Color Coded: A Passion Project Story

Our story begins, as many do, with a talented young man who felt very much “on the outside” when it came to social interactions. From there, Liam eventually gravitated towards both substance use and using art to express himself. At first, Liam only used drugs and alcohol occasionally with his peers, but his use began to ramp up dramatically as he got older. Unfortunately, the isolation and anxiety he felt only increased.

“Before treatment, my life was closing in on me and I saw no way out,” says Liam. “A few weeks before leaving for rehab I had a horrible LSD experience, and it only intensified the feelings of irrelevance and worthlessness. At the end of my active addiction I was doing nothing to better myself.”

Eventually, Liam’s parents found out about the scale of his use and decided to intervene. After attending a 90-day treatment program, both Liam and his parents were confused as to the next steps. Did he return home and potentially fall back into his previous cycle? Did he relocate to a new city? Or should he continue to engage in the treatment process in a more structured environment?

After some back and forth and counseling with the team at his rehabilitation clinic, Liam eventually decided to join Green Hill to further ground him in the culture of recovery.

One of the most exciting parts of watching residents enter our program is seeing what first ignites their passion. When he first arrived, Liam seemed unsure what to make of the Green Hill program. One day, our team at the house watched in amazement as Liam spent hours creating a complex and abstract art piece using just a pad of paper and colored pencils. Our team quickly found that the quickest way to get Liam to open up was to ask him about his art work.

“My art aids in my recovery because it provides an emotional outlet that I can always pick up,” says Liam. “My art really feels like my voice, and I love that I can speak through it at any time.”

When our program team mentioned spray painting at nearby NC State’s Free Expression Tunnel as a regular weekday activities, we saw Liam really come alive. Arming himself with a number of spray paint cans, Liam parked himself in front of a spare section of wall and worked on a single, elaborate design.

Recognizing the positive potential in Liam’s focus, our program team and Liam began planning his Passion Project. We scheduled a graffiti workshop for Liam and a couple other interested clients with Morgan Cook, a renowned muralist and graffiti artist whose works can be found all over North Carolina’s capital city.

“I really loved my graffiti lesson. Morgan is a very talented artist and he has so much knowledge about street art! He is also a fantastic teacher, and made the techniques and lessons very accessible,” says Liam. “Now, when I look at really elaborate tags I used to think as impossible, I see them as something I can accomplish. I think this will help me expand my abilities as an artist and I’m excited for the journey.”

Cook, who is perhaps best known for his impressive typography and The Alphabet Project, a partnership with the city of Raleigh where Cook embeds a single letter of the alphabet in notable spots across our city, also benefited from the lesson.

“Teaching the class for Green Hill was a humbling experience,” says Cook. “When I was younger, I always wanted someone to show me how things were done, so being able to pass on real knowledge about the culture was fulfilling. We talked about everything from spray paint control to the history of graffiti, and it seemed like they thoroughly enjoyed the class.”

In addition to Liam, another resident, Ian, a recent graduate to our step-down program, also attended the graffiti session.

Ian enjoys the therapeutic aspect of painting. Arriving at our program soon after the beginning of the pandemic, our offices are covered in canvases Ian has branded with his own style of oil painting. Even though Ian no longer lives in the Transitional Living house, he is often seen participating in our house activities, and jumped at the chance to learn some techniques from a master.

Whatever their passion is, Green Hill simply wants our residents to know that we are here to provide support for their healthy aspirations. As a team where many of us are in recovery as well, we understand first hand that a little support at a key period can make a lasting and life-changing difference.

We’re excited to see where Liam and Ian apply the lessons they’ve learned in their Passion Projects and thrilled to see what future residents might set out to accomplish!

While you’re here, check out a few of our previous Passion Project stories below.