The Delusion that Drugs or Alcohol Made Me a Better Artist

Happy drug-free woman standing in sunset

“My whole life I found great joy, fulfillment and purpose in being creative. I knew from a very young age that I was an artist and that I always would be. When I was younger my art came easily, it flowed effortlessly and with ease, and I had a pure confidence with it where I never doubted myself or my ability.

“When I grew older I discovered drugs and alcohol, and as a teenager started to use them regularly. In the beginning, it felt like drugs and alcohol gave me a sense of freedom and took me to a greater height, and so I started this vicious cycle of using.

“What wasn’t apparent to me at that time was that these experiences started to affect me in an incredibly negative way and compound each other to the point where living an everyday life became difficult. Anxiety and depression became very real. And so the vicious cycle continued. I would then take more drugs and alcohol to relieve the symptoms the drugs initially created. When I look back to when I was a child, the level of happiness and joy was innate and nothing I did could get me back to that state.

“The delusional thinking that the drugs or alcohol somehow made me a better artist was just that, a complete delusion. Somehow a lot of artists think they have to be high or drunk to access a higher level of creativity. But it became very clear to me that drugs and alcohol take it away.

“It was only after doing the New Life Detox at Narconon Ojai, when I sweated out the 20 years worth of drugs I had done that were still in my body, that that feeling of childlike awe and magic came back. These feelings I had when I was a child—when art and creativity came easily, flowing effortlessly, magically and when I never questioned my art. I just did it and loved it.

“When I felt this again for the first time in 20 years I realized it was never the drugs that made me more creative, but my experiences, my loves, my losses, my wins, my life that made me the incredible artist I am. And with all the drugs out of my system, it just keeps getting bigger, brighter, better and more powerful in every way. I have this level of freedom, happiness and an extraordinary level of creativity back and have my life experience to fuel my art. I am happy! Quite frankly the happiest I have been since finger painting in my garden when I was five years old.”

E. L.—Narconon Ojai Graduate


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.