ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- “Isolation breeds addiction” says Kathie Thomas-Dietz, who founded Hope Creates, an organization started to provide young addicts with an alternative to addiction.

As Thomas-Dietz describes “we focus on helping kids once they've gotten sober to stay sober through a vibrant dynamic community of sober peers, as well as exploration of expressive arts.”

The COVID pandemic is causing a rise in substance abuse and overdose deaths among area teens and young adults as the disruption to daily life makes relapse difficult to avoid. According to the Center for Disease Control, drug overdose deaths rose 38% in 2020, compared to the year before. But, numerous young local addicts, ages 15-25, are embracing the expressive arts to help them stay sober through Hope Creates. 

“It has been so hard you have no idea what it’s like as an alcoholic in recovery,” said Lexi, about dealing with addiction during a pandemic. “I’m used to seeing people like me multiple times per week, but with social distancing and restrictions on gathering size, I have not gotten to see people like me and it’s been really horrible and really lonely and a huge adjustment period.” Lexi started working with Hope Creates 4 years ago.

“The other people that I’ve met here are the same, I would not know these sober artists, I wouldn’t be doing art anymore if it wasn’t for Hope Creates.” It had such a lasting impact on her, she’s now on the Creative Advisory Board helping new artists fight off addiction, through expressive art. But she says it’s become harder over the past year to keep the same sense of community.

“With Hope Creates they have stayed alive through this time period and I’ve been able to meet virtually with them .... and its been really awesome to be quote on quote with my people "

Kathie Thomas-Dietz founded the 501(c)(3) back in 2017. For her it was a project with a personal mission.

“The reason I started it was because my husband and I have 5 kids and one of our daughters is a recovering addict,” Thomas-Dietz said. They tried multiple approaches, but nothing worked. That is until she came across the program that used Enthusiastic Sobriety.

That’s a program that’s used in substance abuse treatment for teens and young adults. The idea behind the program is that for treatment to be effective in young people, it must be fun and make them feel good.

“Getting sober is hard for anybody but staying sober is incredibly difficult, it’s the rest of your life,” said Thomas-Dietz. She had a background in art and used that as an outlet when dealing with her own daughter’s addiction issues.

"I observed that when my daughter did it with me, when her peers did it with me, that they had the same reaction. They would calm down, settle down, had fun, were proud of what they had created and so pairing that idea with that art heals and the community of like-minded people heals and supports, so Hope Creates was born "

Thomas-Dietz wants everyone to know it’s not about becoming an amazing artist, but more about the art of creation. “As we create it’s the opposite of self-destruction, sobriety is about putting those constructive moments together, those sober moments together.”

Her methods seem to be working. After one year sober, the young artists can start to show their art in a gallery. According to Thomas-Dietz, 80 percent of those exhibit artists stay sober. For perspective, according to the American Addiction Center, the relapse rate for substance abuse disorders is estimated between 40% to 60%.

Focus St. Louis just named Hope Creates as one of its “What’s Right with the Region” honorees for fostering creativity for social change. And while the Non-profit was not able to host its fundraising Gala in the same way this year, they were able to hold a virtual event and have an online silent auction going on until March 16.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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