In our previous blog ‘Cultural Capital and the Benefits of Viewing Art’, we explored how engaging with art can nurture our self-esteem, and provide a unique way of looking at ourselves, others, and the world. In a similar way, the making of art, and connecting with our own creative ability can also support this. 

Here we continue the conversation by exploring how the practice of creativity can be such an important tool in recovery from drug and alcohol use. Understanding the relationship we have with creativity and our practice of it, can be a powerful way to process our emotions as well as connecting us to our values, identity, and sense of joy. 

But what is creativity? 

There are so many ways to look at creativity, and we will all understand and express it differently.

One way to describe creativity is that it is a thought process and action. Seeing something through from an initial idea until you reach an end result. It’s a way of harnessing our imagination and inventiveness, through self-expression. It can be a response to our environment, personal reflections and experiences, or a way of making sense of our own personal story. 

Examples of practices that are commonly associated with creativity are making art by painting or drawing, or through design, sculpture, collage, dance, music, or sewing; or by capturing something fresh and new through the lens of photography. 

It’s also much broader, and a lot of people are often doing something creative without even realising it! Like journaling, gardening, writing a blog, cooking, studying, even rearranging a room to make a new and unfamiliar environment feel safe and more like home.

What connects all the above is an approach to thinking, problem solving, planning, and taking action, then thinking about what worked or what you would like to do better next time. Based on this, we could describe creativity as ways that help us interpret, express and or release our inner emotional world. 

What are some of the benefits of practicing creativity in recovery?

Coming into recovery, it can feel like the biggest battle has been won, giving up the drugs and alcohol. But it can be hard to be prepared for what comes next - understanding the reasons for starting using substances in the first place. This sets us off on the road of rediscovering who we are, which can feel overwhelming to say the least.

When we choose recovery, we are also choosing to reinvest in a whole new reality for ourselves - this already takes so much resilience. We might begin to ask ourselves questions like, what brings me joy? What are my skills and passions? What does fulfilment look like? What do I care for and value? All these thoughts can feel overwhelming, yet are a normal part of the process to re-build a relationship with ourselves. 

Here at FfC HQ we value and understand the benefits of creative practice, recognising it as a valuable therapeutic skill that supports people to rebuild a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives, as well as think independently about the world around them. 

We see and hear trainees in our courses reflect daily on their relationship to creativity, and how it’s been a practice of mindfulness to support noticing what they are feeling, nourishing a mind-body connection, and challenging negative core beliefs on perfectionism. 

Creativity is a wonderful tool to help us gain perspective on pain and difficult situations. It can help us express our thoughts and emotions and be a release for them – that is to become an alternative way of communicating. This can be private, public, individual, or collaborative, and promote community and connection. 

It can nurture our observations skills, by taking inspiration from the environment and people around us – which could be from a walk in nature or the streets where we live. In this sense, making art can be a way of expressing our own internal interpretation of the world around us. 

It can also teach us important life skills like planning and preparation, making choices about how we would like something to turn out and taking the steps to get there. 

There is also a sense of pride in creating something, learning a new skill, or connecting again with an old one. It’s another way to take us down the road of finding out what we enjoy. 

Making the personal political! 

Just like viewing art, making art can connect us to our values, through thinking critically and providing a lens to think about politics and our place in society. It can help us regain back a feeling of empowerment when we feel powerless or invisible, a form of resistance and political activism. 

Some of the most beautiful and powerful examples of this can be found in the banners made by women as part of the Women’s Liberation Movement. They are not only creative examples of how we can express our identity, ideas, and feelings, they are also a tool for communication and capture the way that women politicised their textile skills for a greater cause. 


What are some of the barriers to accessing and expressing our creative side?

Maybe we don’t think we are creative in the first place, or that we don’t have the ability. Or maybe it’s our own internal narratives and negative core beliefs that can get in the way. Feelings of judgment from others and a fear of failure can hold us back from trying something new, telling ourselves it needs to be perfect or it’s not worth starting it in the first place. 

Lack of diversity in creativity spaces can be another barrier, the messaging being that some voices and input aren’t as valued or seen as others. And that maybe these spaces don’t belong to them.

All these things can be a big barrier to starting and persevering with something. But doing something creative can be a wonderful way to challenge some of these thoughts we hold about ourselves. They aren’t truths, so taking on new challenges and learning from them are a great way to build our confidence and find out what we like and enjoy. 

Where to start?

All creativity is a process, a way of thinking. Ask yourself what interests you, or what you have always wanted to try? If its creative writing, painting, or even further study, start to research places ways to start. 

Materials and classes can be expensive, but online videos can be a helpful way of taking inspiration from others and getting started. You also don’t need all the tools to begin with. Start by thinking about what you would like to create and write a few ideas down on paper to begin experimenting. 

Take time away from what you are doing and reflect on what you think turned out well and what you would like to work on. With what you have learnt, you might want to start again or continue experimenting with what you are working on. All of this is OK, it’s an essential part of the learning process in nurturing your skills and ability.

The process is the most important part, not the finished piece! It’s the action that nurtures perseverance, self-care, compassion, and self-worth. This includes not giving up if you aren’t happy with something you’ve done first time, understanding it takes practice and patience. 

And most importantly, have fun with it!

For more examples of creativity, you can enjoy a selection of our graduate’s poems; ‘Shade is only temporary’, and ‘Hear us Now!’

The artwork for the banner of this blog was done by our graduate Yen Chan.