How Art shapes Empathy--"Hate is just a failure of imagination."--[taken from Graham Greene's novel The Power and the Glory]

 60 of the clients of Haymarket Center, attended The Maker's Space Workshop, where for the sixth year in a row, art was used as a way to tell stories of recovery.  Haymarket's mission is to aid people with substance use disorders in their recovery, and the evening of art proved once again to be a powerful tool to help the clients express themselves.

In Mary McCampbell's book "Imagining Our Neighbors As Ourselves-How Art shapes Empathy," hearing another's story through the arts, helps us imagine another's struggles and have empathy for them instead of slapping a label on them.  If we can begin to use our imaginations and put ourselves in our neighbor's shoes, real empathy can begin to happen.  She writes "Anyone reading comments in online spaces is often confronted with a collective cultural loss of empathy.  This profound loss is directly related to the inability to imagine the life and circumstances of the other.  Our malnourished capacity for empathy is connected to an equally malnourished imagination.  In order to truly love and welcome others, we need to exercise our imaginations, to see our neighbors as God sees them, rather than confined by our own inadequate and ungracious labels.  We need stories that can convict us about our own sins of omission and commission, enabling us to see the beautiful, complex world of our neighbors as we look beyond ourselves."

This is exactly what happened again, on this evening when we slowed down to do art together and to listen to one another. The art form we used this year, was the art of mosaic, cutting broken pieces from strips of colored cardstock.  The participants were to think of an image or event or person that inspires them along their road to recovery.  My favorite part is always the end of a workshop, when the opportunity was given to those who wished to share their art and the things their art was trying to express about their particular Road To Recovery....the theme of this year's fundraising gala event.  With their permission, the clients art will be displayed along with their stories, so that their voices will be in attendance at the gala.  My hope, as always, is that their voices will be heard by those who might not otherwise take the time to listen, and thus become a little more empathetic to another's life outside of themselves.

This year's gala fundraiser, will take place on Saturday, April 22, 2023, at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk, with guest speaker, Elizabeth Vargas.  To register or donate online, visit

Here are a few examples of how art and stories help us understand another human being.

"In my mosaic, I tried to show how my life is Right now...
Pretty Mosaic LOL, 
but inside the __ I've been seeking,
 I'm trying to feel and want is first to feel Alive.  Minus the pain. The little glimpses I've felt and suffered for was and is Nothing to what I could and will feel if I can transfer my Sobriety.  I want to Be Alive, I want to Feel Alive and I want to live Sober." 

"My man was my inspiration and always will be.  God has put us together may no one pull us apart. The Long Journey...he has been with me, then I must continue..he promises to be there.  God Bless Us."

"My family tree is finally growing back again."

"I chose to make a tree because my son loves trees, sometimes he calls them mad trees.  I remember being outside our apartment, he was on his bike and he says, "Dad, why is that tree so big? Look at that tree, Dad."  My son is the most beautiful thing in the world, he's smart, funny, handsome, sweet and happy.  He's my hero.  He's seven and I'm here at a Recovery home because I want to get better for him, so he doesn't have the life that I did and he can grow up to  be a  better man that I am.  His name is Joshie."

"My artwork is supposed to be a setting sun on a lake.  I had 5 years sober with the help of suboxone back around 2010-2015, and my greatest memories are with my son, daughter, mum and dogs in Marquette, Michigan, renting a cabin on the lake, hiking to waterfalls, and not needing to know the time of day!  I did it then, and I keep trying to get there again!  My children deserve only the very best version of me!  
I won't give up!"

"I lost who I was and what I stood for.  My heart is now healing and I am reaping the benefits of recovery.  I am so happy to be me again."

"My green eyes cry
As the unconditional love dies
So tired,
tired of the lies.
Anxiety and Depression
were my main form of expression.
Recovery has brought peace to my
heart and mind.

"I was going through a storm but God's beacon of light shines through.  Drugs had ruined my like, but God's grace and mercy brought me to Haymarket.  I'm empowering myself, getting stronger Every Day.  I will stay sober, 1 day at a time."

"Through individual effort and responsibility, this is a picture how I feel having fun with my sober mind in recovery."

"The Obstacle"
I faced
I saw
I cannot overcome
But then the same wound
healed then it all begun.
The apple is strong and firm like my heart..
But the bandaid healed damage in My heart.

"I was born into light then thru years of life my eyes started to see dark.  The dark was by addiction with drugs and drinking, then I sought somewhere to open my eyes and that was Haymarket."

"I started off with abundance of hope and lots of love,
a loving family and friends.
And then I met Mr. Heroin.  He turned my world up side down.
I lost my hope and love
for myself and my kids.
I had nothing but confusion!
Until I came to recovery..
I found myself and I gained my hope and the love for my kids again!

Recovery Reflections
"What I would like the world to know about my recovery is that it is a never ending process.  That said, process is on my mind frequently, as I weigh the positive and negatives about why I want and need to be sober.  I know I need it, and most times I want it more than anything, but I also wanted a family, and needed one, maybe now more than ever.  Learning to understand that life isn,t the same for everyone, and that I'm in control of my own destiny and the way I go about 
my life choices becomes clearer than ever.  Every day I learn something new about myself, and learn to understand how I feel.  My choices are my decision, and I can't say I don't know better, I've just chosen not to do better.  Today I feel like choosing a better path."

"The shattered pieces are my life on drugs.
The two solid lines are me at the start where I decided to get my life together.
The purple is the beginning of recovery and blue is my life sober and clean skies the limit."

"My artwork represents my heart throughout my addiction and my recovery.  The center of my heart was cold while I was in active addiction.  I came to Haymarket when I hit my rock bottom.  As my days here are coming to an end my heart is becoming whole again and full of love.  I'm so grateful for this program and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

"This represents my life.  The moon is me, a part of the universe.  The colors inside the moon represent how I've experienced life and all I have gone through, all of my many emotions and different obstacles that I've overcome.  some fear, some happy, some sad.  But at the end the shining light always comes though--I am full of life."

"My life started out with a solid foundation.  Then it all started to break apart, as a child my whole world fell apart, my innocence was taken away.
I thought that I had build another strong foundation and yet there were holes that needed to be filled.
So I went back into recovery.  This time I put down one foundation after another and I have a solid ground that I can build upon."

"Shattered Dreams and Broken Promises"
"All my life I've been told fairytales and been made promises that have never been kept which have led to make believe and a very unhappy individual.  I've been getting high for 29 years and I'm 54 years old.  I've never had much of a sober life but now I would love for my life to come together without the use of Drugs."

"My road of recovery isn't straight.  It has curves, changes in color and temperature.  It fluctuates as life brings on different challenges.  My road of recovery has some brighter moments than others, but no matter what the spiral continues and it's center is it's brightest point.  I have been first introduced to this program at the age of 18.  Today, twenty years later I am back at Haymarket as a client seeking hope.  In the past twenty years, I experienced beautiful periods of recovery, one even lasting eight years.  Because I took my will back I came here in 2020 during Covid outbreak, during other tense times and I was so grateful these doors were open. When the world was fighting the pandemic outbreak, many of us were fighting yet another battle. I am blessed I had a safe place where I would receive the help I needed to surrender.  Today I am here once again because I made a mistake of putting work and money ahead of recovery.  I was welcomed and cared for and I am still here, on my road of recovery aiming at the bright center."

Life spinning, ups downs,
High and lows
Tossing Me Around up and down, back and forward
like being on a plane.
When will it end?
When will it begin to be easy?
One day at a time
One second at a time.
One day we land and glide safely
to the terminal
The terminal called life

"The snow flakes represent us and our recovery and how each one is unique."

"Ball of Confusions"
"This was my life on drugs.
And God worked it out on both sizes of the road."

"This is what my life was once like before coming to Haymarket.  Now I'm on track and on my way to living a good life."

"Today I took a tour of the Recovery Home that I'll be living at once I leave Haymarket Treatment Center.  I'm on the road to Recovery.  I'm going to build my foundation and stay clean and sober."

Blackness that's all I see
Living in fear with tons of anxiety
Having no outlet to plug myself in
But found safety in a bottle of Gin
Trying to hide the pain and anger
One pint down and it's all a blur
Drowning on the inside, but somehow staying afloat
But Yelling and Screaming Like I have thorns in my throat
I can't keep feeding myself this poison thinking I'ma survive
I'm a fierce black queen and I must push threw and rise
I take all my power  back and start my journey of positivity
I am who I am and I conquer Resiliently

"Even thru the Dark there is Light waiting for you."

"God has been good to me even at my mad and goofy times.  God be the Praise!!"

"Pick a side of the Road
don't get scattered into pieces.
All over the Road.
Go in a straight Line to 

"I was talking to the ladies in my group about things we did as kids and Hopscotch came up and I remember teaching my daughter this game.  And she's motivation to me as well.  Actually my #1 motivation for recovery.  I had some hard times but my Future is Bright.  That's what the color represents.  The Red and Blue For Dark and Sad Days.  Green and Purple for better days and Yellow for my successful  Brighter Future."

"When you're down and out
And you can't take any more
Open your mind
And open the door."

"My artwork means a lot to me.  It's a symbol of how I feel at times.
Wonderful: When I'm not using drugs and alcohol.
Happiness: Through it all
Excellent: When I've done something right.
Free:  When I'm alone at night.
Serenity:  When I'm at peace
Angry:  There goes that beast.
Joy:  When I'm with my kids.
Beauty:  Deep down within.
Love:  That I have in my heart.
Intelligent:  Because I know I'm smart.
Free:  From drugs and alcohol.
Climbing:  This recovery 4 us all."

"The circles are for all the turns and go arounds I've been thru.  Each layer is for the 4 times I've been to treatment.  But I'm thankful for each time because I got something more in my tool box to keep me away from going back to the merry-go-rounds of drinking."

"Experience, strength and Hope"

"I am 39 years old.  I started drinking at the age of 16, as well as experimenting with drugs, canabis and cocaine, later on moved on to harder drugs like crystal meth, shrooms, and different kinds of pills. but what really destroy my life was crack cocaine.  I almost lost my wife and kids. as well as causing mental stress to my Mom.  This drawing represents me turning my life and will over to God.  With Him, everything is possible and working the 12 steps, but on your own it just won't happen!"

My picture represents the process of being in addiction and that it's a phase, the storm shall pass and there will be light at the end, just make sure your emotions and spirits change with the weather, 
of course for the better.

Recovery is the Road to becoming the daddy that my son deserves.

Hi my name is ____, the sobber predator and I was a pill popping animal and I'm here for my kids 12,8,6,3 and my life was good but I lose a lot of people before my daughter was born and I went down but still had a job.  But someone told me to come and I did for my kids.

written in Spanish

I tried showing and evening sunset centered on a road leading us seemingly straight to “the light” on “the road to recovery,” and from this view it does not seem all that complicated.  Just follow the road straight and reach the light…simple.  Except that life is anything  but that simple.  This road can seem endless and chasing an ever-escaping light can be tiresome, especially when we stop to notice the darkness quickly increasing, swallowing us every time.  We lose focus for even a short while and realizing how quickly the light disappears over the horizon, solidifying even more the impossibility of this journey in our minds, making the ease of giving up seem welcome and acceptable {even though we know are NOT and CANNOT be happy here.}  This journey has been tough.  But I’ve learned a lot about myself and life and I think it is very possible that there is no “finish line” or place we reach where we can relax in “the light”.  But that life probably at best looks like this picture of us on the road towards [while bathed in] this light.  And maybe happiness lies in appreciating the constant shining light we do have while on our journey to keep it on.

My recovery means a lot in my life in the days of the past keeping how I felt going through things that had me depressed,  Going around people who did drugs abused myself addicted in ways by promoting unwanted using, hiding behind illegitimate course to stay on using.  Letting everything that had happiness in my life I lost due to not gaining much from a higher power for returning strength, power, and living abundantly around my higher power.  The seeking to fulfill dreams of set goals, finding the ladder in which I could climb if I put forth effort to doing so.

And, as always, there are those who don't write an inspiration......all participants are at different stages of detox and recovery, and one young women said she didn't know how to read or write and not to "push" her.


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