I could have just one drink, I thought. After all, I had my one-year AA coin, proof that my drinking was under control. I liked the romantic idea of having a glass of wine with my dinner—it was still how I imagined my life could be. It started with a warm and balanced meal I prepared for myself. I poured the Merlot into a tumbler because I had gotten rid of my wine glasses. I heard the pour increase in pitch as the glass reached half-full. The next morning, still groggy as the room came into focus, red vomit covered me and my bathroom walls. I had no memory of how I got there. I found out later that I had finished not only the bottle I had, but two more that I must have gotten my hands on after blacking out. I can only assume that, blacked out, I drove to the liquor store to get them, but who knows. I was back to square one. All the work I did to earn my one-year coin, which still sat on my dresser, was instantly gone as I was swept back to one minute sober. It was that moment when I realized my recovery had only scratched the surface. If I was going to actually succeed, I needed to go deeper into myself, my beliefs, and how I saw the world. In the 18 years since that day, I’ve come to understand that for me—and for other addicts—the 12 Steps, were only the first step towards recovery. Once we’re sober the battle against addiction hasn’t been won; in truth it’s just beginning. The only way we can truly recover ourselves is to refocus the lens through which we experience life. My refocusing stemmed from my passion for art. Before my relapse, I had already begun painting portraits, a practice I used to connect with others. After the above incident, I painted more and more of these portraits as a way of holding myself accountable through those early stages of my sobriety. These portraits I was painting were not meant to be flattering in any way. Some of them were accurate representations, while others were not, but that wasn’t the point either. The important aspect of doing these portraits were the connections being made between the various parts—the subject, the portrait, and myself. I began to learn that although the canvas depicted others, the process was really teaching me about myself. For the first time I was seeing myself in everything. Through that portrait practice, I began to understand that everything and everyone around me was a part of myself. Closely observing a subject as I painted them made me aware of my perceptions. I realized I had expectations, and was living my life, in line with core beliefs that were passed down to me, but I never chose. I picked up these perceptions of the world through family, school, and a whole host of other places. Until I got on the other side of my addiction, I never questioned those ideas. These realizations, inspired by this portrait practice, changed my life. I began to understand that we experience the world through our perceptions. Telling ourselves stories, about why things are the way they are, solidifies those perceptions. We also fill in any missing information so that the world we experience fits into our expectations. In this way the world we see is a portrait of us. It’s full of information about who we think we are and is being painted by our subconscious. The information we see isn’t always easy to accept as being part of us. This is especially true if we don’t like what we’re seeing. This causes resistance, pushing us to find distractions, often in the form of vices. These vices help us hide, but only from ourselves. Rather than hiding and resisting when we see things we don’t like, we want to interpret those experiences in a way we can learn from them. In that way we won’t bring up fear, guilt or shame. When we can be open to seeing ourselves, by understanding that the world is our portrait, we can stop playing the victim and start to learn about ourselves. No more will we fear being controlled by substance or by others. We’ll have permission to live our lives without limits. Seeing ourselves this way provides us with awareness to both our subconscious and conscious minds. My experiences led me to seeing myself honestly and to stop thinking I knew anything. I was able to change my perceptions of the world and defeat my need for vices once and for all. I call the process of seeing the world in this way The Portrait Method. This approach gets people who use it to the core of their fear, shame, and guilt, recovering their true nature — one of peace, harmony, and of course, free from addictions. It helps them not only stay sober, but also to discover limiting beliefs, deal with emotions, and start going with the flow—trusting life! In this program, I will introduce readers to The Portrait Method, guiding them to understand that everything we experience resembles something of ourselves. Seeing themselves through this method will allow each person in attendance to cement their sobriety and recover themselves completely.