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Do You Have to Choose Between Recovery and Creativity? Surprising Answers from Substance Abuse Counselors

It's a myth that counselors in substance abuse centers hear all the time the suffering artist who can only create with the help of his favorite drug. Creative people are often those most driven by ghosts and demons the same ghosts and demons that often drive addicts to the bottle, the needle or their drug of choice. Artists, writers and musicians face particular challenges in recovery, but the one they fear most is the worry that their creativity is intrinsically tied to their substance abuse.

To make matters even worse, many of those artists in recovery find that their creative energies seem to dry up when they first stop using, lending even more credence to that fear. But, say experienced substance abuse counselors, turning away from drugs, alcohol and other addictions can free artists to express themselves in ways that aren't incumbent on harming themselves. They admit, however, that artists in recovery may need to adopt some new habits and helps to get them through the rocky early recovery days without losing touch with their more creative side.

Put Recovery First

The very art of creation is stressful and involving in fact, some might say that creating is, in itself, an addictive process. Ask any painter who stayed up all night to finish a painting, or the writer who is driven to get the words just right before she can move on to something else. Focusing on recovery sometimes means making choices that put you at odds with your creative process. Maintaining your supports is vital to your recovery, and if that means putting the guitar down to attend a meeting, so be it. The guitar will be waiting for you when you get home.

Be Mindful When Choosing Creative Projects

Stress is toxic to your recovery but it can be inherent in your creative process. Take the time to chart out that process so that you can understand where your creative triggers become substance abuse triggers. Do you pick up a drink when you're facing tight deadlines? Do you need to be anesthetized to delve into the painful past when writing poetry? Avoid the most stressful projects early on in your recovery, and work with counselors in a local detox treatment and therapy practice to create new ways of dealing with pain and triggering events.

Wind Down Mindfully from 'Creativity Binges'

For many artists, drugs, sex and alcohol are a way of taking the 'edge' of their creative high and coming back down to earth. This can be especially troubling for performance artists, who may be surrounded by temptations at a time when they're most vulnerable and in need of the 'coming down' that addictive substances and behaviors offer. Seek out sober treatment and therapy centers that work with creative people, where counselors can help you create post-creation rituals and practices to help you re-center yourself without resorting to harmful behaviors.

Creativity and recovery are not an either-or proposition. For artists, it's important to make wise choices when looking at substance abuse centers and counseling. Look into local substance abuse treatment programs with experience in helping artists and creative people get sober and detox, and supporting them throughout all the stages of recovery.

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