Shaira is a marketing supervisor of a retail store in Denver City, Colorado, and this is how her personally designed tattoos helped her to stay sober. The 26-year old shares how she started getting some ink after successfully getting out of rehab, and how it led her to design tattoos for others…
When did you start getting a tattoo? I was actually 21 years old then. I had just got out from rehabilitation in Colorado and felt that I needed a diversion. I came across the Things&Ink blog and saw how liberating it was to have that freedom to do art on your own body. I was more enticed when I saw the other guest bloggers whom themselves are tattooed. It was also that time when Ink Master and other similar shows started to gain traction. I got hooked.
Before then I was hanging out with older people who became my friends. They taught me how to drink Alcohol until I barely was sober. That was when my parents sent me to rehab. When I got out, ink became my diversion. I started designing for myself, and since then, I would get one whenever I found myself desiring alcohol.
How many tattoos do you have right now? I actually have 70, most of my tattoos were inked soon after my release from rehab. The urge to go back to drinking was much stronger then and the feelings of depression were still strong. So, I got one after the other. It’s both a good thing and a bad, that I am gaining more control over my desire to go binge drinking because I feel more free from the Disorder. Unfortunately, I no longer have that extra reason to get myself tattooed again.
What prompted you to start designing tattoos? One of my closest friends saw me designing my tattoo one time. She was amazed and wanted one for herself, but I was hesitant back then. This was something that I was mainly doing for me, and I didn’t have the courage to do other designs. But I started checking out sites of other tattoo artists and found that designing can be learned. The artist in me was awakened. I believe that it helped me to get over my depression and squashed my desire to abuse alcohol.
Can you tell us more about tattoos helped you overcome alcohol abuse? It was in one of my Denver AA meetings that I encountered the idea again of doing art as part of the substance abuse treatment. It was part of my treatment package when I was in rehab, but it was not my time yet. It did not strike me much then probably because I was still not ready to leave my addiction behind me. The experience proved to me that the process of rehabilitation really takes time. Just like how I acquired my alcohol dependence which became a full-blown disorder, being treated from it is a step by step process. One cannot just wake up and feel relieved from alcohol addiction.
I started studying the relationship of art as part of rehabilitation from Substance Abuse Disorder. I read a couple of articles online and realized that art therapy and music therapy are vital aspects of complementary and alternative medical practices (CAM). CAM shows a positive effect when implemented parallel to the implementation of treatment programmes for substance use disorders that are evidence-based. When someone finds a healthy way of channeling his or her creative energies through art therapy, their attention is diverted to more positive activities. People like me who suffer from a substance use disorder are provided that comfort from art, and we are relieved of our worries and burdens, especially concern over remission.
What encouraged you to share your experience? The increasing statistics of people experiencing substance use disorder, especially alcohol use disorder, is really bothersome. I underwent the same battle, and I know how difficult it is once the person is already alcohol dependent. But there is hope. That hope is the main reason I’m sharing my experience.
I want more people to know, especially women, that it is not the end of the battle. There are options available for treatment. Rehabilitation facilities offer different treatment options for recovery. Grab the opportunity to free yourself from that disorder. As per my part, I will be willing to help anyone in any way I can. I offer my services to those suffering from substance abuse disorder who want to have a tattoo. I have shared some of my designs to other members of the AA meetings Denver area. I know it is a small favor that I have given them, but it also makes me happy to know that I have a share in their recovery.
Interview by writer Patrick Bailey
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