Ray Materson was a straight “A” student, President of his 6th grade class, and a youthful child looking ahead to a bright future. Then a combination of risk factors both in his family and school peer group, led Ray down a dangerous path where alcohol and drugs became his best friends.
Before long, his drug-seeking behavior resulted in a twenty-five year sentence for kidnapping and armed robbery. In his autobiography, Sins and Needles: A Story of Spiritual Mending, co-written by his then wife Melanie, he details his journey into drug abuse, life in prison, and a discovered talent for embroidery that eventually leads to his sobriety and salvation.
I love Ray’s story because it so clearly illustrates why “create” is part of 5 Actions to addiction. It is positive psychology at its best, optimizing life, providing meaning and hope, and unlocking innate talent that is more powerful than addiction.
Recently, Ray and I spoke on the phone. I appreciated his candor and honesty about his life, and his responses to some of the questions that remained for me after reading the book. Without giving too much away, Ray’s tenacity for his art and willingness to allow the correctional system to do its job, eventually results in a second chance at life.
His website documents many of his achievements and has a great video presentation showcasing his work, as well as a personal interview.
What helped him most with his addiction?
- His Art Work
- Personal Affirmations Specific to Self-Esteem
- Support from other People
- Higher Power
Successfully dealing with addiction is not for the faint at heart. It is a challenging road, requiring significant effort at many junctures in life. Has embroidery solved all of Ray’s troubles?…of course not. But in talking with him, it is clear that through his art he has learned to speak his truth. He has learned to speak of his pains and joys, his successes and failures, and his fears and hopes for the future. Godspeed Ray.
I completely agree with the value of ‘creating’ in the overall recovery plan. One of my friends addicted to pain meds is working on learning how to play guitar as he cuts down his dosage levels. I always try to have my clients set up a creative reward system that helps them express who they are. In my opinion, this practice is equally as important as setting up an exercise program for long-term recovery.
For the person in recovery, the creative process and the tangible product that results are great rewards that boost their self-esteem as well as filling the time that used to be spent in anticipation, procurement, preparation, and use of substances.
Greg Simon says
I really agree with this subject of this 4 points of recovery because I,ve seen it work first hand. My brother was in recovery; and I mean was because he had a massive heart attack 2 years ago. He died sober. When he got into treatment for one hell of an addiction to heroin, he was pretty much burned out and so was the family. After leaving a 3 month rehab. and a 3 month half-way house he came back home. When we were kids we enjoyed fishing so the first activity we did was to go fishing. This became his “art work”. He was going fishing every day. He would go in rain storms, in massive blizzards and it didn’t matter if he caught anything. It would be a bonus if he caught something. The next thing he went to tackle was his self esteem and he did this by getting a job at a college as a custodian. He really enjoyed this job and it was probally his first legal one in years. While working at the college the students must have rubbed off on him because he started taking classes. During this entire time he had a very large support system. His family supported his recovery and so did his new friends at his support meetings;AA and NA. He went to meetings every day and developed the 4th. point which was a belief in a higher. My brother never believed in anything except money and drugs. To see him grow into a really cool man and my best friend was an honor. This article brought me back to many years ago and gave me a chance to reflect on my best friend, my brother.
This book sounds very inspiring! So since you two have spoken on the phone, how is he doing now? Is he seeking therapy for his addiction or is he doing well? Addiction is a very interesting subject to me because it can affect anyone in many different ways. Did Ray every say who his close friends or relatives were because for addiction according to Dr. Fitzgerald, having healthy relationships are key and are very helpful for progress.
Sometimes with addiction people don’t like to openly admit they have an addiction but I feel that by being open and truthful it will be very beneficial and helpful and in Ray’s case it seems that it helped him.
These book sounds very interesting and I am definantely going have to check it out!
I certainly agree that art can help with addictions. A friend of mine has addictions to alcohol, cocaine, and gambling. He uses his music writing as a way to sort through trauma he has experienced in life. The music writing and playing guitar help him calm down and focus back on the present rather than remembering the past and he chooses his music instead of covering that pain with his addictions. I have seen first hand how all types of art help people create a new world and believe this is why many state hospitals and correctional facilities are hiring for music and art therapists. I look forward to reading this book in the future.
I think that all of us want to have something we are good at, a talent that is unique to us. I find it interesting that this man’s talent was needlework, and that he discovered that while going down the path where addiction led him. If we were all valued, if we could see the inherent value in each of us, and share that with and value it in a eachother than I think that despite our traumas we might be able to better avoid falling into addiction. His art work gave him something tangible, he had people to support him and value his talent, he had something tangible to value himself for that helped increase his self-esteem and thus he was able to get beyond his addiction enough to start down another path of his life.
Edgar Frias says
In aligning myself with certain “consciousness-raising” and alternative groups in Portland, a conversation often comes up regarding what would happen if certain “radicalized” notions of living were to actually occur. Or, in other words, what does one do once one has conquered the “beast” (of inequity let’s say for instance). The answer is CREATE. I find this so powerful as a reminder that we are all creative beings, our sole purpose for existing in this dichotomous reality is to do this and we feel at our optimum potential when we are creating. It’s exactly what will come forward once we start to create new structures that minimize the intense amount of ostracization that is felt in our current reality. More connection means more space to create as the “beast” will no longer be the focus of attention. But then again, maybe that is the best way to live your life; not focusing on the beast but focusing on the creational potential laid out in front of you.
When I read this the first thing that popped out at me was positive reinforcement. The reason I say this is because there was the elimination of the positive reinforcement for drinking and/or his using behavior through Ray’s behavior and subsequent incarceration. Then there was the enhancement of positive reinforcement for his non-drinking (sober) and non-using behavior through his art of needle work. I could see the CRAFT approach being useful in Ray’s recovery and the discovery of his art.
I was really struck by the Create component of MRC. Why is this a new concept? As a person who strives to actively create my own life in an abstract way, I was able to put words and value to my successes thus far. Perhaps I can credit future vision for keeping me off the path my brother has traveled. Perhaps this is why some people who are at risk for addiction are able to avoid them.
And I can certainly see how and why Create would be an essential component to any recovery. Ray’s story takes Crate in a beautifully basic and literal interpretation. By creating embroidery, he is physically manifesting his energy in a positive, meaningful way. No problem solving, just pure enjoyment and expression of talent. Congratulations to Ray on his sobriety.
What an amazing story of recovery. Upon reading through this entry, I was struck by the part about Ray allowing the correctional system to do it’s job. So often you hear about those with addictions not necessarily belonging in the correctional system and how it does not address the real issues that addicts come in with. Ray likely had to create his own vision for recovery and found a path that worked for him. I have not read Ray’s book, but hope to in the near future.
Jennifer Samsom says
This entry resonated with me on a very real and present level. I am experiencing major life changes (i.e. divorce) and in this process which is taxing, testing, tiresome, and grueling, I have discovered my own creativity. While I am still not quite sure how this happened, but I have found myself sewing, knitting, drawing, painting and writing and being more effective and creative than any other time in my life. I had a strong instinct to engage myself in creating and this has never been stronger in my life than during this time of divorce and transition. Expanding this concept of creating makes sense to me in an addictions application. I believe, too, that the process of creation gives a person a sense of control over something (in a very positive and growth-oriented way). Creation also helps promote relationships with others, whether this be taking an art class with others, sharing their talents and creations with friends and family or merely reading a poem to a loved one. I am reminded by a story my clinical supervisor told me about a practicum client she had for her entire practicum. This man was an active meth addict who came to his first session high. She sat with him, accepted him unconditionally and met him where he was at. Their therapeutic relationship grew and by the end of 9 months of weekly therapy, he had become clean and sober, was searching for a job and ready to take on life. His last session, he brought her a beautiful piece of tapestry he had created while recovering as a “thank you” for her unconditional regard. He was able to use his creation not only to help him heal but also as a form of gratitude.
Kim Dineva says
I am glad I read this story. I am glad that Ray is doing well. You said that you talk to him on phone I am just wondering if he is still doing well with the recovery. Is he still doing his art to keep him always form the addiction? Few weeks ago I had no idea about addiction. I read this book about addiction and how can ruin your life. If art or music or something that can keep you away from addiction can help, why people are starting in the first place? Ray seem to had everything, he was an A student, how took the road of addiction? ?I am just wondering people who are A students, who had loving family and friends, in some point they become addicted to drugs? Why? I just can’t understand it? If you are happy with your family and friends, if you are doing great in school, why do you want to try drugs? I am really happy for Ray, and I hope that art, music and friends can help other people to recover from this terrible thing. Congratulations Ray.