Some of the greatest art and music ever made was the result of tortured lives riddled with addiction or mental illness. From artists like Van Gogh to Jimi Hendrix, they were innovators and transformed their pain into beauty for all the world to see and hear. But without treatment, their mental health and addiction also took their talents from us too soon. We will never know what they could have given the world if they were healthy, or how much more music and art they could have produced.

Many artists do not want to seek treatment because they feel like treatment will hinder their creativity. Which is an interesting perspective, because serious mental health challenges and addiction can take our lives, and nothing stifles creativity more than death.

We don’t need to use art or creativity as an excuse to avoid treatment. We don’t need to roll the dice with our lives and hope that addiction, mental illness, or both don’t take us prematurely, too. By giving ourselves the gift of a life in recovery, we also give ourselves the chance to create beautiful art and music through being alive and experiencing all types of emotions. We can find our creativity in healing.

Inspiration in Pain

There is something relatable when we hear a song by an artist that was motivated by pain or loss. Perhaps it is that our own pain connects to theirs through the lyrics and music. Or perhaps we may realize that we don’t have it as bad as someone else. Take Eric Clapton’s song, “Tears in Heaven,” which he wrote after losing his four-year-old son in a tragic accident. Hearing someone’s pain through music invokes deep emotion in us as fellow human beings.

There have been thousands of songs written about pain and suffering of another kind: mental illness and addiction. Through the instrumentation and lyrics, we can almost tangibly feel their suffering. Some sing to glamorize substance abuse. They sing as if they are invincible. Others sing about the consequences of untreated mental illness and addiction. Still, others seem to be reaching out and begging for help, even if they cannot seem to help themselves.

Artists and musicians today create amazing work, even while suffering from mental illness or addiction. Whether they are major pop-culture celebrities or unknown indie darlings, pain is such a common theme that some may have even dulled our senses to it. Many of us are drawn to their work because we relate all too well. Or maybe we are those artists and musicians, and our art is a manifestation of our pain, too.

Choosing Healing

The trouble with balancing some degree of notoriety is that we can’t hide. That can also be a blessing, however, because sometimes our being in the public eye forces us to get sober when we might not have otherwise done so. Or it can bring serendipitous moments like for Elton John, who, because of his celebrity status, met an AIDS patient who inspired him to change his life. After years of addiction, John has now been sober for 29 years.

Other famous musicians who chose recovery include Aerosmith’s lead singer, Steven Tyler. In an interview with GQ magazine in January, he spoke of his substance abuse, “What happens with using is: It works in the beginning, but it doesn’t work in the end.” He has sought treatment for his addiction four different times, but this time around, he has been sober for nine years.

Some musicians use their celebrity to reach out and try to help others. One example is the song by Logic, featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid, simply titled “1-800-273-8255.” That phone number is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The song talks about depression and thoughts that many can relate to, it humanizes the idea of reaching out for help and ends with a message of hope, which is punctuated by using the lifesaving phone number as the title.

The Co-existence of Creativity and Healing

For those who feel like treatment will dull their creativity, Tyler spoke about creativity and sobriety. He said, “All the magic that you thought worked when you were high comes out when you get sober. You realize it was always there, and your fear goes away… We all got sober, I guess, over ’88, ’89, and those albums were all off the charts. Finally had a No. 1 single.”

Healing provides ample opportunity for creativity. When we choose recovery, we begin a journey full of emotions and new realizations about life, love, and especially ourselves. As we heal, art, music, and other creative outlets are perfect ways to express our emotions and document our journey in recovery.

Without the controlling effects of drugs and alcohol to stop us, our creativity is limitless. We are able to feel again, and our minds and bodies are clearing away the shackles that addiction places on our souls. We can find inspiration in new things that we may not have even noticed before. When we choose recovery, we are alive again. To find out more about how you can seize your second chance at life today, call (805) 719-7954 to speak to one of our admissions experts.

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