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Recovery through Art Therapy
A STORY OF INSPIRATION
For Brian Menish, of Herdon, Virginia, a motorcycle accident back in 2007 changed his life for good. The accident, a consequence of his alcoholism and drug addiction, took away his dexterity in his right hand as the result of a traumatic brain injury. Initially, after his accident, he remained in a medically induced coma for one week and was laid up in the hospital for another two months. After a long, slow recovery from his injury, he regained his abilities to walk and talk again, but he had lost the use of his right hand.
Menish is an artist, a painter, a right-handed painter. The thought that he would be unable to paint any longer was devastating to him. He was dragged down further into the grips of his addiction for several years. Drugs, excessive alcohol and thoughts of suicide took him to the deepest depths of depression.
One day his mother asked him a simple question,“have you tried your left hand?” After that, everything changed. Six months of left-handed painting later he was enrolled in art school. With his true passion back in his grasp, Menish got serious about recovery. Now, three years clean and sober, he resides in Costa Mesa, California and is on his way into the superb fine arts program at Cal State Fullerton.
Menish is a bold example of how inspiration in the arts can give someone’s life meaning again and how the arts can be a springboard of motivation to lead addicts into recovery.
RECOVERY THROUGH ART THERAPY
Art is also a excellent psychological tool for self-expression. Leading authorities in the treatment industry consider art therapy to be a powerful approach to recovery from addiction. The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) asserts that this form of experiential therapy can be extremely helpful in the development of self awareness, self-esteem, and in the resolution of internal emotional conflicts and stress. The use of an artistic representation can provide a safe space to express painful feelings. Later, the artwork can be used as a starting point for discussions with therapists to address significant issues that contribute to addiction such as trauma, depression and anxiety.
THE ART PATH
Furthermore, art can provide a meaningful direction for life’s pathway, like it did for Brian Menish. In the arts we can find a connection to what makes us human in a deeply honest and spiritual sense. Art is a reflection of our innate desire to be understood by others, and to understand other people and ourselves. Through art, statements can be made, corners of the mind can be explored and what is imaginative and other-worldly can be brought into reality. Through art’s journey to find answers to life’s big questions, many have left behind the superficial gratification, self-indulgent pleasure seeking, and fearful escape of addiction and alcoholism.
What is this creativity that exists in us all and overflows from the brims of some of us? What are the seemingly infinite modes this creativity can be expressed through? These are the shimmering uncertainties that can spark passion and ignite the flames of inspiration. Art is a fervorous intensity, a captivating spectacle and an alluring obsession far more complex and compelling than intoxication from any mere substance can be. Art can be freedom. We can chase our art. We can chase our recovery like we chased our addictions. May we all find our passions in recovery. May we all find our freedom from the limiting prisons of addiction that cage us from the limitless realm of all possibility.