In Her Words: Creating New Possibilities

Ever since I can remember, I loved art. Something about it awakened my soul, even as a child. 

The school system I went to offered art in every grade as a special education course. During a troubled childhood and adolescence, I always had an outlet. I learned early on that I could escape through art.  

My grandparents, who I spent most of my time with, always encouraged me to pursue my creativity and artistic ability. When I got to college, Granddad kept telling me I should change my major and do something with art. So, I did. 

I wanted to teach art so I could give back what was so freely given to me. My last semester, however, my lung kept collapsing from a genetic disease and I was not able to get my teaching certificate. I did, however, graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Drawing and Painting with a minor in Art History. Some part of me always felt like a failure because I never did anything with my degree, although I never gave up on art.

They teach you in school that drugs are bad, and you should just say no. But what they don’t tell you is how hard life gets. And when someone offers you drugs, they don’t tell you how it destroys lives, and you lose everything. 

I lost everything I had, everyone I knew, and most of all, I lost myself. I lost my joy, my vibrancy for life. I lost my creativity. I would break down anytime I tried to think about drawing or painting. 

A blank piece of paper was the scariest thing in the world to me.

I had thousands of dollars of art supplies I had collected over the years. I sold all of it, just to get high. 

One cold day on December, I finally gave up. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was tired of life being pure insanity and being so miserable I didn’t want to live anymore.

I detoxed on my own laying on the floor on a dog bed. After four days, my sister found an opening at a rehab in Nashville and I left Knoxville before the sun came up the next day. 

A mural Mary is beginning at Healing Housing!

Shortly after arriving at The Next Door, I began receiving packages from my family who hadn’t spoken to me in three years. Every package had a note of encouragement and art supplies. Slowly but surely I began to allow myself to learn how to live again.

I had forgotten what it felt like to smile, to laugh, to enjoy everything life has to offer.

One day I sat down in front of a blank piece of paper, and the most amazing thing happened. I started to think about how much like that piece of paper I was – completely empty. 

But that’s the beauty of it. 

Much like my life, a blank piece of paper is a world of endless possibilities. It’s an opportunity for creating, for learning, and for sharing. It’s a fresh start to become something so vibrant and beautiful. It’s something to behold.

— Mary, Resident of Healing Housing

*Names are changed to protect a resident’s privacy.