I have used art and text extensively in my recovery, and have learnt a lot about myself and the world around me through it. After doing a fine art degree I discovered that the two areas of art that really interested me were “Art as Therapy” (as opposed to art therapy), and community art. I now have many years experience of community art having been instrumental in the setting up of a community arts organisation in Leamington Spa, then moving on to other community art organisations with various geographical shifts. I now take workshops in various artistic themes, but my primary goal is to help other recovering addicts (or non-recovering addicts) to get a sense of themselves, and eventually a sense of their recovery, through art and words (and Pirates!) I have recently set up an art group for recovering addicts in my home town in the Midlands. The group focuses on providing a space, ideas, skills and resources for participants to explore their creativity and hopefully start to experience the “loosing yourself in it” that I believe has helped me substitute drugs for art.
I’m Richard – my areas of interest are art, drugs, addiction, recovery, healing, disability, mental health and social justice. I’ve had numerous problems with substance abuse and have ‘self-medicated’ to save myself from the horrible fate of disintegration of the ego that bipolar disorder can produce. In Buddhism a great lesson is to be learnt in dissolving the ego, but there is a difference between spiritual enlightenment and psychosis!
It’s easy to relapse when conditions are stacked against you. For example: When a person’s mind is so broken with grief, poverty, humiliation, misfortune and an abuse of their human rights, a relapse could happen if theses problems are not addressed. Once you can take the steps to regain your self-belief through the free act of expression with art – those pressures become easier to bear. Sometimes art can express the very core of your being – beyond which language and verbal communication can reach.
I’ve worked on many community art and group art projects. The principal that the whole is more than the sum of it’s parts, is very true with art and poetry/writing groups. Groups can be safe and supportive and ideas can be freely exchanged. Also, there shouldn’t really be any trying to ‘force’ it.. it will come of itself naturally… we all have a wonderful reserve of creative energy and the more we draw from it – the more it is replenished.