BECKLEY, W.V. (LOOTPRESS) – During Chili Night, held on October 2 in downtown Beckley, the artwork of those recovering from substance abuse disorders decorated business windows and was displayed on easels along the sidewalks and in Shoemaker’s square.
The pieces, which were paired with the testimonies of the artists, were part of the Raleigh County Prevention Coalition’s Art to Recovery art show and competition. The show was created to reduce the stigma and stereotypes about people either currently struggling with or recovering from addiction.
During the event, judges chose their favorite art piece, naming Brittany Pierce the winner.
Pierce shared her journey and the meaning behind her painting in her bio:
My husband and I worked together to bring my story to life. I gave him my ideas, he drew them, and I painted them. This piece tells my personal story of my addiction and my recovery. It represents my good and evil side.
On the left side, we have my darkest days…My addiction. In the top corner, we have my past traumas and all my deepest darkest of demons that I kept locked up. Once I let my demons out to play, I went on a downward spiral. It started with the vodka and all the nights that I blacked out and don’t even remember. From there I found pain pills, which were my drug of choice but also the main reason for “my fall.” The caterpillar represents me. No growth, just content in my own misery smoking anything I could get my hands on. The mushroom he is laying on represents my journey with psychedelics. It is surrounded by my crack stem garden. The pill is evil because it took over my entire life and every thought. Which led me to the pill bottle with the bear trapped inside. I was trapped inside my own addictions and mind. And, because of this I lost time and went to prison on a 2-20 for delivery of a controlled substance.
The right side represents my recovery. The page number at the bottom of the book page is my “recovery date” February 9th 2018. Above the book is a lotus flower because just like my story, it is a reminder that beautiful things can bloom despite the mud and the muk all around it. Then we have the butterfly. Represents how I have grown and evolved since my days in the dark. I love to sing, and now use my voice to advocate, so I have my music notes and microphone beside the phoenix, who rose from the ashes. The top symbols mean Family, Recovery, and Psychology. This represents my support, accomplishment, and goals. The background of this side is tie-dye because I have a colorful, vibrant personality. And I now help shine this light to others.
The middle is the bigger picture. The book is letting you know that this is my life story. The girl and her dog represent me and the one thing that can always make me feel better. Dogs. The quote says “You have two choices, one will lead you to happiness, the other- to the madness! My advice to you; is don’t step aside!!” This is a reminder that when I took my eyes off God, I fell into darkness. I lost myself and all the things I stood for to my addiction. But it is also a reminder that if I take my eyes off the bigger picture again, I will lose everything I’ve worked for.
Piere says she was surprised to have been chosen as the winner but feels blessed to share her story with so many.
“Honestly, there were so many beautiful pieces. All of them told their story, so I am honored that my piece was chosen. It’s really exciting and I never thought it would happen,” she said. “Chili Night here in Beckley is one of the most popular events there is. For that many people walking by to see my piece…I got to share my story with hundreds maybe even thousands. I just wanted to show people that my past was really dark. I was a completely different person back then than who I am now.”
Pierce now works as a peer recovery specialist in her hometown and says she forgot how great of an influence her story can have.
“When you do it every day, you forget that impact it can make. When something like this happens, it reminds you and makes you think that maybe you lived the life you did to help other people out of their darkness.”
As the winner, Pierce’s piece will be featured on several of the area’s Lamar billboards, allowing her to reach even more people.
Stephanie French, director of the Raleigh County Prevention Coalition who organized the event with the help of Kelly Elkins and LeAndrea Young, says she was glad to see the event generate so much support and thanked all those who participated.
French plans to organize more Art to Recovery shows in the future.