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  • Writer's pictureAllison Stratton

Breadcrumbs Pt 2: Healing Myself Through Making a Mark

Updated: Dec 26, 2022

Boost to my Creative Confidence #2:

TW: Mention of past intentional weight loss, surgery, and addiction.

Honestly I am not sure what came first, the Insta boost or this one!

One of the biggest influences in getting me to create art consistently is learning I NEEDED to do art like I need to eat, sleep and breathe. It was not about others liking my work, or even liking my own work. It was about uncorking all that was bottled up inside me in a way my soul and body were built for: creating visual representations of my emotions, views of the world, and experiences.

In a future post I am sure I will touch on my personal journey of body and fat acceptance and art's role in that. For now, I wanted to give some context by telling you that I had Gastric Bypass (Roux en y) surgery in 2009, when I was 24. That drastic change in my organs had a huge impact in how I absorb and process alcohol. It was ten times more potent and ten times more enticing. Since then, alcohol and I have had a strained relationship, to put it lightly.

When I knew I needed to reconsider my relationship with alcohol, I started seeing a counselor. I told her I couldn't imagine being able to sit, in my own body, totally sober, and be okay ever again. I didn't know how to enjoy life or who I was, really. Every time I had more than a few minutes alone, with my own thoughts, I felt like crawling out of my skin.

life without making art separates me from myself and others

She then recommended that I go back to my childhood self and asked what I did then for fun. At first it was hard to think of anything - I HATED being a kid. Then I mentioned "Well, I remember liking drawing, and playing games." She recommended trying to incorporate more art into my daily life.

A couple years later, I met with a spiritual medium, feeling lost and again at odds with my alcohol use. She asked me, "What do you do for fun?" Me, sobbing: "Fun?? I don't think I've ever figured FUN out."

self portrait of 2nd grade me

Then I remembered the Exquisite Corpse game with my little brother. I remembered drawing dogs over and over again as a child. And so I started drawing. I joined Urban Sketchers and drew plein air. When I eventually was intervened and asked to go to inpatient treatment, I dealt with the trauma by first drawing my dog, then by drawing the dogs of my fellow patients.

Doing those drawings saved my life and helped me get through inpatient treatment and sober living - the absolute hardest and most formative months of my life. Art brought me back to myself and has become a life preserver that I reach for in good times and bad to re-center.

a pet portrait done for a roommate in sober living

Now, when I notice I'm no longer creating, I know I need help from a professional counselor or therapist. And if I am creating, I know that there is part of me that is still okay, even if my recovery doesn't look perfect or my house is a disaster because, depression. If I'm drawing, painting, or playing around with digital art on my computer, there's a part of me that is still very much alive and well. Art pumps life into me as much as the blood pumping from my heart and the air flowing through my lungs.


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