So, when Julie asked me to do a Zentangle Family Tree Blog for May, I was excited to share my story, as I have always been open about my journey in Recovery.
That being said, I usually introduce myself as “Hello, my name is Russell and I am an alcoholic.” As I write this, May 4, 2022, it has been exactly 1000 days since my last drink. With the struggle of addiction, I’ve learned to identify that I have struggles with other aspects of Me and my life, like mental health disorders. This brings my introduction full circle to why Julie asked me to share, as I was introduced to Zentangle in a Mental Health outpatient program early in my recovery.
My first lesson was with Jody Genovese CZT on October 10th 2019, and I immediately attached onto the Zentangle Method as a way to help me with so many aspects of my life. For example, I am finally “doing” this typing after receiving the request in March… the anxiety of doing an “assignment” has facilitated my ability to procrastinate, hence the last-minute completion of this article. How did I deal with some of that anxiety that I was struggling with, you may ask…? Why, with tangling!
So, the story continues…
Through the guidance and support of Jody, I was encouraged to consider becoming a Certified Zentangle Teacher. For the first six months or so of my Recovery, Thursday morning Zentangle group was THE highlight of my week. And if anyone is looking at the dates in my story, some of you can guess what happened next… the pandemic!
That’s right, good ole’ Covid Pandemic. As the outpatient clinic is a medical facility associated with a large hospital association, restrictions were put in place and precautions were taken to protect all involved; the clients, the facility workers, and the volunteers. Well, one of those restrictions was that volunteers were not allowed into the facility. This drastically affected me, and other clients of the facility also, as our beloved Zentangle teacher freely volunteered her time to bring this amazing method to create art to us.
In the beginning of the pandemic I got a taste of what it was like to lead a class. I was gaining confidence in myself and my abilities, and I “substitute” taught that Thursday morning group for a little while… on a white board nonetheless. Just before Jody’s final lesson at the clinic I had received news that I had received some financial assistance with attending the next Zentangle Certification class, boy was I excited!!! I am so grateful for that assistance, and they know who they are, because it was the next HUGE step, in a series of many, that brought me to where I am today.
Well, once again, we all know what happened… The world shut down! Long story short, I’ve still yet to get to Rhode Island to meet everyone in the CZT family in person, but I attended CZT 36 in Fall of 2020, the first virtual certification conference in Zentangle history, let alone the first one in a year at that point in the pandemic, I believe…. Anyways. What a wonderful experience!
During all this time, I had also been working on other aspects of my recovery, including MBSR training aka meditation certification with UMass medical – coincidence that during my CZT training we first heard about Zentangle inc. possibly working with them. Along with that I was working towards becoming a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate, which would give me the opportunity to work with others in recovery. So, having achieved these certificates, I have somewhat combined them to help others in recovery using the Zentangle Method, as I have, to enrich their lives.
Which brings us to today. Day 1000 of not having a drink, and day 937 of my Zentangle journey (I used an app to figure that out!). Not too long after becoming a CZT, I was having a conversation with Jody. During this conversation she basically blessed me with the opportunity, if it ever arose, to take over the class that she was doing at the Mental Health Clinic. Well, after jumping through all the hoops to become an official hospital volunteer and pandemic restrictions being lifted, that opportunity arose!
On April 5th 2022, after just over two years, it was my honor to bring Zentangle back to that Mental Health Clinic! Full Circle! Giving back what was so freely given to me, thank you Jody, and everyone at the Zentangle, Inc team, has been a crucial part of my recovery.
Along with those experiences over the last two years came the opportunity for me to be involved in a local community center. The hows and what nots of this involvement is circumstantially not super important, what is, is that around Thanksgiving of 2021 I was given the keys to my own space in said community center! This space has become the Bijou Art Room, aka my studio/office. This space has afforded me the opportunity to teach a Monday night class and bring Zentangle to others in the community!
So, ya, that’s my story… I am going to follow this with the actual family tree questions… thanks for listening.
Name: Russell McDonald CZT, CRPA-P (even after a year and a half its still weird to have letters after my name… lol)
CZT #: 36
Hometown: Rotterdam NY USA
Favorite Tangle: I’m a tangleoholic, I can’t have just one!!! Every new tangle I play with becomes my “at that time” favorite!
Favorite place to tangle: At self-help meetings. Another mental health disorder I struggle with, ADD/ADHD. Tangling keeps my hands occupied so that my brain can listen during the meeting… My studio/office, surrounded by my art and student art… in my sketchbook at the park by the light of the street lamp, seriously, … Anywhere!
How I use the Zentangle Method in my life: The story above answers this pretty strongly I feel, but there are some other aspects of the Zentangle Method that I use in my life. The appreciation and gratitude step at the beginning and end is very important, and nice, to me. In my recovery I have become grateful for what I have, and not resentful for what I don’t have. I try to hold onto the appreciation and gratitude that I Invite into my students lives, and my own, and savor the moment…
Through my experience as a CZT, I have learned: Patience, gratitude, appreciation, respect, so many things! Self-respect, courage, admiration; I’ve learned that I can be a leader, that I can inspire others, be a role model. I’ve learned that I am capable of these things!
If I’m not tangling you will find me: all over the place… never a dull moment for me! Fishing, bowling, horseshoes, fireside. Self-help fellowships, working with others, new 7 ½ month old puppy…
Find me on the Zentangle Mosaic App! Username: Russell_McDonaldCZT36 (which reminds me, I should post some recent stuff…..)
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A heartfelt thank you to Russell for sharing his story with us and the entire Zentangle community!
We also want to thank all of those who shared their comments and stories on our blog, My Zentangle Toolbox. We have randomly selected Jane A to receive a Gratitude and Appreciation Zentangle MantraBand! Please send your snail mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org