Each Tuesday and Thursday I go to Victory Bay Recovery Center in Laurel Springs, NJ where I have the honor of teaching art class to recovering addicts. I describe my days there as “my favorite time of the week”. It’s a time where I get to look hope in the eye, witness adults taking responsibility for their actions, and actively working on their substance abuse issues.
I witness so much more than that though.
One day, a middle-aged woman (much like myself) walked in completely down and out and quiet. She seemed beyond sad, almost despondent, and was deep in the middle of a phone conversation that was not going well. She sat there the first day and did not say a word, barely looked up at me and my sample painting. I could tell she wanted to leave the class and go cry.
By the end of the paint class, she nodded and said, “thank you”, but did not look much better at all. But, what she held in her hand that day was the beginning of something big.
The weeks passed and each class I taught, she showed up, happier and more talkative and more confident. She never once appeared that sad again. After a few months she said to me, “I want to thank you for showing me something I never knew I was good at, art has become something I look forward to each week and I love it.”
She has a slight shake to her hand, steady lines are difficult for her, she found a way around that though. Her style is so unique and different. Each layer of paint that she adds, becomes richer and deeper, more like herself, her own style. Many times, she leaves the class with a better painting than mine and a tremendous smile.
Art class awakened something in her. She became an artist in her own right sitting there with me a few hours a week. It strengthens her, gave her something to be proud of that she made with her own two hands, and gave her a tried and true coping mechanism for the stresses of life.
Addiction recovery seems to be so much more than one experience or thought process, it seems to be an accumulation of change. If art can be one small change, one additional coping mechanism, one piece of the puzzle that adds self-esteem and helps with lasting drug and alcohol recovery, then art I shall teach.
Pictured is a painting from the artist mentioned in this blog post.