As we grow in recovery, we discover what makes us who we are. We learn more about what makes us tick, what keeps us calm and what allows us to heal. Personally, I’ve always known what makes me tick: fear. It may come out as anger (as it almost always does), but when I can put a pen to paper and inventory any situation, it always come back to fear. What keeps me calm? Faith. The basic knowledge of a higher power working in my life counteracts any sense of calamity, as long as I am willing to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand Him (Step Three). So then, what allows me to heal? That’s where it gets a bit more complex.
In the beginning, the only thing that helped me heal was meetings, sponsorship and fellowship. Those things still allow me to heal, but as I’ve burrowed myself deeper into twelve step recovery I pursue my life beneath the surface. You see, meetings GOT me sober, sponsorship TAUGHT me sobriety and the fellowship KEPT me sober. And really, none of that would have happened without God. But I digress. As I scratched the surface of my past, the reality of my future became clear. If I had lost my right to a chemical state of mind, what was I going to do?
After trying several things, this list has become quite simple: Run, Exercise, Write, Read, Art. Of course, these are activities that I typically do alone. As an introvert, I regroup by being alone. If there are endless days spent with people or too many conversations floating about, I really, really suck at life. Focus is disrupted and wretchedness will begin to encroach upon my foundation of happiness. As recovery month has officially begun, we focus on art!
I am by no means a great artist. I’d be lucky to be categorized as mediocre. That being said, it doesn’t matter. Art allows me to escape reality, without having to throw a bunch of chemicals into my body. For years I painted, most often while drunk. While great visions overwhelm my heart, getting those concepts and perceptions onto canvas was impossible. As a perfectionist, if the image on canvas was not precisely what I imagined, the art was ruined and I was a failure. While the feelings of failure led me back to disruptive patterns, I changed my medium.
Last year the discovery was that of plaster. Small tools allowed me to carve into plaster, giving me more control than a flimsy paint brush. Although there was definite pull in that direction, no project ever got completed. Patience does not run through my veins. The process of plaster, while providing focus and tranquility, proved too much for this restless soul. The desire to create still brings peace, so where was I to find it?
This year, just months ago, I finally opened myself up to the possibility of clay. As a young girl, I dreamed of making pottery. I hated art in school, but painting clay figures… I could do that. The finished product was nearly immediate. THAT, I could deal with. So, I bought a box of clay and I started playing. First, a bowl was made. It sucked. Second, another bowl was made. This one… this one was pretty. It has a smooth perimeter with clusters of rolling clefts and juts. It hasn’t been painted just yet, but it will be and that one, that one I will keep.
Most art, at least for me, is a beautiful mess. I refuse to keep most of it, either throwing it away, tossing it into a dark corner of a closet or giving it away. The piece that was created for the recovery art show started out as a gift and slowly turned into something I am nearly ashamed to show. I will show it anyway, because it is not about me. It’s about the process. As I formed clay and molded it into what was supposed to be a tree, satisfaction filled my heart. Simple: throw it in the kiln, paint it brown. The tree, representing life, would hold a second piece of clay that is formed into the sunlight of the spirit. Simple: make a ball, paint said ball the color of the sun.
Not simple. The tree was somehow transformed. Not the clay itself, but the vision. It no longer resembles a tree as I was not feeling the color brown on painting day. Today, it rests with blues and grays, representing darkness. And where can we go after lurking in the darkness of addiction? We crawl, reach out, and hang on to the sunlight of the spirit. That simple “ball” representing the sun, fades from reds to oranges to yellows. It holds depth. The beauty is that although it’s no longer the vision I imagined in the beginning, it resembles my life as a recovering addict.
Never did I image that I would be proud to say, “I’m a recovering heroin addict”. Life changes. If we are willing to go with the flow, and just hang on, it gets better than we could have ever imagined. It is not perfect, but it is a gift not everyone receives. Today, I am grateful. Gratitude for the gift of recovery and gratitude that I can see the flaws in my art, my life and my sobriety, knowing at the end of the day, I am not made of flaws. I am made of blessings.
Join us kick off recovery month at the Recovery Art Show. This Friday, September 4th at Exposure Gallery and Studios, 401 N. Philips Ave in beautiful downtown Sioux Falls, SD. 5-9pm.