This is a story about a young woman with a heroin addiction. I shall call her Claire. Claire had two small children and a husband whom she was very close with. At the time I worked with her she was around thirty years old. She came to me for two reasons, she was highly addicted to shooting heroin and she was afraid that she was going to lose her children to social services. Her mother had called the Department of Social Services on her for neglect of her children due to her addiction.
She sought me out because she wanted to work with an expressive arts therapist. She played guitar and sang beautifully. Claire was also talented in dance, drawing and painting. She lived her life on the edge for most of her life. She was a “risk-taker” but that’s also what helped her to quit heroin. Being a risk-taker means having courage and being up for a new adventure. A risk-taker is one who takes chances not always in a self-defeating way but also in a very positive way.
She was very clear in her intention to quit heroin or else her children would be removed from her life. Within three days of our first session she and her husband did their own detox off heroin and were able to stop using. After they sent their children to grandma’s they laid in bed together vomiting, sweating, and in a lot of physical and emotional pain for three days. It was in a dark room. She said it was tormenting rolling back and forth on the bed moaning.
After this grueling experience, her husband got on Suboxone but at times was not able to completely stay off heroin. He almost brought her back into the dis-ease a few times but she held strong. There were many positive attributes of this client that were in her favor. She was not willing to lose her children, yet she was willing to let go of her relationship with her husband if he were to permanently go back to heroin. Keeping her children was her main motive to remove heroin from her life.
She would triumph through the door at the beginning of each session with guitar in hand, a new song or a new painting (sometimes both) and a smile on her face for being proud of herself for getting through another week of sobriety. Other times she would cry and sing and there were times she would sit still in the silence of knowing that it was going to be a long hard road. At the beginning of our sessions, Claire would immerse herself into heart felt singing. She loved to draw and paint while we talked about her week. All of her art was about her growth, mostly pictures of her, some of her family. It was not easy after 6 years of heroin to be clean. She was still trying to get the hang of what it means to be sober.
The first two weeks were the hardest. She was edgy, manipulative, trying to pull the wool over her eyes and mine, and at times she had a flat affect, on those days her music also sounded flat or out of tune.
At the beginning of our work together there was not a lot of emotion in her music. By the end of our work together she was growing and glowing; she built a lot of self esteem and had gotten her children back from her mom. Her songs were beautiful. They were about her transformation and she went from feeling depressed to joyful, cynical to trusting, anxious to calm, shameful to confident and content. She was a bright star; she was a great inspiration to me. She was a teacher to me as well as I was her confidante, creative coach and counselor. I was amazed at her transformation; how brilliant her light shined. We both moved out of state after our six months together but I will always think of her as a beautiful butterfly happily soaring through life. Claire gave me hope for those who would come to me in the future.
As an expressive arts therapist, I can also attest to my own growth and freedom from addiction. My love for the Arts has helped me to overcome challenges in my own life. I continue to study and practice fine arts, dance therapy, authentic movement, yoga, psychodrama, music and narrative therapy. I thank all of my clients for their efforts and want to remind them to never give up. Just keep on loving yourself and follow your bliss.
This post was written by Lilla Oaks Khalsa, MA, a therapist here at Changing Tides Treatment!