Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Creative Recovery

 Being off line gave me time to reflect, and contemplate. I find knitting and doing repetitive work meditative, which sometimes give rise to "deep thoughts", not unlike Saturday Night Live's  Jack Handey. 

"Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful, beautiful flamingo, flying across in front of a beautiful sunset? And he's carrying a beautiful rose in his beak, and also he's carrying a very beautiful painting with his feet. And also, you're drunk."
Seriously though, today being January 1st, 2014 New Year's Day, I routinely, ever year, give thought to January 2nd, due to the fact I am a recovering  alcoholic. January 2nd is my dry date, and tomorrow is I think, a milestone in my recovery, as it will be twenty years for me clean and sober since 1994. 

I heard it said once by an A.A. member, that giving an alcoholic an award or medallion for their recovery, is rather like giving a cowboy who has hemorrhoids, an award, for not getting on his horse. I quite agree and like that comparison, however none the less sobriety for me, is no less significant, because my life was changed forever, not to mention saved, when I became honest, open minded and willing.
I am very grateful I managed to make it through the rooms of recovery, as I know there are many who do not and loose their lives.

Creativity and recovery is something on my mind today, and so I did some research online. Inevitably, as usual, I was lead back to Julia Cameron ,whose book, The Artist Way, had such a profound effect on me, as I identify so much with her, being an addict, and an artist.

I found some compelling online words by her on the subject of recovery and creativity. As well I found out that she has written a memoir entitled Floor Sample revealing her personal journey with addiction, mental illness, and tumultuous relationships. 

I found the following interview from Shambhala Sun, had with Julia Cameron, about her creative process, and her own sobriety.

How did your knowledge of the creative process inform your journey toward sobriety?

Julia Cameron:I think that I had a lot of confusion about creativity and sobriety. We often confuse alcoholism and artistry. [Many creative] role models were often active alcoholics. In reading Fitzgerald or Hemingway you would essentially be reading a drinking story. Drinking and writing seemed to go together like scotch and sodas. It was a tremendous shock to my system to find out that I could write stone cold sober, that I could take the drama of alcoholic artistry and convert it to a user-friendly model of sobriety and creativity.

Julia Cameron: Our mythology tells us that artists are addicted people - that they are promiscuous, drug addicted, alcoholic. We've come to think that somehow those addictions are part of the creative process.
My experience is exactly the opposite. My experience is that creativity is freedom from addiction. We are frightened when we feel the force of our own creative energy, because we don't know how to ground it. This is why my tools tend to be grounding tools, and when creativity is safely grounded and used, addictions fall to one side. Conversely, if you see someone addicted, what you're seeing is a profoundly creative soul reaching for a substitute to self-expression.
When people get sober they can be profoundly creative. When people get emotionally sober off of a process addiction like workaholism or sex addiction or relationship addiction, they have freed for their use a beautiful amount of new usable energy with which they can make wonderful things. That doesn't just mean writing a poem or making a ceramic vase. It can be a new system for the office. It can be revamping the way they do parent/teacher meetings.
But often what happens is that when we experience our creative energy we don't recognize it as creative energy; we just think it's anxiety. So rather than saying, "How can I direct this energy and what should I make?" we try to block it. We block it by thinking of some titillating sexual adventure. We block it by picking up a drink. We block it with a pint of Hagen Daas. We block it by picking up workaholic work. But it doesn't go away; it's still there. Creativity is always there, because it is as innate to humanity as blood and bone. It is the animating force.

Happy New Year's folks and remember to keep your sense of humour. It makes life a whole lot easier.


Judith Joseph said...

Dear Catherine,
Congratulations on reaching your milestone of 20 years of sobriety! Thank you for sharing the Julia Cameron quotes about the relationship between creativity and self-medication-- it's a fascinating connection. I can think of several creative people I will share it with. Matisse is right: creativity takes courage, it's a risky business, but if we can survive the journey, it's so rewarding living with the blinders off. All best wishes to you for your next 20 years of thoughtful creativity and expression!

Unknown said...

Oh thank you so much Judith for your kind comments. They mean so much to me.

Yes, Julia Cameron sure clarifies creativity. Her writing and tools certainly changed my life!

I would love to find more about what Matisse has to say on the subject of creativity!

Blessing to you my dear friend for the New Year and always!

Unknown said...

Congratulations Catherine! Happy New Year and keep up your lovely blogs:)

Unknown said...

Thank you Brandi! So good to hear from you and Happy New Year to you as well!