Creating Dreams - Reclaiming my Light - with the Healing Power of Art - by Robin M. Gilliam
Do you remember when your dream died, when darkness surrounded you - pulling you deeper into the void? I do!
It was September 26, 1986, and I had finally decided to return home to my parents in Maryland after two years of verbal and mental abuse that left me wondering who I was, what I liked, and what I believed. My then-husband seemed agreeable as he fixed me my favorite breakfast and helped me pack up my things. But then I found myself face down on the bathroom floor being sexually assaulted with the bath water running loud to cover up my screams. I don’t remember how I got back to my girlfriend’s, but I do remember taking a shower to wash away the shame, guilt, betrayal, and disgust. I think she took me to the hospital, but all the evidence was gone, and back in the late 80s - how could a husband rape a wife?
1986 was also the year I overdosed on crack cocaine, and left my NYU Masters Program in Art Therapy; which I dreamed about since I was 10. I returned home to my parents in Maryland with massive debt, a broken heart and soul, and shame and guilt that weighed me way down. Totally broken I stayed high and numb on pot for 5 years.
Now I know that it was my way of dealing or not dealing with broken dreams.
Creating My Way Out of the Darkness
Finally, in 1991, after being sick and tired of being sick and tired, I walked into 12 step rooms to start recovering. Around that time I also took a collage class with a fellow 12-stepper. I had bachelors in fine arts from Goucher College but I had only created art technically to complete a class, never intuitively to express myself.
What happened next was amazing. I tore up my Goucher graduation dress that reminded me of my abusive gaslighting ex-husband. And glued it to a piece of wood I had painted red. Like the clay I loved to manipulate in college, I learned how to sculpt fabric into hills and valleys. Then I added jewelry and other found objects. My mind got quiet when I created and I felt less broken when I finished. Like I had taken pieces of myself and put them back together again.
The longer I recovered, the more I needed to get IT out - to heal. So I hunted for treasures and I created unique abstract collages. You could find me walking the streets picking up rusty items marveling at the journey of each piece. You could find me at the beaches in Calvert County Maryland walking thru the waters edge picking up 15 million-year-old shells that dislodged daily from the cliffs revealing long hidden secrets. You could also find me at yard sales; thrift and antique stores where I love to buy vintage items to tell my story.
Every time I created a collage, I got IT out, I became more whole, I became #IAMME.
Writing My Way Into the Light
40 pieces of abstract collages and 15 years of recovery later I heard a voice - my Higher Power - asking me to write a book to share about how to recover with spiritual principles and the healing power of art. After looking around to see who was talking to me and exclaiming “I no nothing about writing a book.” My Higher Power said you read novels - you’ll figure it out.” So, knowing that it’s progress and not perfection, I began.
When I started to write, my second husband went into treatment for prescription opioids. After 20 years of marriage, I learned about the sexual assault he endured as a child. And in retrospect what shaped some of the patterns and decisions in our marriage. Thus Claire Sebastian was born.
To help others affected by trauma and addiction and/or alcoholism I wanted to answer the following questions: how does trauma impact addiction, at what point does it take to make a change, and what does recovery really look like? So, I wrote my novel Gift of Desperation.
Writing Gift of Desperation helped me to understand my artwork and the healing power of art.
Dreams Don't Die They Just Morph
I realized that my dream of becoming an art therapist was more about helping other trauma survivors and those affected by the disease of addiction and/or alcoholism learn to recover using the healing power of art. Then I realized that I didn’t just write a book, I was starting a movement and Recovery Art Studio was born.
Since then I have worked with hundreds of people who also want to recover using spiritual principles and the healing power of art. We are Recovery Art Warriors! I feel so empowered to offer this spiritual recovery pathway with a creative edge to help others build their dreams and reclaim their light. It’s amazing to see someone open up through the art they share online and how they use creating to work through issues. While I teach techniques to guide them in ways of creating, I also emphasize that it’s about progress and not perfection. I love being able to offer a safe place for people to explore their creativity and teach them that art is about expressing ourselves. Together we are stronger and shine brighter!