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Hope for the Future in Ink

Art in the form of ink staining fabrics.

When we talk about recovery, we're talking about a person in transition. He’s moving from a state of sickness to one of health, or from self-hate to self-love, or from who he’s been to who he wants to be. He’s becoming a more whole-hearted version of himself that doesn’t use drugs or alcohol to numb his feelings or dull his experience of life.

The journey begins by asking Who are you? An addict, an alcoholic? A man in pain, someone who is ashamed of his past or hopeless about his future? A loner, a wildcard, a clown? And then asking Who do you want to be?

We carry these two versions of ourselves—who we have been and who we could be.

Who a man wishes to be forms the blueprint for how he can sustain lifelong remission from addiction. As the men of Voyage explore who they are, and begin constructing a picture of who they want to be, they reconnect with parts of themselves they haven’t looked at in a long time, or ever. We address their goals for the future in group; as we go around the room and take stock of the day we help men make important connections between their mind and their body, between their past and their present.

Any activity we do with our men, whether we’re out on the water, deep in the woods, or sprawled on the floor with art supplies, we’re putting men in an environment that will tap into different parts of his inner self.

Our artistic activities tend to bring out the most fear and apprehension in our men; there’s an ingrained hesitation to be vulnerable. Patients who have been with us longer and had more practice shucking off their fear of vulnerability get earnestly involved in creative activities and model positive behaviors for newer guys.

We’ve written before about making gyotaku with our men—it’s a traditional Japanese art form of fishermen to memorialize the noble fish they’ve caught. In the corner of each pressing is a small red stamp, as important as the fish itself, a symbol of the man who caught the fish.

Here’s how we make our signet stamps:

Each man designs his own, using paper and pencil first. They’ll sketch symbols, taking inspiration from Viking runes, Japanese kanji, Polynesian symbols, various animals, and even hieroglyphs.

The image they create is a composite of how they see themselves and who they aspire to be.

Our men put a lot of thought into their stamps as a signature and personal representation, and their creativity and self-love really shows out in these activities. We ask them, what do you want to say about yourself? And they respond with intense new insight and confidence about who they are. The signet stamps illustrate what our men believe about themselves—loyalty, strength, wisdom, insight, family, community.

Once he has finished his sketch, he’ll transfer the design to a piece of rubber. After a few final adjustments, he’ll begin cutting away bits of the rubber with carving tools. Any place that he carves away becomes white space, and won’t pick up ink so it’s an important moment to decide what will be intensely colored and what will be negative space.

In Japanese art, red is an important color that symbolizes life and vitality—the stamp, and the gyotaku that it is affixed to it, becomes part of the legacy of each man’s identity.

Now that his stamp is complete he can press his fish.

Connection with each other, and with ourselves.

Art is as important to recovery as physical activities because it gives our men another means through which they can share what’s in their heart, mind and soul with their brothers. When the men are in group and sharing the often difficult and brutal details of their past transgressions and the ways that trauma and addiction have affected them, the room brims with emotion.

Often, just in listening to his brother share, a man can connect those words to an experience within himself. Art gives our men another means of expressing those experiences and sharing that connection, and in that way facilitates empathy between brothers.

These empathetic connections are vital to long-term healing. Learning to hear other men as they express anger, fear or pain and to offer empathy and compassion helps a man to heal himself. He can come to see that he’s not alone in what he has done or experienced, and that forgiveness and healing are possible.

The individual experience of the group dynamic is crucial to healing. We learn to see and accept others on their own terms, and to permit the same for ourselves. Our men connect with their recovery by understanding who they are and what they need out of life to feel fulfilled and purposeful.

Our signet stamps are wishes we make for ourselves; they show us that we can fully commit—in ink!—to a better version of ourselves, living a life that comes with patience and reverence for the process and our own healing.

Our program is a careful blend of evidence-based therapy and innovative experiential that challenges men in vital ways, and helps them lay the foundation for sustainable recovery. To learn more about our process, schedule a complimentary consultation with our team.


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