Art in Addiction Recovery

I still remember the picture I drew in rehab almost 28 years ago. We were asked to draw an image or picture of our Higher Power. I was jaded, cynical and certainly didn t want to draw something so silly. I was “spiritually bankrupt” as “they” say. Words to describe and identify the seeds of thought around this “Higher Power” issue were much too concrete. I might have to be responsible for those words. I wasn t ready for that. And I drew. This in itself was a big deal, as 6 years before I had thrown out all of my art and materials in a depressed intoxicated drama. And yet, what I now believe is what was below the tip of the iceberg had its way with me and I completed that drawing. Somehow I felt little girl pride and was soothed by this rendition of a non judgmental, beholding-me for exactly who I was, snickering, anthropomorphized being. The back of my “Higher Power s” head in the foreground… just sitting there, accepting me across the room. I still have that drawing.

Art can express what words cannot. Art gives us the opportunity to distance ourselves from what needs to be outed, examined and reconciled. There is reciprocity in communication with art that is clear and deep. We express in whatever medium we choose and the piece returns the favor; revealing unconscious and internal feelings, conflicts and memories. It is a dialogue.

Art making accesses the right hemisphere of the brain, which holds emotion and visual recognition. It is where memory prior to spoken language is housed. Hand eye coordination is found in the right hemisphere that enables this “creative” part of the brain. Art transcends spoken and written language. After years of using substances that diminished healthy ways of expressing, art can reveal what cannot be put into words.

This enhances recovery. “You can’t heal what’s not real.”

Other benefits of art making for addiction and trauma recovery:

  • Reduces anxiety, pain and stress
  • Increases feelings of esteem and connection to Self
  • Reduces withdrawal symptoms
  • Distances one from internal material to interpret and gain insight
  • Keeps the mind and hands busy with something other than substances

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