Step 1: We admitted we were powerless [over our addiction] - that our lives had become unmanageable.
Part of recovery and coming out of withdrawal from a substance or addictive behavior - one day at a time - is learning to tolerate uncomfortable feelings. Here is a list of some creative activities that are focused on finding safe ways to express our emotions. One of the most dangerous emotions for alcoholics and addicts is anger or resentment, so I will focus on that emotion in this post, but you can do any of these same activities for any other emotion, such as sadness, loneliness, or fear. You may have heard the nemonic HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired), so try to be especially mindful when feelings of anger or loneliness come up, as we are more vulnerable to acting out in our addictions during these times.
1. MUSIC: Make a playlist of songs that you can listen to, dance to and/or sing along to when you are feeling angry. I have found songs and playlists very useful, as they give me a specific, limited period of time during which I can practice tolerating an uncomfortable feeling. I also feel less alone, as I hear someone else's voice describing through music what I am feeling. If you are musically inclined, you could alternatively write your own song or learn to play or sing a song that expresses anger.
2. POETRY: Try making a Haiku about anger. Haikus are poems that have a rhythmic pattern. The first line has 7 syllables, the second line has 5 syllables and the last line has 7 syllables. You do not need to write in complete sentences. You can select nouns and adjectives to reflect your angry mood.
3. SPOKEN WORD: Volunteer to be a speaker at a 12-step meeting. Tell the story of why you came to 12-step. What are you powerless over and how has it made your life unmanageable?
4. VISUAL: Draw, paint or photograph an image to go with this quote by Pia Mellody: "Hug your demons or they'll bite you in the @$$." Here is a simple little illustration I created as an example:
5. WRITING: Make a list of 10 reasons NOT to engage in the behavior you have turned to 12-step to seek help for. This can be 10 reasons not to drink alcohol, 10 reasons I don't want to use drugs, 10 reasons not to gamble, etc. For some programs, especially those for problem behaviors, you may want to be more specific. For instance, if you are in Debtors Anonymous, you may want to write 10 reasons not to use a credit card or 10 reasons not to watch the QVC shopping channel on tv. For sex addiction, you may want to make a list of 10 reasons I don't want to look at porn or 10 reasons not to contact my qualifier whom I've been cheating on my spouse with.
6. DANCE / DRAMA: Consider inviting a friend to join you
in this activity. This activity may also
be used in a group setting. Like
charades, without words or sounds AND without facial expressions, use your body
– through movement or dance – to convey specific feelings. Focus on keeping your face neutral while
letting the emotion out in your body.
Have your partner guess what emotion you are conveying. Take turns.
Between the two of you, make sure you convey these three: angry, sad and
scared. You may choose other emotions as
Do you have any other ideas for using the arts to work your first step? If so, please share them as well!