Having suffered from addiction for much of my earlier life - I know first hand that creative practice is a powerful catalyst for transformation.
To repeat a maxim used in recovery circles, I was lost and looking for God in ‘all the wrong places’.
But through my artistic craft, study, and the exploration of my own psyche, I have managed to achieve massive changes to both my inner and outer world.
I believe we are all drawn to certain activities in our youth because subconsciously we know they will lead us to psychological wholeness. My wholeness came from counteracting my addictive impulsivity through meditatively focusing on art.
I hope to inspire others to take the same path as me, not necessarily in art, but in any form of immersive activity that helps people actualise themselves and find the joy that exists in the here and now – free from searching and desire.
The discipline of artistic or creative craft cultivates ‘focused attention’, which hones self-control and deepens your relationship to the eternal present moment.
The act of focused attention allows you to enter the ‘flow state’, which was popularised by the Czech psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This is a state in which you are centred on a single activity to the exclusion of all others and become fully immersed in it. This highly pleasurable state is akin to meditation in that time dilates and the narrative of the mind fades away along with the ego.
When I sought out the addictive state, I was searching for a state of suspension from the tyranny of my conscious thought. I was looking to escape the pain caused by my inner narrative and the concurrent bodily sensations. Whilst ultimately destructive, the addictive state provided me with a chance to commune with the present moment. I was immersed in an egoless suspension. My inner chatter ceased and time also dilated.
When addicts “search for God in all the wrong places”, they seek out this meditative effect through a destructive behaviour process. I believe that “God’ could be considered to be akin to the present moment.
In the pantheistic view of reality, the universe and the cosmos are identical to divinity. When we are in a meditative ‘flow’ state of immersive activity we could be seen to be riding the crest of eternal unfoldment of the present moment, which is as close as we can get to “God”.
When we create with total focus and enter the flow state, we are using a constructive behaviour process to commune with God. Flow state and meditation offers a chance to achieve this mode of being in a positive way.
This is why I believe that activities which encourage flow state such as creative practice can replace our destructive behaviours.
An eminent addiction psychologist called Patrick Carnes who has worked with hundreds of addicts supports this idea. He believes one of the keys to long term recovery from addiction is to have an immersive activity that puts you in the flow state, enabling you to reach the desired states of suspension in a productive way. In fact, Carnes suggests that people of great achievement use their brains in the same way as addicts do. He believes that this is why addiction is so prevalent in successful populations.
I believe that this means that those who suffer from addiction may actually have a gift in disguise. The neurobiology of addiction can be channeled and used as an advantage in the achievement of goals. One of the ways that this can happen is by recognising that a flow state activity such as art can achieve the same state that is being sought through an addiction. By focusing on bringing this constructive behaviour process into our lives, we can slowly replace our old addictive patterns. This is a beautiful silver lining to an otherwise very dark cloud.