Updated: May 12, 2022
Alfred Marc von Welsheim is a participant in the Arts for Recovery Program of Storytellers Creative Arts and a member of the Makers Community Discipleship Group for artists. His inspiring story gives hope to anyone battling addictions and life challenges
Entering rehab was the most difficult choice of my life. The problem with not being a stranger to the dark is you become a stranger to the light, God's light. God used Storytellers Creative Arts to bring about a shift and to draw me closer to Him.
I had managed to disgust myself just as I had the rest of the world. Before the night would ignite the day, I needed to pray. It wasn’t a prayer fitting of a wordsmith. I didn’t recite scripture. I simply had one word to offer. “Help,” I offered. “Help me, God,” I continued. All I had for God was one single word. A word without creativity or authority. I simply managed – help. I stayed in bed with little hope, but God heard my one word.
My first encounter with Storytellers was at "Get Creative Day." I was among about 60 men who participated in worship, testimonies, and a series of creative rotational workshop/art therapy sessions. These interactive workshops, led by the Storytellers team, included guitar, painting, drama, culinary arts, and, my favorite, creative writing. William's non-traditional method of creative writing began with us listening to 5 different styles of music, creating an inspired sketch for each on five separate sheets of paper. These songs evoked emotion and contemplation, prompting us to draw what we saw or felt at that moment. We then extracted words from the art and used these words to create a poem, story, song, or prayer. After that, the creative juices began to flow freely, and the Light broke through.
Excerpt from "If Rock Bottom Had A Basement"
by Alfred Marc Von Wellsheim
A week after our arrival at Justin's Place in La Belle, Florida, I met a man who would awaken a sleeping giant inside me. William Barnett is his name. Barnett's vision is to empower people's creativity and allow them to experience God through the arts. My creativity was not dead but very much dying. Any desire I had to tell a meaningful story was on life support when he brought his team to Justin's Place. I was not initially interested at all.
Ever since I was a child, all I wanted to do was tell stories. Before I could read or write, I would dictate my masterpieces to my mother. I see in my mind clearly me telling her my adventures as she wrote at the dining room table. I watched her intently, and when her hand stopped, I asked her to read back to me what I had just said. My mother was hardly my mother in those moments. She worked for me and had a job to do. However, in my stupid mind, she was an utter failure. Mom was grammatically correcting my words. She was rearranging the things I said to make sense. To me, this was a complete violation of my story and creativity. I would throw a fit and demand she writes my words exactly as I said them.
I fired my mother on several occasions. Clearly, this is evidence that I was a Prima Donna right out of the womb. But wasn't it General George S. Patton who said, "all successful commanders are Prima Donnas and should be so treated"? I was ahead of my time before kindergarten or my introduction to Pop Rocks. I suppose having a big ego is sort of a rite of passage for the artistic people. After all, who dares to think they have something to say that is so profound it can change hearts and enlighten minds? Probably no one more than the artists participating in Barnett's workshops shifted my resolve about being in LaBelle.
That tape of failures can make the days long and the nights longer. Barnett's group taught me that even when we sing a broken "Hallelujah," God still wants our song.
What changed? Why did I suddenly take an interest in Barnett's workshops? The answer is simple. Barnett believed in the power of a story. His batch of leaders and speakers reminded me that our gifts are part of God's pleasure in us. This realization immediately bonded me to the gentleman stranger. In many regards, I am nothing but an egotistical and childish fool. I have been told on several occasions that my ego is the largest people have ever known. I find this hard to believe since I live in a constant state of turmoil. My thoughts and the voices in my head rarely rest. That tape of failures can make the days long and the nights longer. Barnett's group taught me that even when we sing a broken "Hallelujah," God still wants our song.
Now I have read all kinds of books about storytelling, from Peter Guber's Tell To Win, which was excellent, to the dribble by the self-appointed guru of screenwriting, Robert McKee. Just reading his book entitled Story is enough to make you want to puke. The man teaches about film writing and has basically never sold the screenplay his entire life. Joe Eszterhas, writer of Jagged Edge, Basic Instinct, and Flashdance, is a man who can teach screenwriting.
Barnett did something that was uniquely and profoundly different. He would play music and ask us to write what the music inspired. This is something I had been doing all my life, but I had never had this introduced in a workshop. Barnett wasn't a simple-minded teacher of lectures. He was illuminating steps in my journey, as was his team.
This ministry takes people into deeper parts of their own being. Through the creative arts and writing classes, I was able to see myself and to experience healing. I was able to express my feelings, dropping the cloak of shame. Storytellers gives me a voice and hope as I journey through healing and my renewed relationship with Christ.
They say it not only takes a spark (or pyromaniac) to start a fire. Cue the Billy Joel song "We Didn't Start the Fire" (not that the song fits, but it is fun, and the title does). Storytellers helped ignite in me a desire to tell stories; that ministry was my catalyst. At a roundtable, I felt myself come fully alive as I talked about writing and stories with a small group of men. Some of them thought they had no skill in telling stories, but they did. Often a person just needs help priming their pump.
Barnett's group was creating an environment where creativity thrived in freedom and love. I was smitten immediately when William Barnett and his group left that Saturday. I went to my room; I wrote him a thank you card. I thanked him for his ministry and the men that joined him. But what I was thankful for was the CPR I needed in recovery. For me to really change, I needed to submit 100% to the program. In other words, swallow the good with the bad, not just chew it like a cow and his cud. William helped balance what we were being fed. Those leaders did not speak from authority but from a place of God's heart. They understood transformation comes from within and awakening our spirits as opposed to conformity from expectations, regulations, rules, and fear.
Marc von Wellsheim is a graduate of Regent University with a Masters in Filmmaking Concentration in Television and Film Writing. He is a member of the SCA Makers Community, and the author of "If Rock Bottom Had A Basement," available on Amazon.
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HOPE AND HEALING THROUGH THE ARTS
Storytellers Creative Arts (SCA) is a Southwest Florida non-profit organization with a mission to lead people to saving faith in Jesus Christ, the One who transforms lives. SCA disciples and equips artists to accomplish the mission. SCA provides healing and nurturing outreach programs to touch the underprivileged. Programs include visual and performing arts, storytelling, and music. SCA partners with Youth Haven, David Lawrence Centers, New Horizons After-School Clubs of SWFL, Pathways Early Education in Immokalee, and other organizations.
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