How Do You Create Art When You're An Addict? | 2 or 3 Things I Know About Film >> Film Film reviews, essays, analysis and more Film | 2 or 3 Things I Know About Film >> Film Film reviews, essays, analysis and more
How Do You Create Art When You’re An Addict?

I sat down to write this week's article and something much more personal flowed out of me. This week's piece is a bit different than previous entries.

When I finish writing an article or shooting a scene or editing a project, the level of excitement I feel and the amount of energy that rushes through me is unmatched by anything else. I have to share it with someone. Everyone. Maybe they'll feel just a little of what I feel. I love film. I love to create. I feel this insatiable need to create. It's not that I feel my ideas are any more important than anyone else's, but I do crave the interest of others. I enjoy what I create and feel others would as well. I want people to experience my creative output. Whether they enjoy it or not I yearn for their attention.

Until these past few years, I hadn't made a short film in some time. The itch had only grown larger and larger as time went by. The projects I had created were lost some years ago by a colleague I used to work with. Trouble in his personal life resulted in the loss. There was also a time when a TV network in my local area was considering making original programming. I had a project lined up to be involved in the endeavor. Unfortunately, the entire plan was scrapped along with the funding for my project. These two events may not seem like much, but they were truly soul crushing for me. I retreated within myself and all but gave up the dream of being a filmmaker.

When I was younger I loved to 'party' and 'have fun' more often than not more so than I should have. I fell pretty deep and hard into drugs. Getting high became what my life revolved around. During this time I began drinking very heavily as well. I spent many nights passed out on the bathroom floor and many days apologizing to people for my actions. After a while, people get used to you being this way. It becomes expected. I saw myself as the life of the party, but to everyone else, I was an annoyance, a hindrance, and a danger. I've suffered from alcohol poisoning at least three times in my life. Luckily I never overdosed on any drug though there are significant gaps of time I just do not recall. Big blank spaces where nothing resides. I was certain I wouldn't live to be thirty and screw it, I didn't care.

I'm thirty-one years old and now clean and sober. No grand event in my life made me realize I needed to change. No big talk from someone that meant something to me. I hid my addiction well, and to make matters worse, I was able to operate as a pretty high functioning addict. I had a higher income job, paid all my bills and by most accounts lived a decent and healthy life. In retrospect that was the terrifying aspect: My ability to stay drunk or high almost every waking hour of the day and still be able to function. The nights were far different. I let loose then, which resulted in many terrible situations. I needed to stop. I didn't have an epiphany. It was more a thought I couldn't shake that turned into a realization: That when I was sober, I felt miserable.

I was wasting my life. Wasting the precious time I have been afforded in this life. On what? A bunch of nights I'm not going to remember surrounded by a group of people that ultimately didn't care about me? Maybe some of them did care they just weren't able to see how far down I had indeed fallen. After all, I was very good at hiding it. I went to rehab on my own and attended meetings. These weren't immediately helpful. I was able to stay clean from drugs for a short period though my drinking had increased ten fold to cope with the absence of narcotics. Not too much time into being clean, I relapsed. Rehab was too far of a drive, so I quit going. Spending time in those meetings led me deeper into a depression in which I was already engulfed. I didn't know how to handle it , so I backslid. Thankfully I couldn't get the stories those people told out of my head. Did I want to end up 40 or 50 years old, if I made it that long, still going to these meetings? Did I want to be telling people that I've been sober for two weeks and this time I think it's going to stick? The thought made life seem not worth living. What was the point in being here if that's all my life amounted to? That was the one. That did it.

I couldn't bear to think of the shame and disappointment I would bring so many people in my life if I kept going down that road. I had to find an exit. What was once my escape had now become a trap. I started writing again. Little by little at first, until it became a regularity in my life again. The need to get messed up slowly dissipated as time went by. Within months I had stopped doing drugs completely. The drinking took longer. I had gotten to a point where I couldn't function around people if I didn't have alcohol in my system. I would become anxious to the point I felt like I had a heart attack. I stopped drinking when I was just at home by myself. That turned into staying home a lot. I know a lot of my friends didn't know or understand why I had suddenly become a hermit. I was the guy who was always out. Always up to go anywhere and now I was avoiding phone calls and declining invitations. I felt I needed to be able to be comfortable being myself by myself again before I could kick the addiction. This turned into only drinking when I was off work the next day. The hangovers had become so bad I could barely function. Eventually, I was only drinking one day a week. I was so happy about that.

I became deeply rooted in writing. I had developed several ideas for short films, written a lot of short stories, poems and thought pieces. The process had become exciting and cathartic again. Not that it ever wasn't; I had just gotten away from it. Weeks passed by before I realized I couldn't remember the last time I drank. I just didn't feel the urge any longer. 

I was never one to count the days of sobriety. The constant reminder was depressing to me. It always seemed like counting the days until relapse. I know it works for others, but for me, it became counterproductive quickly. I only kept count in my early days when I briefly went to rehab and when I attended meetings. After my first relapse, I never kept a running count again.

I've worked off and on in restaurants ever since I started working. I advanced in the field to the point that I was the General Manager of a restaurant. I knew I could make a career out of it. It was hectic, introduced major amounts of stress into my life and made me unhappy. It had only been some years since I got clean. I thought long and hard about my future and about what I wanted. I had a deep conversation with my parents and ultimately decided I needed to leave this career job. It wasn't what I wanted. It didn't fulfill me. The road to being able to sustain myself through my creative output is still on going, but I am happier now than I have ever been.

To say that being able to channel my creativity has changed my life for the better would be a gross understatement. I believe my past addictions have led me to crave the attention of others concerning my output. I love to write, and I love to make films. I fully believe what I create is interesting and worth investing time. I hope others feel the same way––and I hope they, in turn, feel inspired.