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Therapeutic Poetry:
Haikus for Recovery

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Poetry in Addiction Treatment

Let’s start this off with some actual creativity: a poem, written about addiction.

Sparkling Hook

substanceless yearning
sticky cloud that rings and rings
we fall down like rain

the godfist squeezes
snow melts to golden drippings
I is floating off

your voice through cotton
fogged glass, deep water window
filigreed absence

try to enter world
pressed against a pane of glass
teach me how to break

juice of dreams become
dark oil river rumble — this
false awakening

child prophet says you
wading back into the eye
still grey like dying

anemone takes
you up and closes static
arms like the world’s

Haikus in Addiction Treatment

This is a series of haikus which are all inspired by addiction. While all poetry writing is helpful in recovery as a therapeutic tool. The haiku is a simple poetic form, originated in Japan. They traditionally contrasts two images or concepts which are split with what is referred to as the cutting word. Haikus can be a helpful form for processing or expressing difficult feelings and experiences, making them a great resource for expressive therapy.

One important quality of haikus is that they are short, so the writer doesn’t have to dwell in a difficult space for very long. The English language’s method to format a haiku consists of three short lines: the first using five syllables, the second using seven, and then the third also using five.

Catharsis Bit by Bit

It is cathartic to simply allow a few select images or ideas to hold something complex in a small, isolated bubble of poetry. It may not contain the entire subject, in this case addiction, but the writer can focus on one distilled piece of the subject.

This is part of the reason why, for me, the haikus are useful as a series. Each haiku in a series holds a morsel of the whole complexity that is being orbited. The writer can work through something bit by bit, or step by step, and then pull back to see the whole picture.

Poetry as a Recovery Tool

Poetry and writing in general can be quite useful to individuals in recovery from addiction, as a therapeutic tool. When we create an image or symbol to represent an aspect of our feelings or experience, we can distance ourselves from the difficulty and focus on making a tangible thing out of those feelings.

Often when people have suffered from addiction, they can feel helpless and out of control. When we decide to create an artistic representation of our experience, which we have control over, we take agency in those feelings and experiences.

Embodying and Releasing

Addiction partially hijacks an individual’s reason and logic, as it creates an intense new reward system in the brain. Because of this, the use of the substance and “reward” (as the brain identifies it) of using that substance supersede other values and priorities of the person. These individuals are conflicted, having irrational cravings of something that is bad for them.

The emotional realities of that experience are murky, complicated, perplexing, and frustrating to describe and understand. In fact, emotions in general can be frustrating to attempt to understand, because they are not logical in nature. Poetic expression allows a writer to embody these emotions with abstract concepts and images.

Instead of trying to understand or explain them, which can feel ultimately impossible, the writer allows them to exist on a different plane. Poetry, being a use of language (which is logical, left brain) and art (which is expressive, right brain) simultaneously, grants access to a new space where these difficult feelings are embodied and validated.

Anyone Can Write Through Recvoery

If you have the weight of alcoholism or drug addiction on your shoulders, you are not alone. There are many people who want to help you lift that burden. Many treatment programs offer expressive therapy sessions like therapeutic poetry. Writing is has been known as an incredibly helpful tool in recovery and general therapeutic practices. In fact, many poets and writers started writing because of its therapeutic power.

Even treatment programs that don’t offer therapeutic poetry are bound to involve some elements of writing. If you want to learn more about treatment and how to get free from the heavy burden of addiction, call (877)670-8451.

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