I first learned about the connection between art and recovery during my own journey to sobriety, while witnessing others on the same path. After years of living life covered up in alcohol, my core and belief systems were shattered—I no longer cared, I no longer felt alive and something had to change in order to survive.
Art can open a portal for healing & discovery
While art cannot bring someone into recovery, it can certainly fuel the furnace. Living a new life without alcohol for 11 years now, I have witnessed a progression in myself, from an art enthusiast, or wannabe, to embracing the courage last fall to enter a show with a talented plein air group.
Last year at the annual conference for Women for Sobriety, a popular new workshop was the group painting event. We had two instructors, canvas and paint were provided, and we painted a simple flower. Each painting was beautiful and unique.
This workshop paved the way to learn how to experience fun without substances while being an outlet for creative expression and connection.
I truly believe something magical happens when we take pen, color, or form and release it outwards. From this simple, yet poetic synthesis, the human response can take any avenue. Emotion is felt and the viewer can be captivated, drawn into the mind and or spirit of the artist.
When individuals turn to substance instead of sustenance, creativity can be halted and severed from that cultivation. It doesn’t matter what the substance might be; alcohol, drugs, legal or not, there is a separation from life, and if one cannot connect, one cannot create. This leads to an emotionally painful journey which can easily spiral into despair.
When the life-saving decision is made to embrace life again, art and art therapy can move the viewer as well as uplift and connect a budding artist.
Among other things, I’ve found that:
Art encourages self-expression
Self-expression is often repressed during active addiction. So on our online forum, we have a separate category just for creativity. Finding healthy new ways to express emotions and feelings is an important part of recovery.
Art therapy is an outlet for what cannot be spoken. Children, can for instance draw more about what they feel since they do not have the words to describe what they are feeling. The same is true for people in recovery. . . art becomes an important outlet for expression.
Art becomes a tool for coping with grief
Gaze into the piece “Inconsolable Grief” by Ivan Kramskoi and the rawness is palpable. A connection is there; someone else understands the depth of your grief.
Art helps us challenge the status quo
While art techniques have rules, creation does not. Andy Warhol, Picasso and Seurat challenged the norms.
Art allows us time to play
We often live within rigid rules and routines. And yet many of us can remember what it felt like to open that box of crayons or how finger paint felt as kids.
Art increases our well-being in other areas
People who create can become more skilled in other aspects of life from relationships to managing stress.
Reconnecting to life through art fuels insight, confidence and facilitates healing. When one is creating, the mind cannot focus on pain or darkness, but instead the focus has the opportunity to shift to the absolute present.
Imagine a woman sitting at the pottery wheel, her mind consumed by the feel of the cold, clay while the thick water runs over her cupped hands. Gently, she glides and forms the wet earth into a vessel, leaving her imprint as she molds the lip.
On the outside, it can appear as though the woman is simply learning a new skill. On the inside, though, her mind is free from dwelling on negativity and is focused on connecting to the now, to the turning wheel, unleashing unending beauty from within.
Special thanks to Karen Hamm, Chair, Board of Director and Certified Moderator for the national recovery organization, Women for Sobriety, Inc for sharing this post. To learn about addiction recovery for women, please visit womenforsobriety.org
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