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by: Cole Timonere, JD, MA, NCC, PhD Student

“The ultimate act of power is surrender.” -Krishna Das

In many conversations the word “surrender” is not intended to define power. Rather, folks often utilize the term with a more negative connotation as a sort of last resort when nothing else has worked for them. In essence, the implication is that surrender is appropriate only when a person has no other options and has resorted to “giving up” or failure.

In the recovery community and amongst most mental health clinicians, there tends to be a more positive take on the word surrender, where the act of surrender does not denote failure at all. Instead, surrender embodies a solution and can be associated with the concept of acceptance of life on life’s terms. While in care, clients are given the opportunity to gain a renewed attitude on not only the term, but also upon surrender as an action.

A couple months ago, Recreate Life Counseling asked clients for their perspective on surrender by way of artistic design, where clients were asked to demonstrate their viewpoint on the word and the act of surrender through a medium of their choosing. It was also explained that their efforts would be displayed in RLC hosted art gallery for all staff and clients to view. There were several submissions, and all were remarkable. Perhaps most profound was the display of vulnerability clients showed as they stood by their respective pieces and were open to feedback. The works included in the gallery were well thought out, creative, and articulate. Various mediums were presented, where there were poems, pen and ink drawings, paint on canvas, and 3D art. While the viewing pleasure from the collective works can hardly be captured in words, it feels as if it would be selfish not to share about at least one display.

Off to the side in the gallery, at a low table lie a chess board with pieces upon in a specific pattern. Around the board were six canvases, four colored white with black lettering and two were all black with white writing, likely to add compliment to the stark contrast of the represented board and pieces. One canvas defined the word surrender from the dictionary. Another two canvases were pushed together to form a larger whole, and indicated the color code for the chess pieces, where the white represented sobriety and the black, active addiction. Also written on the canvas was the artist’s explanation of the pieces as placed on the chess board. The board was set up to indicate that black, or her addiction, was in check mate, referred to by the artist, as “certain death.” This artist denoted herself in active addiction as the black king, where if she were to make even one more move in active addiction, her game, or life would end. The artist described surrender as a choice, one not of last resort, but as a privilege that was not always so clear to her. The last three canvases displayed quotes aligning the game of chess with life, and further her own intent to “choose her move carefully” and “not to waste one” given what’s at stake.

Needless to say, Recreate’s first ever art gallery was a profound success and given the feedback from both clients and staff, future events are already a topic of discussion!