To find out more about one of the authors, visit his website: www.ericmaisel.com.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
From the Introduction
There is no more cocaine. I check the wrappers, but they have been licked clean sometime in the night. My nose is bleeding now, the small sores cracked open by my puking. In four hours I have an interview on national radio and in six hours with a national newspaper. I close my eyes, not to sleep, but to lie in the dark of my body.
—Patrick Lane, Canadian poet
The short story “The Bound Man,” by the German author Ilse Aichinger, is a beautiful piece in the existential tradition. It goes as follows: A man awakens one morning to find himself inexplicably bound by rope. Instead of removing the rope at his first opportunity, as we might expect him to do, he decides to remain bound and to become a circus attraction, turning his accidental bondage into his trademark work. How strange! Why would a person happily accept such bondage? It is similar to the question that Franz Kafka poses in “The Hunger Artist,” where a man who also chooses to become a circus attraction starves himself to death because he can’t find food that interests him. These authors are asking variations of the following vital question: “Why do people carelessly, inexplicably, and even happily do things that harm them so much?”
Addiction is the same kind of bondage. Addicts cling to their addictions, and not for anything can you pry them away from their alcohol, cocaine, tobacco, Internet surfing, video-game playing, overeating, shopping, or sexual escapades. Tell them that they are dying: no matter. Tell them that they are wasting half of their life in front of a computer screen or in the aisles of department stores: no matter. Remind them that they can’t have love or a real life if they use sex as a drug: no matter. Point out that their liver is already not functioning, that their nasal lining is already perforated, or that their lungs are already black: no matter. What you experience as you talk to an addicted individual is that he or she is completely indifferent to your good arguments.
Creative people fall squarely into the category of people at high risk for addiction—people who accept that happy bondage. This connection between creativity and addiction isn’t a new one; the struggling artist is a character we’re familiar with. But this connection isn’t just romantic mythology—creative people are more prone than their peers to succumb to the lure of an addiction. And because creativity manifests itself in many ways, you don’t have to be a professional artist to run extra risks for addiction. Whether you are a Sunday painter or world famous, someone who doesn’t know what you want to create or someone who knows exactly what you want to create—if you have a felt sense that creativity matters to you, then you run added risks for addiction.
This book is an exploration of this relationship between addiction and creativity on a very practical level. We will explore the many reasons why as a creative person you are at greater risk for addiction, and we’ll also offer steps toward recovery that use your creative nature in the service of your recovery. Along the way, introspective questions and creative exercises will be presented to help you explore your own recovery process further.
Since creativity can mean different things to different people, for the purposes of this book, we would like to offer a definition. We picture you in the following way—and this will amount to our complete description of the creative personality: we picture you as a sensitive, intelligent, thoughtful, ethically responsible person with a deep desire to actualize your potential; someone who responds to beauty and is interested in beauty; a person with a strong sense of individuality who nevertheless needs to make more-than-just-me connections; someone who would love to live an artful, art-filled, and possibly art-committed life that feels rich and authentic.
You may put your creative energies and creative efforts into music, painting, or sculpture, or into scientific research, your legal or clinical practice, or even your political or social activism. Maybe you don’t know where to put your creative energies and efforts, and maybe you feel stymied by your inability to choose. Maybe you put them into so many different places that you feel scattered and unsatisfied. In whatever ways you manifest your creative nature, and whether or not you have found the way to manifest that nature successfully, you feel it pulsing in your being. If you see yourself in this description, you are at greater risk for an addiction. That is why we wanted to write this book, to speak directly to you.
Your Creative-Recovery Journal
Throughout Creative Recovery we want to pose some large questions that, because you are a creative person, we hope you will enjoy sinking your teeth into. We think that you’ll learn a great deal from these self-investigations, so we encourage you to start a creative-recovery journal where you record your answers (and anything else connected with your recovery, including your responses to our exercises). To start, take the time to assess your risk of addiction by virtue of your creative nature.
Are You at Greater Risk?
Answer each of the following questions yes or no.
1. Are you prone to boredom?
2. Do you prefer to do things your own way?
3. Are you eager to manifest your potential?
4. Do you feel under some pressure to make something of your life?
5. Do you feel empty if you aren’t doing something interesting or exciting?
6. Do you dislike wasting time?
7. Have you ever fallen in love with a piece of music or a book?
8. Are you curious about how things work, including how the universe works?
9. Do you get frustrated when you see things done poorly or incorrectly?
10. Do you find yourself in opposition to some elements of your culture or your society?
11. Do you look for ways to improve systems or methods at work?
12. Do you change your mind on the basis of new information?
13. Do you feel that you sometimes have quite good ideas and quite interesting things to say?
14. Do you see yourself as more of a lone wolf than an ant in an ant colony?
15. Do you experience the passing of time as a kind of pressure?
If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you may be at greater risk for an addiction. Simply by virtue of seeing yourself as an individual with potential, as someone who questions life, who is interested in things being done right, and who gets bored when your mind isn’t occupied, your addiction risks may be increased.
Table of Contents
Introducing Creative Recovery 1
Part One: Preparing
Chapter 1: Biological Risks 23
Chapter 2: Other Risks 52
Chapter 3: The Abuse Continuum 79
Part Two: Working
Chapter 4: Accepting the Call to Change 105
Chapter 5: Your Addiction Challenges 122
Chapter 6: The Existential or Spiritual Leap 149
Chapter 7: Your Creative Nature 171
Part Three: Living
Chapter 8: Early Recovery 193
Chapter 9: Ongoing Recovery 215
Chapter 10: Creating in Recovery 243
About the Authors 285