Like many people, Matthew Jones finds painting calms him down – but it has done him far more good than that.
“Art saved my life,” admits the 40-year-old.
The first time he picked up a paintbrush it was in a last-ditch attempt to prise himself from the clutches of addiction and depression.
For years Matthew, from Blackpool, was hooked on alcohol, heroin and cocaine and was eventually sectioned at The Harbour after suffering a breakdown.
Desperate to turn his life around, he channelled his emotions into art, ditching the bottle and instead producing dozens of abstract paintings and collages that now fill his room at the recovery centre he calls home.
He is now looking forward to the grand opening of his first solo art exhibition, ‘Art Saved My Life’, which explores the rocky road of addiction and recovery and his search for a light at the end of the dark tunnel.
He said: “I hit rock bottom in hospital and decided that was it – I would do whatever it took to get better. They suggested an art therapy group.
“I tried it because I was desperate, and I found that when I was in there with everyone else I felt quite calm and didn’t think about the outside world.
“The therapeutic effect was apparent early on.
“It feels like I’m meditating. It clears my head and does a lot of good for me.”
Inspired by his newfound hobby, Matthew went on to develop his skills at different art classes around Blackpool, including ICAN, the Independent Creative Artists Network, and learned fresh creative techniques online.
He said: “It has completely changed me. I was a quivering mess looking at the floor, but now I’m organising my own exhibition. I would never have dreamed about this being possible.
“The one thing that stopped me for years and years was the idea that I couldn’t do things. But I found solace in painting.
“The perception that I had was that I wasn’t very good at art, so there was no point in trying, and it was only through the fact that I was forced into it because I wanted to get well that I found it.
“I had been quite resistant to treatment in the past.”
Matthew, who has not touched drugs or a drop of alcohol in 16 months, now lives at the Mulberry Community Project, which provides housing for recovering addicts. He receives therapy three times a week.
He hopes to begin an art A-level course at Blackpool and The Fylde College this September.
Matthew said: “I’ll always be in recovery. Some days are tough, but the majority of the time it’s getting easier.
“I’m a lot more peaceful than before. I have a lot more stability in my life.
“Drink and drugs are depressants. If you take them you are going to feel depressed.”
He added that he would recommend art therapy to anyone else suffering from mental health problems and addiction.
He said: “Put aside all your preconceived ideas of what you think it’s about and give it a go.
“It has completely changed my life. I would say it has saved my life.
“I’ve found a lot more than just the painting.”
n ‘Art Saved My Life’ by Matthew Jones will open at Shaws Cafe on Clifton Street on Friday at 5pm, and will be on display for six weeks.