RECOVERY AS DISCOVERY: Find beauty in the ugliness of addiction | Bismarck State College

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RECOVERY AS DISCOVERY: Find beauty in the ugliness of addiction



Retired BSC art professor and alumnae Michelle Lindblom paints big, vibrant abstract pieces. Her works can be found in several buildings on campus and displayed in homes and galleries throughout the region. 

She begins her paintings without a clear idea of where they’ll end, and so the titles are important (Regeneration, The Clarity Within, The Ride, etc.). The titles “reveal … where I started.”

 

"The beginnings of my work are often full of reckless abandonment, a free flow of color, movement, and shapes." 

– From Embracing My Beautiful Daughter, Lindblom's devised theater piece

During the creation of a piece, she’s releasing her subconscious, all the “cerebral mumbo jumbo” in her head. 

 

"For an artist whose intention is to delve deeper into a subject or issue, the ugly needs to be present on some level as a counterpoint to the beauty portrayed. Not denying ugliness and being aware of it, changes perception. Seeing, visualizing, feeling the ugly gives the beauty greater weight and meaning."

– From Embracing My Beautiful Daughter 

The finished artwork is striking – big, bold and colorful. 

It is her long-time process – visualizing the ugly to give the beauty greater weight – that has helped her survive the long, gritty, journey she and her family have been on since January 2016 when she learned her daughter McKenzie Lindblom-Eggert (pictured here) had a substance use disorder. 

Lindblom retired from BSC in 2015, and she and her husband relocated to Bend, Ore., They knew McKenzie was struggling but were stunned in January of 2016 when she asked them to join her at a counseling session and revealed she was using alcohol to cope with depression and anxiety. 

Lindblom’s husband asked if she could just stop. Desperate to please her parents, she said yes. But after several months of self-imposed isolation during which, they later learned, she was drinking heavily, McKenzie landed in the hospital with liver failure due to alcoholic hepatitis. Lindblom and Eggert quickly came to understand that addiction is not a simple matter of self-control. It’s a life and death battle. Lindblom began to keep a journal “to keep straight what she’s gone through and we’ve gone through.” 

McKenzie's physical health returned, but her recovery struggles continued. For that first year the family kept their experiences private, but Lindblom realized that keeping things quiet made their experience seem shameful. She needed to go public and find connections. 

“I knew that this is how I would survive. I have to talk about it; I have to connect with other people. I began talking to other parents. People need to know we’re not alone. We need to help each other. Compassion with addiction, it never ends.” 

“One in three families is touched at different levels by addiction. If she had heart disease, would there be shame? "

So Lindblom made her journal a public facing blog (michellelindblom.com/blog) that incorporated her art. Last summer, she took part in a workshop that explored art, words and connection. Then this fall, all of those elements came together when she brought her family’s recovery journey home and to the stage at Recovery Reinvented, an annual event focused on ways to reinvent addiction recovery in North Dakota. 

“I just felt it was time to speak my truth in my home state. I left and didn’t want to look back. I loved my work at BSC, but I was ready to leave. I find it healing to come back and do this,” Lindblom says. 

Lindblom’s former BSC colleague, Dan Rogers, professor emeritus, had been asked by the North Dakota Council on the Arts to put together an 8-minute devised theatre piece for Recovery Reinvented. In his search for a topic, he realized that Michelle’s art and words fit the bill. 

“I looked at [Michelle’s] site, I read the blog, and I thought: Here it is. Multimedia, devised theater, and art as an extended metaphor for addiction and recovery,” Rogers says. “To take what was so [ugly] to create beautiful works of art is the best thing in life.”

 

"The question of beauty in art is a question I often contemplate when describing my own work.  My intent has never been to create pretty pictures — pictures that match a couch."

–From Embracing My Beautiful Daughter

Together the former colleagues developed Embracing My Beautiful Daughter incorporating Lindblom’s words, arts and family story. She presented the piece on the main stage at Recovery Reinvented and said using Roger’s theater coaching tips (center, take a breath) helped her take her story to a live audience.  “Art is what saves me,” Lindblom says.

 

"So I paint. The slashing brown stroke, the bold yellow, the delightful runaway drip of heavy blue, the sudden burst of golden light.  The wild roiling, the meticulous shadow… my tools of recovery, my reflections on meaning, seeds of hope… the act of embracing my beautiful daughter."

–From Embracing My Beautiful Daughter

 

 


Dakota Media Access (dakotamediaaccess.org) will air a version of Embracing My Beautiful Daughter in the spring of 2020. 
Read Lindblom’s blog at michellelindblom.com/blog.
Learn more about Recovery Reinvented at recoveryreinvented.com.