Drawing My Way to Recovery: An Alcoholic's Success Story, Part II

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This article was written exclusively for MyAddiction.com by Parker Lanier, who shares his experience with alcoholism and how art played an integral role in his recovery.

Click here to read Part I.

Everything in my life has changed since I made the decision to get sober. I must emphasize that there is a difference between getting sober and stopping drinking. Getting sober is working the 12 Steps of AA, having a sponsor, helping people, going to meetings, and making coffee. Alcoholism is just the symptom of my disease.

Working the 12 Steps helped me repair the things that made me the miserable person I was. The great thing about the program is that you only have to refrain from drinking one day at a time. If someone would have told me when I got out of the hospital that I could not drink for the rest of my life, I would have said there is no way I can make that promise. I would have failed if I looked at it from that angle. Yet anybody can refrain from drinking for 24 hours.

During my recovery, I have realized how important it is to go to an AA meeting, to not drink between meetings, and to call another drunk before I pick up the first drink. The great thing about AA is that you feel completely comfortable and supported. There is nothing you could say you did that some other drunk had not already done. For me, AA was the only thing that worked. That’s it; that is the way it starts. Pretty soon, I had made it a few 24 hours in a row. Then I knew a freedom that non-alcoholics simply cannot understand.

Moving Forward: Art as Therapy

Art played a huge role in my sobriety. As a child I was not particularly artistic. I did, however, read extensively. When I was young, I was intrigued by graphic novels, comic books and magazines, such as Mad Magazine. They were full of intricate, amazing drawings. As I got older, I matriculated to R. Crumb and Zap Comix.

After I achieved one year of sobriety, my sponsor asked me if I had ever journaled. He always tried to push me into things that he knew I would be uncomfortable with. I protested loudly that I hated journaling and gave him about a hundred different reasons why it wasn’t my cup of tea. He merely laughed and impored me to try writing in a journal and to bring him back the results.

I bought a journal and begrudgingly took it to my AA meeting. At meeting, I did not write a single thing. Instead, I began sketching all of the interesting people sitting around me. In a week, I had filled the entire book with artwork. It was an indescribable feeling.

My artwork became like a spiritual exercise – I drew every night before going to sleep. Some of my drawings are real, while others are imagined. I appear in every single one of my drawings as the character with a giant head. This caricature is meant to represent the size of my ego when I first entered the program. Also, a little boy in a red t-shirt and ball cap can be seen in many of the drawings. This little boy represents my inner child, whom I have nicknamed Little Parky. He usually expresses a lot of anxiety.

Spreading the Message

A lot of my early drawings were related to Alcoholics Anonymous. By tying my artwork to the program, I was able to better focus on my sobriety and recovery. When I was drawing, it felt almost like an extra meeting. I also gave away a lot of my artwork, which allowed me to spread a powerful message, to encourage others to seek sobriety, and to show the power of a 12-step program.

Soon, people began requesting certain things, which I was more than happy to create. My art was used on literature and flyers from AA groups all across the country. One group in Florida even used my drawings as the topic for their meeting.

In 2006 I completed a piece called “Get Humble Now.” It was later selected to be a part of an amazing project sponsored by Johns Hopkins Medical School called “Art and Addiction: Putting a Face on Addiction.” I felt so honored to be a part of such an incredible project. In 2007 I did a series of drawings for a documentary film called “My Name is Bette: The life an death of an alcoholic woman.” I have also had 3 different pieces of art exhibited in The Grapevine Magazine. The positive feedback and support I have received is astonishing. Today creating art is as much a part of my program as the Serenity Prayer, and I am extremely grateful.

Parker's artwork: Alcoholic Outsider Art
Parker's gallery: High Lonesome Gallery

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