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Express Yourself

The Role of Creativity in Recovery

Some say recovery is an art form. I say creativity is one of the channels that can help you to achieve recovery.

Along my recovery journey, I remember acting in plays like The Glass Menagerie and Fiddler on the Roof. When I was sixteen years old I participated in The Glass Menagerie. I channeled my emotions into the role. My senior year I was in Fiddler on the Roof. After graduating from high school I met a spell of depression. During my freshman year of college I had a psychotic break with reality. I was expelled from the school for using drugs. I came back home and buried my head in the snow outside of our house. One of the events that helped me get back on my feet was being in the play Antigone at Triton. Antigone was a play that really help me. I would shout and shout. This was a channel that helped me to express myself.

Without self-expression, therapy cannot work. The person in therapy needs to be encouraged to fulfill their goals and their dreams. This ultimately can make a difference whether one is heading towards recovery or relapse.

Of course, for a long time I didn't talk with anyone about what I was experiencing. The depths swallowed me whole and I found myself isolated and estranged from the world. I felt like the world was a foreign place without creativity. But that couldn't go on for long. During the first hospitalization I ever had for Major Depression, I did the blocking and director's notes for the play Of Mice and Men. This play was performed by the Shortbridge Theater Troupe in the summer of 1998. Directing a play was a vehicle for me in which I could express my vision. Having a vision can be a very powerful aspect of one's recovery. I still felt very disconnected from myself and the world. Creativity put color in place where there was no color. Creativity can help with depression because it shines a light where there used to have been darkness.

The biggest tool in relapse prevention is self-expression. I could just distract myself from that next drink. I could just distract myself from what I'm seeing.

Self-expression is key. Whether, it's music or acting, self-expression will get you there.

We are simply people searching for a deeper sense of self. Searching for a little bit of joy and happiness. That is why song, poems and reading scripts are so important. Reading sacred texts is important for the individual to maintain spirituality and have some hope, just a wee bit of hope. Perhaps hope is like sugar in tea topping it off and giving us that edge. It is the ability to recover.
Wellness comes into play. People begin to explore science, inventions. Life becomes a journey, not a wall or a blockade. Because when we build walls between each other, we fail. When we build bridges, we succeed. And there is a simple joy in that success. Shine your light.

Recovery is not only possible. It is inevitable. It's going to happen for us all.

Written by Jeff Shapiro, CRSS
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Wednesday, 06 July 2022