Recently, I had the privilege of performing with Drybones Artist Collective: a collaboration of professional artists passionate about social justice that utilizes theater as a platform to bring about positive change in our culture and community.
Our latest show, RESTART, served as a benefit in donating a portion of our ticket sales to Seattle's Recovery Cafe, a wonderful organization that helps people struggling with substance abuse and addiction.
Many things in life cannot be put into words and so we use dance to communicate those things that lay deep beneath the surface. The choreography in RESTART explored the complexities of addiction and the journey toward healing. And while each dance presented the unique work of a different artist (choreographers Megan Becker, Victoria Gutierrez, Katy Hagelin, and Angela Robinson), they all seemed to agree about one thing: that it isn't easy.
One of the three pieces I was in included RELINQUISH/VANQUISH, by Katy Hagelin, in which I was the character in question. I lay isolated on the floor, while a quartet of dancers moves about the stage. I'm absorbed in my own anguish, and we don't seem to see each other, until one of them notices me, and comes down to my level. We do floor work, in unison, as though she is trying to understand me before she helps me, then pulls me up off the floor.
Eventually she asks something of me: to give it up, whatever "it" is. I thought of a few things when trying to relate to this piece, be it an addiction, depression, or giving something up in life that just isn't meant to be yours for now. I pull something from my side to give to her, but she's knows it's not enough, and slaps my hand away, as if to say, "No, I need all of it." The thing about healing is, that you can't just give a piece to it, you have to commit to it.
I labor to pull something from deep with in myself, clawing it from my stomach. It's so deep inside, it's so hard to let go, but once I finally do, once I finally clean it out, a weight is lifted. I breath, and proceed to dance fully for the first time, as if beginning to see more clearly. I join the other dancers, we dance together.
One thing that seems to be essential in recovery is community, we cannot do it on our own. We need others to support us, to hold us accountable, to encourage us, to remind us why we are doing this. Why the alternative isn't better. Of course, sometimes we don't have the strength to go all the way at once, it takes time and patience, and getting through on a daily basis.
The piece BUTTERFLY, also by Katy Hagelin, explores 4 different phases: the long wait in the cocoon, waiting to be born, learning to use your wings, and at last, when you can fly. Recovering from anything is a process. Becoming new is a process. And like the butterfly trying to break out of the cocoon, it doesn't happen over night. There will be winter, and there will be rain, before spring and new life.
In this video, Johann Hari says, "Human beings have an innate need to bond and connect. When we are happy and healthy, we will bond with the people around us. But when we can't, because we are traumatized, isolated, or beaten down by life, we will bond with something that gives us some sense of relief. Addiction is just one symptom of the crisis of disconnection that is happening all around us. The pathway out of unhealthy bonds is to form healthy bonds."
The Recovery Cafe aims to help people form healthy bonds, so they can break free from the bonds of addiction. Our hope is that our art will create understanding and compassion for those who struggle with addiction, and be, if even a small part, of the change in the world.