Addiction and Art

A couple of years ago Ryan Botwinik, an addictions counselor on our staff, started doing art therapy with the men in our long-term residential Spiritual Recovery Program. He used it as a time and place for the men to take a break from the regular routine and to express themselves in artwork. In typical fashion, guys were resistant at first – but then began to see the benefit and jumped in enthusiastically. Some were simply getting back to using the God-given skills they knew they had, while others discovered for the first time they had both artistic skills and interest.

This was such a valuable experience for those men that we later started a weekly art therapy class, led by Carole McQuay. Out of those classes came an art exhibit from the men of Helping Up Mission at the Susquehanna Bank Regional Headquarters in Hunt Valley. You can see some of our art on display there, by clicking on the link below.

This past weekend Ryan Botwinik attended a program at the Baltimore Museum of Art called “Addiction and Art.” Dr. Jack Henningfield of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine spoke about addiction, art and the recovery process. He mentioned that many addicts have hidden talents and art gives many of them a new purpose. Dr. Henningfield also said that when an addict creates art it allows society at large to begin to see addicts as human beings, not just those suffering from addiction.

A number of artists presented paintings, poems, and songs. Ryan pointed out two that stood out to him. One was an exhibit, titled “Baltimore Inspired by Poe,” focused on Baltimore’s famous icon who battled his own demons of addiction. The other, one of the more striking pieces, was painted by March Funeral Home Director Erich March. Titled “The Addicted Savior,” it shows a crucified Christ with a bottle in one outstretched hand and a needle through his other, wearing a crown of cigarettes on his head. He was being clutched by two individuals who were obviously in great need.

Ryan brought back a picture of “the Addicted Savior” and it precipitated a good bit of discussion here. At first glance, it might seem to be highly offensive – but I don’t think that was the message. The Bible is clear that Jesus took our sins in His own body on the Cross (I Peter 2:24). He died to pay the price for all our sins – including our addictions. “The Addicted Savior” is a vivid reminder of just how much He really loves us and to what lengths He was willing to go on our behalf.


Pastor Gary Byers                                          Please click here to see some of our men’s artwork

Spiritual Life Director