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? Well, creating itself can prove a threat to recovery. 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, some smart tactics for creating in early recovery are important to implement.
First, here are the two tips we’ve covered so far.
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.”
2. Choose projects wisely
Early recovery is not the time to overwhelm yourself or to add high anxiety to your life. If, for example, you have the choice between executing one painting that is less taxing and another that is more taxing, your creative nature may want to tackle the more ambitious project. But if you keep your recovery needs in clear focus you’ll opt for the less taxing project. Opting for the less ambitious project can feel disappointing but if you remind yourself that you have the opportunity to create a powerful body of work over time, but only if you maintain your recovery, that may help put in perspective why you are choosing a less exciting or ambitious project right now.
Now, here’s tip 3.
3. Monitor your energy, your mind, and your mood as you create
As you’re creating, you have the job of not getting too wound up, not thinking thoughts that jeopardize your recovery (like “This painting is so bad I’m going to need a good stiff drink when I’m done painting!”), and not propelling yourself into a dangerous mood, whether a manic mood or a despairing mood. While you create you will want to keep one eye on the tasks of recovery: if you are getting too bleak or too manic or too self-critical as you create, you must announce to yourself, “Careful! I’m threatening my recovery here!” Then you immediately do whatever you know to do when your recovery is threatened, whether that’s calling your sponsor, attending a 12-step meeting, listening to a recovery tape, etc.
More next week!