Take away the alcohol used as a way to cope with the daily ups and downs of life and you are often left with a myriad of difficult feelings to navigate. Establishing emotional wellness in sobriety can be a challenge. Creativity and the healing arts offers a healthy alternative to support you in your recovery journey.
According to NIH (National Institute of Health) in an article published in the Journal of Addiction Nursing, more treatment centers are now including a creative arts component as it is found to be an effective and helpful aspect to the recovery process. These are five creative recovery tools for radiant living in sobriety.
- The practice of Acceptance & Gratitude: Radical acceptance is a term used in a skill-based therapy called DBT which stands for dialectical behavioral therapy. It refers to embracing how life is unfolding and not resisting and fighting against it. Gratitude is a form of giving thanks and appreciation for the good in one’s life. There are a number of emotional benefits from a regular gratitude practice. Appreciation appreciates.
Creative Arts Activity: Create a ‘Gratitude Jar’. Decorate a mason jar and use it to hold pieces of paper that reflect your ‘gratitudes’. Keep a gratitude art journal.
- Mindfulness & Journaling: There is a way where calming the busy mind calms the heart. Practicing mindfulness is being in the present moment with non-judgmental acceptance. Mindfulness can be combined with the ‘power of the pen’. The therapeutic value of journaling can be a powerful aid to the recovery toolbox. There are many ways to use a journal. For example, use self-reflective writing prompts or use a method called Morning Pages developed by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way.
Creative Arts Activity: Mindfully color in an adult coloring book for 20 minutes each day. One12 Step coloring book option is called 12 Step Coloring Book Journal.
- Self-soothing emotional states with a ‘Recovery Resiliency Kit’: Finding healthy ways to self-soothe in the face of distressing or uncomfortable feelings is key to success in sobriety. As stress and emotions are held in the body, one way to re-regulate is to provide calming comforts through the five senses.
- Creative Arts Activity: Create a ‘recovery resiliency kit’ by putting together several items into a box or a basket to then use when in a state of emotional distress. Some ideas of what to include are: essential oils (peppermint & orange to activate the calming parasympathic nervous system), a journal, a piece of chocolate, tea bags, oil pastel colors, a special item like a rock or a symbol, affirmation cards, and a candle.
- Setting Intentions and ‘Turning it Over’: Often a source of upset feelings or inner disturbance comes from trying to control situations or having lots of expectations. Releasing control and expectations as a spiritual practice can bring about serenity. It supports moving closer to becoming emotionally unburdened wherein you may experience a greater sense of freedom. Identifying an intention and then ‘turning it over’ refers to releasing the outcome to a power greater than oneself.
Creative Arts Activity: Create a ‘Spirit Box’ or ‘Higher Power Box’. Find or buy a small cardboard box or a wood box and decorate the inside and outside. This can serve as your holder for things that you are intentionally ‘turning over’ and ‘letting go’ of. You are creating a ritual where you are putting your concern in the hands of the Great Spirit, the Universe, or your Higher Power.
- Movement & Dance: Adding movement into your life is foundational for optimal wellness and also supports your recovery. This tool is the art of dancing mindfully. As Rumi stated, “Dance when you are broken open…Dance when you’re perfectly free.” As many feelings, like anxiety and anger, are experienced on a physical level, doing something that involves movement is a release.
Creative Arts Activity: Put together a ‘Recovery Playlist’ of songs that tap into a sense of inner freedom and celebration for another day sober. Using Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms music (which is on Apple music) gives you an opportunity to dance to various beats & rhythms such as staccato and flow. Make a routine of doing a morning ‘happy dance’ with your favorite upbeat music.
Taking ‘one day at a time’ and using creative arts practices to support you in your sobriety are keys to success. Move beyond just surviving and trying to live without alcohol and embrace Radiant Living through adopting tools that allow you to flourish.
Karen Corona is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and has a psychotherapy practice in Portland, Oregon. She specializes in helping women heal from childhood trauma. Karen brings her training in expressive arts therapy to her coaching business and is certified as a Wellness & Recovery Clini-Coach®. She also helps women in sobriety transform their recovery in order to live radiant lives.