NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) – There is no doubt that the past two years have been difficult. When we are faced with the most difficult days of our life, it is difficult to go through them alone. An artist discovered that you can find help even in the most unexpected places. It is a story of recovery and of all who lead us there.
“I love eyes. I’m very good with eyes,” Aerin Williams said, brush in hand. Aerin painted eyes with various expressions on a large canvas. “They are windows to the soul.”
There is a contrast between Aerin’s colored pencil and acrylic paint drawings and the fact that Aerin finds eye contact difficult.
“Loneliness is something I’ve struggled with all my life,” Aerin said. “I pretty much had social anxiety and still do.”
What helps is art.
“It became a way for me to connect with people,” Aerin said.
Two years ago, the loneliness became too strong. With the COVID shutdowns, the once-busy town of Aerin was so often empty. Work was suddenly from home. It was forced isolation.
“The addiction got totally out of control,” Aerin said. “It was alcohol and narcotics. I knew I was dying and I didn’t want to die.”
Aerin knew there was a place they had to go. Aerin checked into Cumberland Heights Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center. They were taken by something printed on the front of a textbook, “addiction is a disease of isolation”.
“I had to have other people or I had no chance,” Aerin said.
For someone with social anxiety, the group sessions were not easy. Maybe someone could help.
“Yeah, Teague helped a lot,” laughed Aerin. “Teague is here for emotional support.”
Teague is a retrieval dog for Cumberland Heights.
“Everybody loves him,” said Cumberland Heights councilwoman Michelle Johnson. “It’s the dot com bomb. Patients say they’re taking it home, but they have to beat me to get it out of here.”
Teague is everyone’s best pal there, but to Aerin, Teague is actually something even more.
“Teague has made it easier to be around people because he’s a huge source of stress relief and love,” Aerin said.
Aerin doesn’t do portraits of people they know. However, they made an exception. Aerin created a portrait of Teague and donated it to Cumberland Heights.
“That attention to detail and capturing it, it was an attempt to connect with the staff and other people here by exemplifying something that we all love,” Aerin said. “One of the things I’ve learned during recovery so far is that even if I’m not the person I want to be today, I can still love the person who’s sitting here. I’ve been sober for a year and three months now. [The portrait] was a huge thank you to the people who made this possible for me.”
So, in Teague’s portrait, what are the eyes saying?
“He says I’m here for you,” Aerin replied. “I’m going to be here no matter what.”
Aerin would like to thank Cumberland Heights and Healing Housing in Franklin for leading them to healing.