Creativity: One Response to Addiction and Recovery

Creative older man / Centre for Ageing Better

An on-going issue for all of us who are aware of our addictions is simply how to continue to live in recovery. This really is a life-long challenge, isn’t it? It is for me, as addictive triggers can burst upon my life at any moment. In this article, I am sharing the importance of expressing ourselves creatively as one way to maintain our sobriety – whatever be our addictions.

I would like to make a couple of points that set the background for this article. First, I believe slips are part of recovery — not one of us is perfect! I find the adage of “Progress, not Perfection” reassuring and brings me peace when I am struggling. Secondly, I am aware of the power of our fears and feelings of shame that can trigger our addictive behaviors. I believe we are living in times that can be frightening — weather, diseases, increased violence, aging, to name a few current situations. Also, there is a vulnerability we experience that can lead to shame when we make mistakes or don’t seem to measure up to what society and others expect of us. Our fears and our feelings of shame can trigger addictive behaviors.

It is against this backdrop that I want to suggest that I see exercising our creativity and expressing ourselves creatively as one way to respond and work with our fears and shame. I realize this might sound strange to some of us who struggle with expressing ourselves creatively. Often thinking about expressing ourselves creatively brings us face-to-face with the great artists we have heard about — like poets, painters, novelists, scientists, speakers, etc. My response to this is that by looking up to others who really seem creative is seeing creativity as much more generic. I believe that each of us is called to create and be creative — yes, all of us!

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I see creativity as our ability to be curious about what is taking place and using our imaginations to express ourselves in often new and different ways. One example that speaks to me comes from the 12 Steps – Step 2. This Step states that we became aware of a Power greater than ourselves that could restore us to sanity. I see this Step as inviting us to consider that we are not alone in seeking to become saner and healthier. I see this as a kind of creative leap that helps us to look at our situations differently, leading to different ways of acting differently and creatively.

Clearly, how we express our creativity varies from person to person. I would like to give some examples of people expressing their creativity that helps you to stay grounded in the face of addictive triggers. I will begin with myself. One of the ways I express my creativity is writing an article like this one for The Phoenix Spirit as well as in books I have written on gratitude, resilience and affirmation. A good friend of mine in recovery expresses his creativity in singing. He is a different person when he is singing and in touch with his creativity. I know others who express their creativity by gardening, in sewing or in cooking. And others who express their creativity in parenting their children or grandchildren. I know an art teacher who expresses herself creatively in calling forth the creative expressions of her students. For others, it is getting out into nature and experiencing awe that can lead to creativity in other ways. I see these creative expressions as a way to come back to ourselves when we are feeling triggered by experiences that scare and shame us.

In conclusion, I would remind you that you are a creative person and that expressing your creativity is one way to continue to live in sobriety — not perfectly necessarily, but always making progress. I would suggest talking to folks who walk with you in your life about ways that they see you expressing your creativity — you might be surprised what they share with you that can enlarge the ways that you can express your creativity and hopefully strengthen both your creativity and sobriety.

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Mark Scannell is a veteran 12-Stepper, whose books include a book on the importance of Villages in our lives – The Village It Takes – The Power to Affirm. He enjoys dialoguing about ideas & can be reached at

Last Updated on June 8, 2024

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