Your Addictions Have to Go


Addictions

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is Y for Your Addictions Have to Go.

Many people think of novelists (of all writers, really) as deep thinking older men who find their muse in the bottom of a bottle of bourbon. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Any addiction, whether alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography, will hamper your creativity. It doesn’t mean you can’t write great stuff while living with an addiction, but it will make the process a lot harder—not to mention the other problems addictions will bring into your life. To be the best writer you can be, your addictions have to go.

But what about those famous writers who’ve had addictions?

In his book entitled, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King, a recovering addict himself, has a lot to say about this1. He lays responsibility for the myth of the addicted writer at the feet of 4 specific examples of literary angst and despair: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and the poet, Dylan Thomas. King’s opinion (and mine, as well) is that substance abusing writers are just substance abusers—plain and simple. While creative people may be more prone to addiction than the general public, they don’t need to be drunk, stoned, or otherwise tuned up to write. Any claim to the contrary is a lie.

How Alcohol and Drugs Affect the Brain

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “drugs can alter important brain areas that are necessary for life-sustaining functions and can drive the compulsive drug abuse that marks addiction.” Drugs tap into, and interfere with, the brains communication system, leading to abnormal messages being sent. Drugs target the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement, emotion, rewards, and feelings of pleasure. This causes the drug user to want to continue to use drugs. They are the only way to make the brain get those “reward” messages at those levels. When the drug is taken away, the person no longer responds to the things that normally would give them pleasure. This leads to feelings of depression. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Addictions

Addiction and Creativity

While many creative people have addictions, those addictions don’t add to or benefit their creativity. Creative people may, however, be more prone to addictions. One drug treatment center’s website postulates that there are many similarities between the creative personality and the addictive personality. Many of these characteristics make one prone to addiction, including a tendency to act impulsively and an enjoyment of risk-taking.

It is well documented that drugs, alcohol, and other addictive substances and activities do not enhance one’s creativity. The myth of the addiction as the artist’s muse is born of the fact that many creative people happen to become addicted people. They were always creative, and likely more productive prior to becoming addicted. The very definition of addiction is to put what you are addicted to before anything and everything else in life, including your art.

What to do about your addiction

There really isn’t a self-help guide to breaking an addiction. The best thing you can do is to seek professional help. The best addiction treatment center I know of is Teen Challenge. Teen Challenge serves men, women, and teens. They have centers all over the United States (and the world) and often accept people regardless of ability to pay. Contact the Teen Challenge center near you to find out how they can help you.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

Footnotes:

1 I highly recommend On Writing. It’s one of the best books on writing there is. Part memoir, part craft, it is sure to encourage and inform you. As a bonus, if you’ve ever read any of his books, hearing what went on behind the scenes as he wrote them will be especially enjoyable.

Have any Question or Comment?

12 comments on “Your Addictions Have to Go

Great post. I’m off the mind that we need to do what we need to do to get through tough periods. While that leaves us open to addiction, it does not necessarily have to. In other words, during tough times I may go from having 1-2 drinks a week to a drink a night. Still controlled, but less so.

I am always thankful that for all my problems, addiction isn’t one of them. I’m warned it runs in my genes but I’ve avoided it so far.

Like Jacqui, I’m very grateful to have zero interest in the alcohol that led to a couple of relatives’ lifelong struggles, and I’ve never had any interest in drugs other than the occasional Advil for a headache. So I’m free of addictions, unless you count my unfortunate addiction to sugar which I’m trying hard (usually) to defeat 🙂
All joking aside, though, I’m glad you wrote the post. I think I’ve mentioned my adoration of Kris Kristofferson, whose songwriting is some of the best writing of any kind I’ve ever read. You might be familiar with his song “Why Me?” and if you haven’t listened to “Here Comes that Rainbow Again,” please do. It’s based on a scene from Grapes of Wrath.
Anyway, I digress again. It’s that kind of day. Sorry, Heather. What I wanted to say is that Kristofferson was also addicted – to alcohol – until he was in his mid 40’s. He says he bought into the belief that a true artist “lived hard, loved lots, and died young, leaving a beautiful corpse.” I’m also so grateful when an artist lets go of that destructive belief so that we can continue to enjoy their brilliance.

Hi Sheri. I think you make a great point. The important thing is to consider the tipping point of when something goes from helping to hurting. And you have to realize it before that happens. There needs to be a little grace. I think everyone has a right to fall apart sometimes. Hopefully, they can pull it together, too.

Hi Jacqui. I think there is definitely a genetic component to consider. I have addiction embedded deeply in my genes and my kids’ biological father also had a long family history of addiction, so I have always warned my kids to steer clear of anything addictive.

Hi Karen. I hadn’t heard that Kris Kristofferson song before. How beautiful! The life of someone in the spotlight is one I would never want. So much pressure. So little privacy. We sure can learn a lot from them, though, and hopefully, give them the grace they need when they are trying to pull their life together after a mistake. Thank you for sharing this.

My father was an alchoholic and a chain smoker – addictive personality traits run through myself and my siblings – they tend to give in to theirs, I fight mine all the way – no drinking or smoking – but the OCD component is a battle!

Leanne | http://www.crestingthehill.com.au
Y for You are Unique

Addictions are hard. I’m of the opinion that those who find themselves addicted to something are frequently trying to self medicate for some undiagnosed affliction. Does that make someone more creative? I rather doubt it.

Hi Leanne. I applaud you not giving in. Even when you are in a battle, such as with OCD, you are at least fighting. I admire that.

Hi Liz. I think that you are right. Creative people tend to be more prone to a host of mental illness, including addiction. This is why they need to be extra vigilant to be careful not to fall into the trap of addiction. Thanks to famous creatives being more open about their struggles, I think the idea that creatives need substances to help their art has gone by the wayside to a great extent.

A lot of famous Hungarian writers and poets were also addicted to something. Except they never talk about any of that in Literature class…

The Multicolored Diary: Weird Things in Hungarian Folktales

Hi Tarkabarka. I think that historically, writers have struggled with addiction (or didn’t struggle, but went with it) across nationalities. I wonder if they don’t talk about this in literature classes because they worry it will take away from their talent and reputation. I don’t think their addiction diminishes what they’ve accomplished. Perhaps they could have done even more without the addiction? Who knows? It is a lesson for us, though, to be vigilant.

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