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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

08-29-18 | By

Can You Still Jam Sober? The Creativity Complex.

Whether it’s strumming sweet melodies, writing a soliloquy of smooth words, incorporating a brand of colors onto a canvas, or capturing the perfect moment on screen – there are hundreds of thousands creative people alike that all try to get sober. We often think it’s common that using alcohol and drugs enhances our creative process. It’s accurate to say that addiction doesn’t discriminate – and with that said, all of these creative types tend to face a common fear when they master the art of their drug and alcohol addiction. They worry about how they will get their creative juices flowing without alcohol and drugs.

Many artists who become addicted to alcohol and drugs have seemingly relied on substances to create music, write novels or short stories, and painted – and we can increase the list. However, when this happens we often tend to believe that our drug and alcohol use feeds our creativity.

This is a myth. Period. Addicted artists are creative despite their substance abuse, not because of it.

Smashing The Myth

Why do so many young artists think that alcohol and drugs enhance their creativity? Poets, writers, composers, painters, musicians, etc. get caught up in this self-defeating misconception. Part of it has to do with the pleasure center of the brain that the chemicals impact – perhaps making one falsely believe they are more creative. Also, there is a great deal of research looking at the impact of alcohol and drugs on the neurotransmitter dopamine, and its relationship to making us pay attention to increase our interest.

When asked by Scientific American if there is a link between creativity and addiction, David Linden, neuro-scientist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and author of The Compass of Pleasure, said quite simply, “No.” However he did go on to admit that “there is a link between addiction and things that are a prerequisite for creativity.” What he’s talking about here are risk-taking, compulsivity and novelty-seeking, which usually accompany a low-functioning dopamine system (that genetic variant which can be responsible for addiction). Because those personality traits are more likely to get you into crazy situations as well as compel you to put your ideas out into the world, they are often the precursors to creativity.

Us Right-Brained Thinkers

If you’re a right-brained thinker, don’t worry that sobriety will ruin your creative juices or imagination, because it will do the exact opposite. In fact, there are some real benefits to creating art in sobriety. Such artists such as Macklemore, Eminem, Dave Buckner, or Mark Kendall teach us that creativity and success can often grow when the booze and drugs are put down and we are able to tap into our true selves. Sobriety can often boost creativity, tapping into the potential you never realized you had.

It may be an insult to creative people everywhere to think that those who had the disease of addiction were that much more creative because of it. How many artists have we known that died from addiction. Most recently, Price, Tom Petty, and Amy Winehouse. Don’t credit a genetically predisposed disease for the wonderful music, art, and writing that these individuals have created. If you look at their respective biographies and autobiographies you will discover they were at their best sober.

For a person who creates for a living or even just a hobby, this process is a crucial part of life. The fear of losing creativity can cause worry, apprehension, and hesitation to even get sober. It can also prevent those from getting help for their addiction. In addition, this type of fear can additionally become a factor for relapse for artists when newly sober, since the return of motivation to be creative can take a few months.

“I’m Better At Everything Not Wasted”

In an article from Vice, singer-songwriter, David Hause, explains what sobriety did for his creative process:

“Getting rid of the booze took some things off my plate. All of the sudden there was this room in my mind that wasn’t consumed by a whole bottle of Jameson. Now I’m able to interact with the crowd better. I’m slower to make judgments or say things I can regret. I sing better. I’m better at the job. When it comes down to it I’m better at everything not wasted.”

Additionally, world-renowned author, Stephen King, has been sober for over 20 years and notes that his biggest fear of getting clean was that it would rob him of his creativity. However, today, the Best-Seller lists confirm that some of his most popular novels were written after he got sober. Some are shocked to find that their thinking is somewhat clouded in the first couple months of sobriety, however as the brain begins to heal it can find new levels of creativity higher than anything they’ve experienced.

Still Stuck?

So, you may still be worried about sobriety and the concept that you’ll lose your “niche” or will wither away from lack of crazy. We’ve put a list together to get your creative juices flowing and get you back into your creative edge.


Visit new places, pursue other interests, and find new inspiration. In sobriety, there are plenty more opportunities to try out new experiences and discover a new muse. What are you waiting for? Go!

Get A Journal

Create a space where you can write down any artistic ideas or thoughts that come into your head throughout the day. Set aside a specific time to create, where you won’t be interrupted.

Notice Your Improved Thought Process

Drugs and alcohol affect our cognitive functioning and can change and distort our thought process. After a couple of months in recovery, a person will begin to have more mental clarity. Notice your thoughts begin to clear and you may notice more stable moods and increased motivation.

Don’t Force Creativity To Happen

Enough said. Be patient. Let the creative process happen as it happens.

Believe In Yourself

Having a belief in yourself as an artist and overall creative person can lead to more confident and strong work. Believe in yourself, and it will happen.


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