By Stephanie Bridges
How can poetry go deeper in addiction recovery? We explore why poetry is so important, what kinds of therapy poetry can provide, and we compel you to start thinking about using this art form in your own recovery process. Then, we invite your questions about poetry, tips for early recovery (or recovery in general), or addiction recovery and spiritual awakening in the comments section at the end.
What is poetry? (HINT: Poetry is uninhibited )
Poetry can be written, spoken, even incorporated into fine art. It can be organic, revised, metered, rhythmic or rhyming. It is storytelling and song; smiling, laughing, anguish, death and resurrection. I do not know why I am an addict, but I do know at times the world lays heavy on my being; it is confining and dictatorial.
I used drugs and alcohol to gain a sense of freedom, take flight, get high, no higher. Art frees me with no adverse side effects. The creation and appreciation of art gets me high. Robert Gerard Hunt speaks to this beautifully in Wherefore Endorphine?
“Endorphins are naturally occurring substances that are released by the brain. They are known to deaden sensations of pain and are thought to produce feelings of well-being. Some people think endorphins foster creativity, but I suspect it also works in the opposite direction. I know that I need to be in a good frame of mind in order to write well, yet I also know that I always feel better after I write well than I did before I started. So, Stories. Commentary. Endorphins. The stories and commentary are for you, and the endorphins are for me.”
Poetry allows you to find your voice
In the article, “Writing as Catharsis”, the author cites,
“Benefits of Writing in Addiction Recovery – Most people have no problem accepting the claim that talking about problems can be a great help. This is reflected in the much loved quote, a problem shared is a problem halved. What is less widely appreciated is the idea that writing about things can also be highly therapeutic.”
Trauma and mental health issues can render a person voiceless, literally and figuratively. Addicts sometimes abuse chemical substances in order to find a voice even if it is not their own. Communication connects us, humanizes us; so loud and belligerent often feels less painful than thoughtful and deliberate; sexually explicit seems more forgiving than openly sentimental. Writing can assist you in finding your own voice and be very edifying. You do not have to share your work in order to begin appreciating your unique view on life. Writing poetry will help you to build strength and confidence in your natural sober self.
Poetry is therapeutic, like other forms of art
“The pain, struggle and trauma associated with drug addiction can be difficult to put into words. Art therapy is the practice of engaging a client through the use of creative media, including collage, painting, drawing, pastels, sculpture and other forms of expression as a part of a treatment program.”
If you have ever been to rehab, you probably painted a ceramic puppy or two. Even though poetry relies on the use of language, it too is art and can be as direct or as abstract as you are lead. Similar to realism vs. abstract painting, poetry is subjective to the creator and interpreted by the audience. I have heard it said there is an artist in each of us. The artist in you may be dormant, hiding in fear or offended by the lack of outside appreciation, but none the less present. A simple pen and paper can awaken the sleeping giant. Poetry may lead to music, fine art or a collection of haiku, regardless of the end, the means will be revealing, comforting, and restorative.
Poetry can help others in recovery, too
Jennifer Bowden explains in the article “Creative Writing as Addiction Therapy”,
“Poetry is another area in which creative writing is used to help fight addiction. Poetry therapy is an established treatment for a range of issues, including substance addiction. Poetry therapy sessions will vary but they commonly contain a range of activities, including the reading and responding to a chosen poem.”
The Spoken Word that is in this article was written with the intent of going out “To All My Addicts” who begrudgingly or wholeheartedly embrace recovery. I have written a number of poems specifically for my peers in one area or another. For instance “Cell Mate” is for anyone that has been inducted into the incarceration club and “To All My Writers” is written in poetic prose for us self proclaimed scribes who go through the inevitable writer’s block which is sometimes self-inflicted because we too at times want to give up.
To All My Writers
The pen has power! More or less than the written word. Slaves were forbidden to read and write, because the pen has POWER! So pull out your pen and your pad electronic or literal and let’s scroll. Be careful because the pen has no alliances – no not even to the writer. Although she may be given the first- second thought, the pen presses on, laughing at the slain in its path. Writing isn’t easy. There is the necessary motivation allied with inspiration that muscles its way through procrastination smack into self-condemnation. Friendly fire doesn’t make your friends less dead. So make your apologies for what you are about to say and say it, write it, bleed it into the street. Writing is a balancing act between saving those we love and freeing those we will never know. It is a stranger that betrays those closest and cleanses those afar. Your pen is your frenemy. Remove it from the jar and press, paint, dance. You will be spent, replenished, emptied and fulfilled. If it is done well, someone you admire will think you dense, and someone you never cared for will applaud your brilliance. It is your calling, cross, craft. A child was flogged, so I could read and write. Baby your blood is my ink.
How poetry has helped me in my recovery
There is work that I wrote for me, specifically to work through some area of my life where pain persists or the catalyst for celebration is worthy of recognition, and then I share it in the hopes that someone else can relate, know they are not alone. And some poems I only share with my Higher Power, and if I could, I would hide it from Him.
Poetry can help your addiction recovery because a big part of the process is helping others, being your brother’s keeper. Writing can tap the subconscious and the unwitting recipient of our efforts is often the artist inside, the hushed voice, the being longing for freedom. Recovery is a process that takes steps, breakthroughs, setbacks and creative expression. When you have written that first poem, or the 10th or the 100th and the endorphins start to rush, clear your voice and affirm your sobriety, write it down and make it plain.