Artists in Recovery from Addiction:
How Creativity Can put a Spin on Getting Clean and Sober
by Charlie Baulm, guest blogger
When we think of artists in recovery from addiction, we often think of the ones who have been painfully obvious in their downfalls. The Philip Seymour Hoffman types are an all-too-blaring representation of addiction unchecked, and many of us just assume that almost every artist in Hollywood and beyond is struggling with some kind of substance abuse issue.
The thing is, lots of really amazing artists who used to believe that their creativity stemmed from their use of substances choose to get clean and sober, and they find that they not only succeed with the help of being creative, but they are often even better at their jobs than they were when they were actively using or drinking.
Pushing the Limits
Let’s look at Eminem and his journey. He’s proud of his recovery from an addiction to prescription drugs, and he should be. While his popularity began to soar, the pressure of becoming a world famous rapper, combined with the way that these drugs made him feel mellow and pain-free played a significant role in the development of his addiction.
When, in 2007, he overdosed on methadone, it shook him to the core. Marshall Mathers was really scared. Scared enough to get started on a recovery journey complete with steps, sponsors, and rehab. That was in 2009. For this star, addiction actually smothered his creative abilities, and it wasn’t until he was clean and sober that he began writing again, and he’s done it with a zeal that amazes many.
Demi Lovato is another star who has taken her recovery from an addiction to drugs and an eating disorder and turned it into fuel for a stunning comeback in her career. For her, looking back at who she used to be is a bit embarrassing, and more than enough to keep her living clean and sober.
She admits that she was difficult to work with, and even while having a sober companion, she continued to use for quite some time. At 18, she entered rehab, but that didn’t end her battle. A fear of losing people she loves drove her to finally surrender to treatment and recovery, and it’s kept her going since.
Demi also admits that food is still a huge struggle for her. It’s something that she still struggles with, and something that she may always struggle with. She admits that even at 8 years old, she was using food as medicine, and the battle with emotional eating – and purging – has been going strong ever since. Even today, she talks about how much her relationship with food affects her everyday life.
True recovery is helping Lovato to learn more about herself than she imagined, and it’s giving her power to be more than just a victim of her addiction. It’s helping her to be a voice for recovery, and it shows in her music.
Even famed horror writer Stephen King has had his struggles with addiction, and it wasn’t just to one substance. In fact, some report that thanks to his combination of alcohol and other substances, he was able to write some of the most nightmarish novels ever experienced.
His addiction story lasted decades, and has said was the product of a terribly painful and poor childhood in which he suffered anxiety and nightmares that helped fuel some of the most frightful characters to his stories.
However terrifying his nightmares, his life became just as scary when he found that if he didn’t overcome his addiction, he would lose his family. When he finally did finally start overcoming his addiction, he found that he struggled with terrible writer’s block, which was even more crippling.
Time and the patience of his wife helped King to get back to storytelling of a different, gentler type of tale. While he no longer uses drugs or alcohol to fuel these stories, he still uses the art of storytelling to deal with his many fears.
We All Know Addiction Knows No Boundaries
As a society, it seems that we almost expect that almost everyone in the spotlight will use some kind of substance to help ease the stresses of maintaining a perfect outward face. It seems like it’s never much of a surprise when another star admits that they are struggling with an addiction to something, but still, the scandals that erupt as a result of these confessions can be career-ending. On the other hand, they can be what helps artists to become a better version of themselves, as we’ve seen so many times.
For some reason, so many of us believe that the “average person’s addiction,” is somehow different than the addictions of the rich and famous. We mourn the losses of great stars like Prince, Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston, and Michael Jackson. We pity those who we live close to that lose their lives to addiction and shake our heads.
However, we all know that addiction knows no boundaries, and neither does recovery. People who aren’t so famous find that being creative in treatment and recovery can be a tremendous way to overcome their addictions. In fact, the many types of arts are becoming a common treatment for people working on living clean and sober because, very simply, they work.
Art Therapy Has Been Proven to Help Recovery
When it comes to art as a form of addiction treatment, it has been shown to have many benefits. It helps when coping with feelings of shame and fear. It allows those in recovery to get in touch with their emotions, and eventually encourages the ability to talk about what they’ve been going through. It’s a form of communication that requires no words but speaks volumes. These benefits are perhaps why, once in recovery, artists who had been struggling with an inability to create due to addictions seem to flourish in ways they haven’t been able to in ages.
No matter whether the recovery transformation takes place in one of the best drug rehabs in the US, or it is something quieter, and less structured, the healing power of creativity and art in one of its many forms cannot be denied or ignored.
Charlie Baulm is a writer and researcher in the fields of addiction and mental health. After battling with addiction himself and finding sobriety, Charlie aims to discuss these issues with the goal of reducing the stigma associated with both. When not working you might find Charlie at your local basketball court.