Maybe you’ve come to realize that your addiction has gotten the better of you and you decide to enter into recovery via a 12-step program or in some other way. What then? On top of the common challenges that any person experiences in early recovery—the cravings, the longings, the triggers, the old habits, the peer pressure to use, and so on—additional challenges face the creative person. The primary one is the following: that creating itself can prove a threat to recovery.

Why might creating prove a threat to recovery? The main stance of early recovery is to not get your system “wild” or “worked up” or your mind “driven.” You are trying to calmly pay attention to the tasks of recovery by living “one day at a time” and by taking care of “first things first.” Creating, by contrast, is an invitation to be wild and driven!

The very act of creating is a voyage into the unknown (which provokes anxiety), a command to send your brain racing (so that it can productively obsess), and an opening to your deeper thoughts and feelings (with all the dangers associated with those depths). Recovery requires calmness and creating requires wildness: and the wildness of creating can endanger recovery.

Therefore let me present you with five tips for creating in early recovery. Here’s
Tip 1. I’ll present the other four over the next four weeks.

1. Let recovery comes first

As much as you may want to get back to creating, you have the job of getting your priorities right: your recovery comes before your creating. If it is a choice between attending an AA meeting or painting for another hour, the meeting is the wise choice. If it is a choice between starting the day with a mindfulness meditation that supports your recovery or starting right in on your sculpting, the mindfulness meditation comes first. This isn’t what your “creative nature” wants: it wants to create. But in early recovery your mantra should be, “recovery comes first.”


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