In a previous blog post, we encouraged folks in recovery to explore the arts and artistic practice as a way to support ongoing sobriety. We suggested that fully engaging your creativity and sense of play supports your mental health, which in turn props up your sobriety. We stand by that advice.

At the same time, we also think the arts can serve as a good metaphor for the recovery journey. Let’s take a look at three art forms—jazz, theater, and writing—to see what ideas they might spark when it comes to thinking about sobriety.

Jazz is Built Around Creativity, Communication, and Community

The famed jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis has said this about jazz: “Jazz requires creativity, communication and community. Through improvising we learn to value our own creativity; through swing we coordinate our communication with others; and through the blues we learn to find and celebrate ‘meaning’ in the tragic and absurd parts of life that afflict every community.”

The recovery journey certainly involves creativity—and even some improvisation. You have to find the strategies and techniques that work for you when it comes to dealing with cravings or toxic individuals or other challenges. You know the basic approaches (in the same way a jazz musician knows the basic form of the music they are playing), but you make them your own as you work to stay sober.

The recovery journey also requires communication. To maintain your sobriety over time, you will want to keep open lines of communication with the individuals in your life who are truly engaged in supporting you. Like the members of a jazz ensemble, you must keep the communication flowing to make sure everyone is headed in the same direction when it comes to helping you stay free from drugs or alcohol.

And the recovery journey requires community. Your 12-Step (or other recovery program) group, your sponsor or recovery mentor, your therapist and doctor—all of these people are part of a community dedicated to helping you keep moving forward in sobriety. Your participation in a recovery program or as a sponsor or mentor gives you the opportunity to give back to the recovery community as well—and that spirit of giving also firms up the foundation of your sobriety.

Theater Involves Hitting Your Marks and Delivering Your Lines

We talked about improvisation in the last section, and we acknowledged that improv can be part of theater, too. But for the purposes of our metaphor linking theater to the recovery journey, we want to focus on two key ideas: hitting your marks and delivering your lines.

To hit your mark means to be in the right place on the stage at the right time. Knowing where you need to be and when is essential when other actors are counting on you. In recovery, your “marks” include your recovery program of choice as well as commitments to healthy eating, regular exercise, and restful sleep. If you are haphazard about such things, you may find your sobriety in jeopardy.

The idea of delivering your lines could apply to the things you say to yourself. Your inner monologue can undermine or support your sobriety, depending on whether the lines you speak to yourself are critical and harsh or positive and hopeful. Ideally, your lines will be filled with affirmations.

Writing is Often a Process of Rewriting and Editing

In a perfect world, once you regained your sobriety, that would be the end of your problems with drugs or alcohol. But it perhaps goes without saying that this is not a perfect world. Problems and challenges are going to pop up—and they may even include a relapse.

That can be discouraging, of course, but it is here that the art of writing can be a helpful metaphor. Often a writer will be cruising along, telling the story they want to tell, when all of a sudden they will hit an obstacle. Maybe they experience writer’s block. Maybe they realize that a plot point has fallen apart. Maybe they discover the ending they had been writing toward is not the best ending anymore. 

That’s when rewriting and editing come into play. A writer always has the ability to go back and make changes—including significant changes—to whatever they are working on. That is true in recovery, too. Maybe a strategy you have been using to address cravings is no longer working. Maybe you have been letting too much stress creep into your personal story. Maybe a person who was supporting you in your sobriety efforts has become problematic for one reason or another. Or maybe you have experienced a relapse.

In any and all of those cases, you are like a writer—you have the ability to make changes and adjustments that will improve your story and help you pursue your preferred ending of ongoing sobriety.

We Are Artists When It Comes to Helping You

At The Aviary Recovery Center, located in Eolia and Kirkwood, Missouri, we provide personalized treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. If you are ready to move past a substance use disorder, we are ready to help you create a new and better life for yourself.