“Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world (our own), we see it multiplied.” — Marcel Proust
I’ve been looking at the therapeutic nature of art to one’s recovery lately. In our active addiction, we tended to have a single, narrow view of ourselves and the world we live in. We thought that everyone was obsessed by using, fantasies and erotic images; we saw others perhaps as mere doubles of ourselves.
One of the great joys I find in reading is the ability to enter other people’s lives. We often come to know fictional characters even better than our friends because a novelist can give us the illusion of being all-powerful and all-knowing. So we get a special “inside view,” and many people in books become familiar and very dear to us.
Reading can take us out of ourselves and expand our views of other people. We learn that, indeed, “it takes all sorts to make up a community in this world of ours,” and our lives become less isolated through contact with others. The power of art is to deepen and enrich this perception of ourselves in relationship to the world. Through reading, watching plays and films, or exploring a painter’s world, we begin
The Mask of Mental Illness – By Christopher Dale Eshenbaugh
I can see that my new life will be full of the unknown, but that is what can make it exciting and creative.
Many great artists were neglected or even abused during their lifetime because their work was considered too provocative. Painters like Van Gogh, poets like Blake or Poe, and novelists like James Joyce were pushed out to the margins of society because their vision was too disturbing.
Most of us like a comfortable life, and those of us who are addicted to one high or another may not want to be troubled by new ways of seeing and imagining the world. Yet, the day comes when our addiction no longer satisfies us and we begin to long for a new vision and version of our lives. Art can help us in our recovery.
Art allows us to change our way of looking and living, even if at first the change is disturbing. Like artists, we can create new images and new patterns for our lives. At first, it may be painful. Old, comfortable habits die hard! But, as we move forward, taking our little baby steps, by baby steps, we come to see that it’s exciting to be on the move and even at the frontier of new, creative endeavors. Creativity, after all, comes from loving ourselves and others.
“It is a true proverb, that if you live with a lame man, you will learn to halt.” — Plutarch
Working through the memories of childhood is a task each of us eventually faces. Addiction in a family system contributes to addiction along the way and affects our own individual addiction(s) and creates drama in life as adults.
I have realized that we can decide whether it’s important for us to know if and how addiction has operated in our families. We can gain that knowledge as we need it. But isn’t it enough simply knowing the addiction is real, that it’s present in family systems, and that we didn’t cause it? Knowing we didn’t cause it helps to stop blaming one’s self.
The important thing I have found is to focus on my own recovery. I cannot change a thing about my family or the past. But, I have found I can change my attitude toward them. When ever we feel caught up in the addiction or drama in a family members’s behavior, we can bring our attention back to ourselves. That way, resentment and fruitless anger yield to honesty and humility. Detaching from the things we cannot change, forgiving the harm done to us, and letting go of the past are important parts of our healing.
As an addict and when I have been actively using, I grasp only at the shadow of things. I neither relate to people as if they are real, nor do I communicate as a mature, loving person. Instead, I have pursued phantoms and a few dragons, and in the end, have found only dissatisfaction.
Addictions diminish and demean us as much as they allow us to see things only as extensions of ourselves. We become afraid of individuality and differences. We allow ourselves to see other people only as reflections of ourselves.
Through my efforts to grow personally and in my recovery, I have come to need substance in my life. It is when I am working at real problems, connecting with people as they are that I truly feel alive. In my relationships, if I am to see growth, I need to give and receive genuine and authentic love and affection.
In my healthy relationships with family and friends, and in my recovery groups and network, I find substance and particularity. I find authentic people who are learning not to be afraid to extend themselves and who come to meet and greet me in life. Together, we can all learn to live and to love as vital, whole individuals in a real world.
I am learning to get out of the shadows and darkness of my addictions and wanted to share my experience with my readers so that we can all live in a world of substance, reality and love.
“Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.” — Aesop
“The great law of culture; let each become what he is capable of becoming.” – Thomas Carlyle
Each of us is unique, precious and human. We need to join in the movements of life and culture that encourage us all to grow and change and live out the fullest of our potential.
By remaining immersed in addiction, we are simply joining the ranks of the dead in life, those who deny the possibility of growth and becoming. Addiction is a stunting illness that holds back the healthy forward movement of life.
In recovery, there will be moments of hesitation and even relapse. Relapse is part of recovery. When this happens, do not lose faith in yourself because we are constantly strengthened through our personal growth and recovery work. Insight will be gained and the support we need will be found in our groups and through our connection to our Higher Power. And so we continue to reconnect with our own rhythm and pattern of growth. Try making this affirmation to yourself: “I am part of a living culture and I am capable of change and growth.”