Creative Writing in Addiction Recovery

The man said, “why do you think you’re here?”
I said, “I got no idea”. (Rehab – Amy Winehouse)

A lot of people new to rehab would relate to Amy’s famous song. The crisis of addiction makes us confused, highly emotional and at the same time, spiritually empty. A twelve-step programme can change all this of course, but one danger of rehab is that it can leave people feeling a bit ‘brainwashed’, lacking a true sense of ‘self’.

Creativity in Rehab Treatment

Creative input during rehab treatment can help restore a balance and build up a recovering person’s self-identity. Any creative outlet can be helpful: creative writing, drumming, music, painting and drawing, sculpture, carpentry.

Why Writing?

Poetry has been called the language ‘of crisis, of profound thought and of deep emotion’ and there is plenty of all that at Castle Craig.

People afflicted by thoughts that do often lie too deep for words’ (Wordsworth), such as trauma victims, people with learning difficulties and people who just don’t talk much, recognise the help they get from poetry. We turn to poetry for help at intense moments in our lives and for many the help that it provides comes as a pleasant surprise. This Haiku from a recent workshop at Castle Craig is how one person saw it:

Fun and surprising –
Opened my mind to new things.
Let’s do it again. (Vanessa)

Creative Writing Workshops at Castle Craig

Creative Writing workshops started here in December 2016. Through exploring our deepest feelings and trying to put them into words we have found that Creative Writing:

  • Helps patients to identify and express feelings sometimes too difficult to express in conversation or group;
  • Provides inspiration and a means of changing negative feelings;
  • Helps to organise chaotic thoughts and to focus on what’s really going on;
  • Opens minds to new interests;
  • Provides practical writing skills that can help in future life (e.g. in the workplace).

Patients’ feedback shows that they appreciate the healing power of words:

‘It’s so simple but so unbelievably helpful to control my emotions and feelings’. (Jethro)

‘Writing my poems made me feel proud again, that I can do something’. (Henk)

In the Creative Writing workshops, participants often write short poems (e.g. Haikus (a short poem of three lines) to help focus their thoughts. Here is a recent selection:

One day at a time –
Will not use, just dance and smile.
I feel the laughter (Tim)
Now she laughs again.
It sounds like hopeful music.
Her soul is now free (Laura)
They say my self-will
May cause relapse in the end.
Can I accept this ? (Helen)
“I see the shadows of my ghosts,
They make me laugh”. (Melody)
All the eyes in the sky
Are looking at mine.
Why don’t they see what I am seeing?
Is it because they are blind ? (Rick)
Why am I dancing on my own,
Without music?
I am still alive
And make my shadows go
For a while” (Patricia)

For some it becomes a way of appreciating the idea that recovery is to be enjoyed:

‘..really considering studying English Literature alongside my psychology studies because of this class…’ (Laura)


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