pregnant again. Suffering with mixed emotions, she reached out for counseling.
“You’re feeling the anger. You’re just numb from the death,” Fisher said.
Just total bewilderment as to what could have happened, and now you’re supposed to be feeling happy for what’s about to take place.”
Fisher delivered Sean in June of the next year, and although he was a healthy child, the turbulent ride wasn’t over for the family.
This time, it was her husband, Fisher said: “At that point [Sean] was just a few weeks old when I realized that my husband was very distant, very removed.”
A confrontation led to the revelation that he was involved with another woman. Just a few weeks after the birth of Sean, his father walked out on him and his mother.
The next event was her father’s heart attack in Colorado. Fisher said this caused her to move back to her home state with Sean.
She said she “walked on eggshells” for all of Sean’s infancy, afraid that he wouldn’t make it past 22 months like Scott. It was difficult for her to move on from the death of her first child.
“The last image I have of Scott is he and I were in a department store in L.A. It was holiday time,” Fisher said. “I remember looking in one of the glass balls on the Christmas trees, and I remember seeing his and my image. When every holiday comes, that’s what I see.”
She felt that she was failing to be an adequate parent for Sean, and she thought alcohol might be the problem. She was drinking daily.
The problem ambushed her. Substance-abuse education of the day was nothing like it is now, according to Fisher.
“All the family would drink, and I just felt I was drinking normally like everyone else. But it was having a different effect on me and my psyche,” Fisher said. “It was dulling the pain, and I liked that. I didn’t have to deal with the deaths. I didn’t have to deal with Sean’s birth and the death together. I didn’t have to deal with the divorce.”
Deciding to make a frontal assault on her alcoholism, she placed herself in a treatment program for a month. This was her third dramatic event in a hospital in less than a year. A feeling of helplessness gripped her as she lay on the bed.
“I remember just laying there, sobbing and crying and saying ‘God, help me,’ ” Fisher said.
On the hospital bed, she felt something she had never felt before, described as an “electric current” passing through her body. She said it was God touching her: “And at first it startled me, and all of a sudden it became a warmth and a comforting feeling, where you just instinctively know this is God and you’re going to be all right. From that moment I knew I would never touch alcohol again.”
She mastered alcohol 36 years ago, crediting her new sense of peace.
“God really was able and is able to do things for me that I wasn’t able to do for myself,” she said. “He opens up the feeling that I’m now able to forgive the anesthesiologist. I’m able to forgive my ex-husband. I think forgiveness is a big, big part.”
In 1981, she and Sean moved to Tempe, where she started a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. She was no longer an alcoholic, but she offered her support and testimony. She says she “feels blessed” to be a survivor of alcoholism.
“You life is what it is, but you have a personal choice as to how you want to think about your life,” Fisher said. “You can think about it as a victim or you can think of it as a survivor and gradually pull yourself out of that pit.”
They moved back to Colorado, and she took a job with the city of Loveland Police Department in 1985.
Although she had peace, Fisher said her mind was “cluttered.” Her friend Wendy Michaux pushed her to write, offering her money to rent a typewriter.
“You just have racing thoughts about absolutely everything. Children, family, drugs, country, whatever,” she said. “I thought ‘I’m just going to sit and start writing down my feelings about things’. I did that, and it was a tremendous release.”
The manuscript took six months to finish. The 143-page work consists of a short poem per page. The poetry reflects on numerous topics, from nature to family.
Fisher said poetry came to her easily, partly due to its similarity to music and party due to God’s guidance.
Although releasing the book to the public was on her bucket list, publishing was too expensive a process for Fisher at the time. “Peace from Within” sat in her closet for approximately 25 years.
During that time, Fisher left Colorado for Arizona again and began work as a piano teacher. She currently teaches about 25 students and has now started pet sitting. It’s a lifestyle that she enjoys.
“I am so content,” she said. “They speak of a peace beyond all recognition in the Bible, and I have finally discovered that. I think that is what’s in this book, peace and love.”
This year, she worked with Dorrance Publishing to get her book in print. She is excited to do book signings and readings, viewing the book as an opportunity to “give the gift of peace.” At 69 going on 70, she’s excited for the next chapter in her life.
“I would like to at least leave my footprint somewhere,” she said. “If I can leave my footprint through this book by helping other people, if I can help even one person, I’ve made a difference.”
• James Anderson is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.