When the pressure builds to the point your mind can't contain it, art sometimes serves as a release valve.
"It helps me stay out of my head," said Travis Miles, a client of The Hope Center's George Privett Recovery Center. "It distracts me when I get to thinking too much on things that control me."
For Andrew Lampkin, a former recovery center client who still works at the center, art "clears my mind in a way because I focus on each item in each drawing. I consider it part of my meditation."
Pieces of their artwork will be displayed in an exhibit at the John G. Irvin Gallery of Central Bank. The display features drawings, paintings, poetry and sculpture of seven men and one woman recovering from alcohol or drug addictions.
"It shows the journey from addiction toward recovery," said Carrie Thayer, director of development at The Hope Center. "And it is not always pretty. Some of the stuff they have been through is tough stuff."
Miles, for example, moved to North Carolina to live with his aunt and uncle after his mother died when he was 10 years old. He became addicted to heroin, which led to scrapes with the law and finally incarceration.
He moved to Lexington to be near his daughter, Kylie Alaunna Miles, and got in more trouble after relapsing. He entered the center's program through Drug Court.
"I sketch occasionally to relax," said Miles, 23. "I'm not looking for a career. It is just a side thing. I've sketched here and there, and then it lays dormant."
He submitted a pencil drawing, Baby Angel, which is a portrait of his daughter.
"I hope the people enjoy our artwork," said Miles, who plans to study to be a paralegal.
Lampkin, on the other hand, draws frequently in colored pen with the help of a magnifying glass because of a visual impairment. He has central serous retinopathy in both eyes, which creates blurred spots and distortions of straight lines. He said it was diagnosed in his right eye in 1991, but he didn't seek treatment because he didn't want to hear the doctor lecture about his drinking.
"I'm a chronic alcoholic," he said. "I just said, 'Oh, well. I still have one good eye."
In 1997, the condition set up in his left eye as well, so now he has a "fuzz ball" in his right eye and the left eye is even more distorted.
Lampkin, who has his doctorate from the University of Georgia, is a former high school biology teacher and was a functioning alcoholic for more than 20 years. He entered the recovery program in 2007, failing twice before successfully completing it.
"He has artwork posted all around the building," Thayer said. "He did one piece that is hanging that everyone loves."
That drawing is an interpretation of a National Lampoon magazine cover, showing a fork in a road. One side leads to drunkenness, drugs, prostitution, paranoia, shame, remorse and dread. The other leads through the 12 Steps Program to honesty, courage, security, fellowship and a spiritual awakening, Lampkin explained.
Thayer reproduced the piece of art in a newsletter and it caught the eye of Patricia Wheatley, marketing specialist at Central Bank.
"I saw the pain in recovery, the way to surrendering, and a working in his life," she said. "He is helping other guys to get through this."
Wheatley asked if there was any interest at the center in displaying the works of the clients in the bank's gallery.
"I think it was God-inspired," she said. "I saw the newsletter and started to imagine what these men go through. I don't understand addiction, but I know it is real for a lot of people."
It is for Lampkin and Miles, but so is treatment.
"I feel positive about myself when I'm creative," Lampkin said, adding he is reminded of that every time he opens his eyes and sees double because of the impairment.
"I consider it a positive reminder," he said. "It reminds me of what I allowed alcohol to do."