Art in Recovery

Why We Support Art in Addiction Recovery

Carrie shares her personal story about growing up with an alcoholic mother:

“I never thought of my mother as an artist. In fact, it was the family on my father’s side that always comprised the creative individuals of my name’s sake. Until I visited my mom while she was doing a 30-day rehab stint some years ago and she shared her paintings with me. Then I realized there was a whole different side of her that I never knew. But the discovery went much deeper than that.”

“Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos.” – Stephen Sondheim, American composer

Tweet This

If you are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction or are living with someone who does, life has undoubtedly become unmanageable. Chaos can dictate daily decisions and define the new norm. Life, and its unpredictability, even for those without substance abuse issues, can bring about self-defeating thoughts and harmful actions.

Art and Mental Health

In today’s society, there is a heightened risk of mental health decay due to the onslaught of negative social impressions. For those who want to remove drug and alcohol dependency from their lives will find that, even after treatment, maintaining mental health and avoiding the triggers that disrupt it is an ongoing task.

Never has it been more important to quiet the mind and reconnect personal spirit to every soul. This too, is a necessary component to achieving humanity’s balance, individually and collectively.

For those working on sobriety, art, in all its forms, proves to be the sanctity needed in an unscrupulous and impersonal world. A way to reconnect with old passions or even discover new talents they didn’t even know they had.

Addiction Can Happen to Anyone

Many people who have been caught up in drug or alcohol abuse have self-medicated to forget their pain, or, at the very least, numb its impact. Others’ addiction may have been circumstantial. For example, athletes after injury or anyone who had undergone surgery were prescribed opioids to relieve pain. We now know that opioid addiction can occur in as little as five days of use. No matter how a person develops a substance use disorder, there are similar results embedded in the process affecting each victim of the disease.


Emotional Response and Rescue

Over time and ongoing toxicity from drug and alcohol intake, emotional balance declines. During active addiction, as well as during the withdrawal process, the body and the brain are desperately trying to reset to homeostasis. But without a proper drug detox and ongoing treatment, it’s a losing battle.

People under the influence on a consistent basis will enact inappropriate responses to their environment and social situations. Mood swings, erratic behaviors, and impulsivity are common. Anxiety, depression, and reactive moments are routine and can escalate into post-traumatic-stress disorder.

All of the above are repercussions from the misappropriation of the human “fight or flight” response that drug and alcohol addiction hijacks. As such, an individual can easily overreact to an everyday situation, compounding their problem and making it near impossible for social interaction and the ability to forge healthy relationships. Exercising creative expression through art in recovery is a non-invasive way to put emotions back into place.

Art in Recovery - Painting

Self-Expression in Art Eases the Effects of Trauma

If you were to take a cross-section of people in addiction treatment and pinpoint the exact root cause for their affliction, the majority could site prior trauma as the instigator for use.


Through recovery, clients learn how to access their emotions and get more comfortable with them. From there, understanding the why about emotional responses helps to better moderate and manage them when they arise. It’s often a painful and challenging process that fuels negativity and the resurgence of agonizing memories.

Even with effective traditional therapies, addiction recovery will often leave people with mental health conditions that hamper the ability to relax and focus.

By introducing art in recovery, each person can take a mental break from the racing and irrational thoughts that present each day and put emotions in neutral. Through a paint brush, ink pen, charcoal pencil or the gentle maneuvering of clay, art becomes the expression of emotions that words cannot explain. In essence, art in process does the talking without speaking a word.

The Inner Voice Needs a Healthy Outlet

People, at our core, are made of energy. Some of us naturally have more energy than others. Endurance athletes are a prime example; stage performers carry similar characteristics. After addiction has taken hold of a person, the connection between owning personal emotions and then communicating them to others is lost. Without a way to deal with emotions, mental health is always in flux and at the mercy of what a person can control or not.

Considering that life is full of the unexpected, having an outlet for emotional expression and an overabundance of energy is vital to overall wellness and avoiding potential triggers for drug relapse.

Art in recovery provides the resource in revealing one’s inner voice, and so much more.

Discovering Hidden Talents Can Heal

“Her paintings were simple but complex.” Carrie continues, “Looking back on my mother’s art in her own recovery, I believe it was truly representative of who she was as a person and why she was misunderstood. Her relationship with my father was based on her enabling his behaviors, much to the detriment of her self-esteem, personal worth, and the blossoming of any aspirations she may have held.

She was the support network for everyone else. Creativity was left to my father and his work. Mom was never given the opportunity to be heard through artistic self-expression. Until time in addiction rehab for a co-occurring disorder opened the door for her. Seeing her visual impressions on canvass in watercolors that blended haphazardly from left to right, it was bittersweet. I was happy to see her, the artist I never knew existed, yet sad that so much time had lapsed in her life before it came to fruition.”

Art Therapy Encourages Sharing and Expression

Art therapy for addiction treatment is done in a group setting where clients can learn to focus on their work while in the presence of others.

Music therapy provides people, even former musicians, time to rekindle their passion for play that took a back seat to drug abuse or alcohol addiction. Art therapy is more than an emotional outlet; it’s a manifestation of a person’s inner being. There’s beauty in that, and often inspires a person to delve further into their artistry, while helping others step outside of the fear of judgment to begin exploring art therapy for themselves.


Why Addiction Treatment Includes Art

There is science behind the inclusion of art during drug rehab and alcohol addiction treatment. An article in Psychology Today points to the following benefits of art therapy that align with human needs during the recovery process:

  • Self-expression and learning how to just let life flow
  • No judgment or shame
  • Reconnecting with self, regulating emotions
  • Providing purpose while coping with loss
  • Helps with socialization and promotes playfulness
  • Empowers other abilities
  • Allows personal healing and shared healing

ECHO Recovery Supports Artists in Recovery

There’s a saying that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. If art is an extension of the artist, then art is beauty in its honesty.

ECHO Recovery advocates for those who need help in treatment and beyond. That’s why we have decided to hold our first, annual ECHO Recovery Art Show and Open Mic Night this November at the Bel Air Armory.

Art Show

Open to the public, the ECHO Art Show will have a diverse display of artwork to view and purchase.

Open mic – If you would like to highlight your talent musically come take the stage for a small timeframe singing, instrumental, poetry… there will be a sign up on Event day.

Are you an artist? Sign up to display your work and sell your work. We will have 30 spaces available for artists $35 Fee for about 10×10 space, tables for displays available upon request.

The Public Entrance Fee is a $5 Donation, children under 10 years old are free. Proceeds will be going to ECHO Recovery for 1st week sober living scholarships. There will also be snacks, drinks available for sale.

Event Date and Time:

Sat, November 23, 2019 at 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM EDT


Bel Air Armory 37 North Main Street Bel Air, MD 21014


Purchase Tickets to The ECHO Recovery Art Show and Open Mic Night


Come support Bel Air’s local Artists and the Recovery Community. Together we can make a difference.


This entry was posted in Art in Recovery on by .

About Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.