How art inspired addiction recovery — showcasing ‘Countdown’.

Deano Hewitts
8 min readMay 12, 2023

Since its creation, I’ve quit weed, smoking, cocaine and alcohol!

Called ‘Countdown’ the story behind it and I talk about:

How do you know if you are an addict?

What is addiction?

Different types of addiction

‘Countdown’

‘Countdown” represents quitting! Not quitting on life, but quitting the things that destroyed my life.

It represents the constant battle and torture of failed attempts.

It is a reminder of the things conquered.

Above all, it’s the strength rising from what I’ve left behind.

Trying to quit by counting down the days

I was forever doing this; I won’t drink for a year, I won’t smoke for 7 days, I won’t do this for 30 days, I’d have bits of paper everywhere for different addictions with countdowns.

As I got into painting, I had canvases lying around — and I thought putting the ‘countdown’ on a much bigger scale would help me.

But I messed up again and painted the canvas black to cover it up.

Not even having a checklist massive on my wall was enough to stop me.

How the painting was born

As the black was drying, I spilt my coffee over it! Uncovering some of the dates in the shape of a wizard!, well that’s what I saw.

I played with it for ages, painting bright greens for nature and drawing a bull-like mythical creature.

I carried on this chart thing for ages on new bits of paper!

My recovery from addictions

It took an AA meeting and hearing that I should contemplate using the philosophy that I should never drink again before I realised the futility of the way I’d been trying to stop.

“I accept this has the better of me, and I will never do it again!”

Never do it again?

Do you know how much memory space you clear out when you don’t have to worry about a specific date, the end of the month, the end of the year -

Even when you are not drinking for 30 days, your brain is still full of thinking about drinking. “If I can only get to this date”, “I can’t wait for that next drink”, “who will I drink with”.

But never again; it’s like getting a free terabyte of memory!

But now for the hard part

You have to face the reasons you turned to addiction so readily in the first place!

And even more tragically, dealing with all the new shit you’ve amassed whilst you tried your luck.

And now! You must ward off all the new freeloader addictions who will be knocking on your door to become your new best friend!

Why quitting for a short amount of time is good

Quitting for a certain amount of time did give me repetition and new behavioural patterns.

- you got some reps; you know what it feels like!)

You’ve been through the withdrawals and pain, so that it will be easier next time!

It’s much quicker to get back on the ‘quit’ train — or if I am going to get all zen, it’s not quitting. It’s starting something new.

List of addictions in some subjective order of destruction

Sugar

Caffeine

Nicotine

Food, too much or not enough

Sex and porn

Gambling

Self-harm

Drugs = Weed

Amphetamines, ketamine, cocaine, MDMA, Heroin, Fentanyl

There are drugs which I think are less addictive and can add benefit to addiction, such as ayahuasca and mushrooms, but this is for another blog — let me know in the comments if you want my thoughts on this!

Then you’ve got the more positive addictions which are murky and grey in definition, such as work and exercise!

Let me know if I’ve missed any obvious addictions in the comments below.

What is addiction

It’s when you want to get to work on time tomorrow — but you don’t!

It’s when you agree to meet your friends but can’t.

It’s when you said you’d look after your child, but you can’t!

Escaping what you felt in the moment overcame this want, and you said fuck to the consequences.

Addiction is trauma; it’s a pain you’ve not had the chance to figure out and process.

It’s an utter disgust for the world that you live in, and you prefer to use destructive behaviours to become unconscious.

It’s eventually isolation and loneliness.

It messes up relationships, friendships, careers and dreams.

This is sad, as your dreams gave you the momentum to survive.

I once heard Joe Polish, who runs genius recovery, say — thank goodness for addiction; without it, you may not have survived.

This helps to understand that the ‘things’ we turn to ease our pain are sometimes what we need.

But, as we know, there should be a time as we grow when we face these pains and try to unstitch our saving mechanisms.

Are you an addict, or are you not sure?

I’ve written another blog about whether you’re an addict — called ‘Am I an addict.’

https://medium.com/@deanohewitts/am-i-an-addict-aefca9e9849c

Here is a quote from it -

To bring it back to the alcoholic, I am trying to say, do we really need to see someone homeless and drinking 24 hours a day to call them an alcoholic? It could be that if you are looking for acceptance as an addict, you’ve probably got a considerable amount to go through to really meet the mould — I’d urge you not to test this theory.

Ways to stop

Get help; build up to this; there’s youtube and podcasts — do therapy.

I did nine years of therapy; I suggest less!

It’s excellent for getting hanging out your dirty laundry — and clearing things off your chest — saying the unspoken.

But then it becomes a new addiction, a way for you to escape from reality by reciting the same stuff.

Whatever you focus on is what you’ll get! — reciting the same stuff time after time will eventually keep you stuck.

A philosophy that helps

The real thing that helped my progress the most — and one of the reasons I am writing this blog was what I heard on a Tony Robbins course — the secret to happiness is helping others.

It’s challenging for an addict to focus on other people.

So consumed by their own mess — and dealing with the shitstorm they leave in their wake.

Helping others becomes more and more complex, especially when you are unreliable.

Find a reason to live outside of yourself.

The catalyst for me to jump ship from the descending path was my son — I quit drugs a couple of months after he was born, as I messed up,

And drink one year later for the same reasons.

The potential threat of not having him in my life was more important than drugs or alcohol.

The journey to recovery

When I look back on those early years, the pain was insane.

But I’m 4 years on now — and it’s not a big deal; life is better — I still drink too much coffee, am currently chewing too much nicotine gun, and on a bad day, I’ll binge on sugar.

What helps!

Creativity! I run art therapy sessions to help others process grief, addiction, and trauma. It’s incredible to stay in the emotional space longer than you would otherwise.

Understanding that happiness is not the goal! Who wants to be happy all the time?

Sitting in anger and pain is good; taking it out on others is not.

Nature, outside, grass and stuff

Exercise — it’s a non-negotiable as far as I am concerned.

Meditation — learn about it, even if you don’t do it

Go to some meetings; it’s a safe environment — take what you need from it, and don’t feel you need to stay forever.

Become more spiritual — read philosophy — read the Tao Te Ching.

Read or listen to Russel Brand’s book, Recovery, Freedom from our addictions. This is amazing.

Read stuff by Gabor Mate about trauma and addiction, or listen to it!

Dispelling the ‘God’ part of Alcoholic’s Anonymous and their other anonymous meetings

I want to dispel a massive obstacle that a lot of people find! — GOD, a higher power. “But I’m not religious; I’m not going to that”!

If you have an addiction issue, you likely have a huge ego — which is not an insult; we all have an ego, and your ego is likely ‘a c*nt’!

All AA is trying to say is = to believe that there is a reason you are on this planet that is bigger than what you know.

Hand the day-to-day stress to a higher power, taking the load off your shoulders.

Not to decry or insult any religions — but believe in a massive pink giant for all I care; just hand over your burden to some made-up something.

Or, if you follow a religion, probably more helpful than a pink giant!

Countdown

I love looking at this piece every day. It is solace to me. It reminds me of the pain and keeps me in check. It’s a celebration of where I’ve come and a testimony to what humans are capable of.

Your Journey

Please comment on any parts of this you found useful; or if you have different opinions on any of the matters discussed.

On my journey to becoming an artist and thoroughly enjoying the ups and downs. Visit my website & sign up to my newsletter to be kept up to date on my upcoming exhibitions and launches.

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