Since James joined Million Little two months ago, he has consistently inspired us with his strength, compassion, and determination. Whether he is using his life experiences to motivate others to make good decisions or helping others tap into their creativity, he is a valuable addition to our Transitional Age Youth program. Each week he soars to new heights of artistic self-expression, seeing worlds of possibility in our open-ended materials. His abstract art is both packed with personal meaning, and open to the viewer’s interpretation. He is equally delighted to tell you what a piece of his artwork means to him and hear what it means to you. He carries this attitude into his interactions with other participants. When they get discouraged, he guides them into finding the hidden beauty in their own work.
Much of James’ art is inspired by his journey to sobriety, which has been featured on our site here and here. After fourteen years using meth, heroin and other substances, James has a newfound clarity as he reaches milestones he never thought attainable. Last week, we had the pleasure of running a program session at his three month mark of sobriety. In celebration, we made art with him to reflect both his strength and struggles. James piece, “Sobriety 3”, is a wooden block stained with purples, browns, and blacks which melt away to boldly display the number 3.
“It’s the number 3 for 3 long, hard working, mentally exhausting, and crazy months of keeping sober. The bleeding of the purple on the wood represents the blood and sweat I put in my sobriety. If I would have gone back in time 4 or 5 months ago and say to myself that I would be clean for 3 months, I would laugh at myself. I never thought that a 14 year addiction would come with 3 months and counting of sobriety. I’m laughing in all the faces of my so called “friends”, haters, and doubters. I feel so proud of myself for believing in myself. Ever since I started going to YMO and starting to participate in Million Little, I’ve found hope and peace to stay sober and believe in myself.”
To complement his stark look at the hard journey to sobriety, our Program Manager crafted him a canvas focused on the celebratory nature of the day. Using his favorite colors, her piece represents Million Little’s happiness and pride in James’ accomplishment. In the middle, she created a “3” out of candles, mirroring the candles he used in his one month sobriety piece.
Watching James’ journey has been a beautiful experience. Not only is he a wonderful example of perseverance, the solace he finds in creativity highlights our mission as an organization. Published in 1897, John Lubbock’s “The Pleasure of Life” states, “Art is unquestionably one of the purest and highest elements in human happiness. It trains the mind through the eye, and the eye through the mind. As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life.” James shows us that art does in fact color life, and that creativity is a powerful tool to empower you in taking charge of the rest of your life.