Sobriety Tools: Painting Edition
Claire Elise Ackad | Jul 14, 2016
Topic category: Spirituality

It’s a common fear, ok it’s a huge fear held most artists, that once you get sober, your art changes. Some believe they won’t be able to produce like they once did… Some believe their art won’t be as ‘inspired.’ And worst of all, some believe it simply won't be possible to be that creative as a sober man or woman.

But if I am brutally honest with myself, and I try to be sometimes, my art creation decreased as my drinking increased: an inverse relationship showing one of the many losses that can come as a result of alcoholism. In this case, it was a great loss of a tool for spiritual release. The bulk of my “artistic portfolio” during my heavy using years consisted of incoherent and rambling rants about the challenges of life. Not that inspiring or thought provoking, huh?

I had excelled at college-level ceramics, and with much urging from my instructor I pursued a minor in Studio Art. Yes, the aim was to work as an artist one day. Ah, dreams…

However, the pull of socializing and binge drinking was stronger than my desire to work towards any concrete goals. That seems to happen a lot with alcoholics.

Art has always had incredible meaning to me. I can remember as a young girl, I buzzed around my free-flowing mother in her art studio. I would dig my small hands in clay or paint on large canvases. My mom’s name was Lauren, and she would sing out loud and shimmy her hips as she worked, blowing kisses to her tall cactus named Jose. I thought she was the most beautiful, magical person in the world and she walked around that around that art studio and she owned it.

My mom encouraged me to express myself creatively, so I always had that as an outlet. For that, I am forever grateful. But in the haze of drinking, and then even early sobriety, I forgot this. It was covered up. The truth is drinking and drugs don’t you make you a better artist. They take art away from you and leave you empty and alone. This is the hard lesson so many artists in recovery learn. That mythical belief of yesteryear should end, addicted artists don’t get better, they usually die. In truth, I didn’t want to join the legendary group of artists and musicians who passed away at age 27.

In a great turn of luck, or maybe a God shot, my husband bought me an easel and brushes for my 27th birthday to trigger my memory of being an artist. Not only had alcohol destroyed my artistry but many years prior Cancer had taken my mother away. With my mother went much of my soul. The loss of art started to make me lose my soul further, and at the time, worse, the great memories.

This past year has presented some new challenges for me. My 5th year of sobriety was spent abroad, mostly in isolation and emotional turmoil. I considered taking painting classes in Spain, but feared that I wouldn’t be able to comprehend that level of Spanish. The weight of depression and lack of my usual active sobriety had taken its toll… and that was happy, joyous and free. The thing I had found in sobriety and wanted back more than anything.

Once settled back into my home in Los Angeles, something just snapped in me one day and said, “PAINT, NOW!” Maybe it was a sober instinct, maybe it was the encouragement of my husband or maybe it was my mom reminding me to how to find myself again. Whatever it was, with all the haste that I had similarly mustered when trying to score drugs, I assembled an area to paint and started putting brush to canvas. Towards the end, I even used my fingers and got messy with it. The cool paint against my skin and the freedom to make mistakes felt really good. It didn’t take long to come back.

The point of the story is, while painting on a Saturday night may have sounded lame to me when I was an active alcoholic, that has changed now. I can say without hesitation; I now enjoy my own company. Success! Grooving to music, and basically being a total goofball is what helps sprinkle my sobriety with fun. Amazing! Life is too short to take myself seriously. Most of the time…

Though my mother passed away in 1995, I cannot think of a better way to connect with both her and my own buoyant childhood spirit than spending an evening painting. To bring back my purest self. Creating. Loving. Living. It’s the best.

Welcome back ☺

Tags: Focus Direction Recovery, Recovery Happens, Recovery Lifestyle, Addiction Recovery, health and wellness, mental health, art and healing,
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