Creativity in Recovery

September is National Recovery Month; a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental and/or substance use disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life. Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those in recovery, just as we celebrate health improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease. The observance reinforces the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can recover. The 2020 Recovery Month observance will work to inspire people across the country to recognize the strength and resilience of individuals living in recovery as well as to support those with substance use disorders or co-occurring disorders to consider seeking treatment.” 

-NAADAC (The Association for Addiction Professionals) 


We often hear that alcohol makes for a better story; it is easier to write and paint while under the influence. After all, there are many famous creative minds, including writers, painters, singers, and actors known to have a severe substance use disorder. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol and other substances of abuse do not get the creative juices flowing. Instead, they hinder the thinking process, sever relationships, and ruin professional contracts that can result in financial hardship, depression, and an insurmountable amount of stress. Addiction stifles creativity, but creativity can play an important role in recovering from a substance use disorder. Creative approaches such as art therapy, music therapy, and psychodrama allow people to express complicated thoughts, memories, and feelings without being constrained by words. Creativity can allow individuals to express themselves, get in touch with their internal feelings, and process thoughts and emotions they were previously unable to express.  


Healing from trauma 

Trauma is often closely associated with substance use disorders and recovery. Learning to be creative, whether through writing, painting, drawing, or playing an instrument, can help overcome past traumatic events that have led to the shame, guilt, remorse, and stigma associated with addiction. Creative outlets can help process these hidden feelings in order to prevent a relapse.  


Regulating emotions 

Engaging in a creative activity can be a healthy outlet to regulate emotions, especially when we cannot express these emotions through words or actions. Listening to music can allow us to “unleash our emotions,” whether they bring us joy or sorrow; it is best to experience and acknowledge our present emotions instead of keeping them buried. The goal is to allow our creative processes to reduce negative emotions and bring out positive emotions or express both kinds of emotions in a healthy manner instead of letting them bubble over in unexpected environments and circumstances.  


Coping with loss 

Whether we are dealing with the loss of our addiction, our friends associated with the addiction, or an overdose-related death, creativity can help us cope with these losses in healthy manners. We may miss our drug of choice. We may miss our friends who are associated with drug use, and we may miss old memories related to our past addictions. These are considered losses, and although they may be healthy losses, they can sometimes be hard to overcome. Staying creative can help our minds focus on a task, learn a new skill, and dive deep into our inner emotions, keeping us focused and motivated on the present and future instead of obsessive over our past losses. Writing down your losses, expressing your feelings through words, and journaling about your experience are creative ways to express traumatic disclosure that can be cathartic.  


Discovering new passions and talents 

By tapping into your creative side, you may discover that you are good at painting, writing, making music, or another creative gift that you may have never known about. Although being creative does not mean you have to be skillful, you never know what could come out of expressing your creative mind. Maybe you write a book, become an expert in photography or produce a song or movie.  


Connecting with others 

Book clubs, poetry slams, writing workshops, karaoke nights, and social media are all ways to connect with creative minds and simultaneously share your creative outlets and passion. A significant part of recovery is connecting with like-minded people who support you and share the same interests as you. Keeping an innovative mindset can help you not only work through your feelings but also make new friends during your recovery journey. Having a healthy support system in recovery is a crucial part of success.  


Casa Palmera can help 

At Casa Palmera, our goal is whole-person healing; we treat the whole person and not just the disorder. Our dedicated treatment team goes underneath the surface of a presenting problem to determine the underlying triggers and address the root so that it doesn’t manifest itself in other ways. Our goal is not to treat the wound with a Band-Aid but instead develop a permanent solution to problems that are preventing you from living your happiest and healthiest life. Our clinical staff works with you to develop an individualized treatment plan that includes therapy approaches for your specific needs and tools that will improve your life on a holistic level. Learn more about Casa Palmera here and see how Casa Palmera’s programs can help you transform your mind, body, and soul.