While Maisel and Raeburn directed Creative Recovery towards a specific population, that being creative people who are suffering from addiction, that is not to say that the definitions and explanations provided in this volume couldn’t be valuable to readers of varying perspectives. One such perspective is the reader who is looking to understand the illness that is addiction. For that reader, Maisel and Raeburn outline several aspects of addiction including types of addictions, the addiction spectrum, and the types of risk factors that contribute to addictive behavior. Enter creativity. The authors explain how being a creative person is in itself a risk factor for addiction and how the creative person is more susceptible to addiction due to some of the characteristics determined to be typical of the creative personality. Rather than diving into the immense body of research that has been done about the creative personality, the authors cite one trait in particular that they assert contributes to addiction the most: individuality. According to the authors, the more than 75 traits that are related to the creative personality all flow from individuality. It is traits like these that come together to make the creative person more prone to addiction as they attempt to express their individuality. In his studies of personality, Gary Davis (2004) categorized over thirty personality traits that can be attributed to or fall under the heading of “independent.” One of these traits is “individualistic”, and it is not a far stretch to see how the others listed in the category can contribute to one’s sense of individuality, such as outspoken, uninhibited, and strong willed. Other traits that make the creative person vulnerable to addiction, as described by the authors and supported by Runco (2007) include an openness to experience as well as an attitude of non-conformity. A person who is open to a wide variety of experiences may also suffer from issues of self-control which have also been linked to addictive behaviors (Miller, 2007). Clearly, the assertions that the authors make to support the creative person as more prone to addiction than their non-creative counterpart are rooted in several personality studies and hefty personality research. In summary, the authors successfully illustrate that there are many overlaps between the creative personality and the addictive personality.
After giving a background on addiction - its meaning, its warning signs, and its risk-factors - the authors dedicate the remainder of the book to outlining an addiction recovery program geared towards the risks faced particularly by the creative person. It is in these steps that the authors forfeit some of their readers by defining creativity rather narrowly. In the beginning of the book, Maisel and Raeburn (2008) describe what they believe to be the creative person and essentially define creativity. In their opinion, the creative person is:
a sensitive, intelligent, thoughtful, ethically responsible person with a deep desire to actualize [their] potential; someone who responds to beauty and is interested in beauty; a person with a strong sense of individuality who nevertheless needs to make more-than-just-me connections; someone who would love to live an artful, art-filled, and possibly art-committed life that feels rich and authentic (p. 3).
While this definition begins broad and seems to include creative endeavors of all kinds by simply defining the creative person, it ends by restricting creativity as pertaining to arts and aesthetics. What follows in the remainder of the book is an outline of a recovery program that is based on this definition and tailored to the type of creative person defined above. At the conclusion of each chapter the authors provide exercises designed for the various types of creative people, intended to reinforce the particular aspect of the recovery program they described in that chapter. While they do indeed make use of the reader’s creativity, the exercises, which are directed toward dancers, musicians, writers, visual artists, and scientists, limit the ways in which people in other creative fields could benefit from their recovery program. The one way in which the authors compensate for this is by offering one last set of exercises, vaguely directed at “the dreamer.” This works as a “catch-all” for those creative people that do not fit into the categories listed above.
The final section of this book deals with maintaining sobriety and overcoming the challenges that stem from the need to create. This section, which has the benefit of being proactive, discretely calls upon some rather robust principles of creativity. One of these principles in disguise is the need to live an authentic life. The authors describe an authentic life as one which is ethical, passionate and creative, and one in which we strive for personal integrity. This description is very reminiscent of the self-actualized life described by Maslow (1968). Another principle stressed by the authors comes in the form of a caveat. In order to avoid relapse, the authors recommend a careful, reflective balance of our creative personality, the creative work itself, and the world in which we find ourselves creating. It is just as important that we pay attention to the ways we work through the creative process and to those steps that might be the most troublesome to us and therefore threaten sobriety. It is easy to see how closely these elements resemble the model of creativity presented by Rhodes (1987) and how equal attention to each aspect - person, product, process, and press - is necessary in order to live a sober life that is free of relapse. As implied in any system model, neglect of any one of these pieces can threaten the health of the whole, which in this case is the sobriety of the person involved.
By no means do the authors purport that addiction is restricted to those members of the population that show creative tendencies. Instead, they put forth the idea that since certain aspects of the creative person make him or her more likely to fall victim to addiction, then there ought to be a recovery program that takes these aspects into account and is designed particularly with this person in mind. Throughout this text, the authors examine addiction with creativity as the backdrop. Though their definition of creativity might exclude some creative people from reaping the full benefit of their program, there are several arguments, steps, suggestions, and considerations that can be taken to heart by any person seeking to recover from addiction or aid a loved one who is.
Davis, G. (2004). Creativity is forever. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.
Maisel, E. & Raeburn, S. (2008). Creative recovery: A complete addiction treatment program that uses your natural creativity. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Maslow, A. (1968). Toward a psychology of being. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Miller, W. R. (2007). Is addiction a problem of self-control? In J. E. Henningfield, P. B. Santora, and W. K. Bickel (Eds.), Addiction Treatment: Science and Policy for the Twenty-first Century (pp. 19-23). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Rhodes, M. (1987). An analysis of creativity. In S. G. Isaksen (Ed.), Frontiers of creativity research: Beyond the Basics (pp. 216-222). Buffalo: Bearly Limited.
Runco, M. A. (2007). Creativity: theories and themes, research, development, and practice. New York: Elsevier Academic Press.