Life in Recovery

Why Embracing Creativity Can Transform Recovery

Think only certain people are creative? Curious about how creativity can play an important role in recovery? Check out this article and discover five tips to encourage and add to your journey.

Recovery Is Creative, and So Are You

Recovery is creative. In the journey of healing, we are making something new. Our patterns, behaviors, priorities, and processes for dealing with emotions and thoughts shift. Embracing creativity in recovery in many forms can help bring about and sustain the wellness we seek. Likewise, the new foundations we build in recovery can support healthier relationships, new adventures, career dreams, artistic expression, or other discoveries of the beauty in ourselves and the world around us. 

Each of the processes named above requires creativity; it is in our very nature. Can’t paint or sing? That’s alright, you’re still creative. Take a moment to list five ways you create daily — whether it’s via an art form or through your daily words or actions. 

Got your list? Good. Want to discover more about your creativity and its benefits? Keep reading.

Why Does Creativity in Recovery Matter? 

Research indicates that having new, replacement activities can be important for shifting away from old habits or behaviors. What we say “yes” to is as important as what we say “no” to, whatever the behavior or substance. Creative activities — experiences, hobbies, artistic endeavors, even our thoughts and words — can release positive endorphins and make us come alive and discover or rediscover sources of joy and purpose. They can become part of our “yes” for the new life we build in recovery.  

Creativity offers opportunities to rediscover our value. Many of us struggle with believing in our potential or worth, especially if we have dealt with a substance use disorder. Our creativity does not define or determine our value, but it can reveal it. When we make, form, build, or otherwise impact something, or someone, we are reminded of the beauty in ourselves and the positive role we can serve, no matter how imperfect our past. Hope for our present and future rises even in the midst of the challenges recovery can hold. 

Growing in Creativity

Now that we’ve laid the foundation of understanding our creativity, let’s talk about how to discover and grow. Like recovery, creativity can feel particularly vulnerable because we are sharing a part of ourselves with the world with no guarantee of the response. Whether we are at the beginning of our creative journey or further along, we all can grow in how it brings life and fulfillment. The next section offers  five keys on how to practice and grow in creativity, while recognizing the emotionally complicated process it can be. 

5 Keys for Creative Growth

  1. Find what makes your heart come alive.  Creativity is about joy, fun, and discovery. It’s not a box to check. Keep trying expressions until you find one you. Not sure where to start? Think about what you liked to do as a child, or what you’ve found yourself enjoying regardless of whether others validate you. Remember, your expressions could be unexpected or not traditionally defined as “creative:” autowork, arranging flowers, writing code, hosting dinner parties, or creating organizational plans or systems.
  2. Take a childlike approach. Let go of pressures and expectations of specific outcomes; remember that trying is succeeding. Allow yourself to feel the process, and not have to understand or control it. If it doesn’t go as hoped for, celebrate the effort and try again. 
  3. Thoughtfully build community. People can be a helpful part of our creative process, but we should never feel forced to involve them until we’re ready. What role might others play in your creative journey? Attend a workshop, meet up with a friend, or encourage someone else who is exploring or sharing their creativity. 
  4. Remember the audience of one. If it brings joy and life to you, it’s enough. Later on, there may be time for feedback and growth in the process, but focus on finding your unique voice — what is authentic and meaningful to you? Negative thoughts or self-talk may arise, but we can choose new ideas in their place. The more we do, the easier it is to create. 
  5. Recognize opportunities in every part of life. Don’t have time or resources to pursue your true hobby? We get it. Look for how you can create in every area of life, whether through your words, attitude, or actions. You may even find a new passion or expression that brings unexpected life. Keep looking for small opportunities to move toward your dreams. If you can’t spend all day writing your novel, start with 15 minutes. 

Continue the Journey 

Where we start is not where we end, as long as we keep trying. Creativity works this way. Let your creative expressions and gifts evolve and grow as you discover your unique place in the world. You may feel greater confidence in one particular area or form of creativity than another. If so, let the momentum of that area provide encouragement for new discoveries. If not, start with what you find inspiring and available to you presently. Build a habit of recognizing and making time for this aspect of life, and remember: it’s about the journey, not the destination. 



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