The Comfort of Recovery

A Q&A with Alexia Jones, founder of R2ISE

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
8 min readFeb 29, 2024

This Q&A was facilitated by Jeremiah Gardner of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation on behalf of the Addiction Alliance of Georgia and featured in Hazelden Betty Ford’s monthly Recovery Advocacy Update. If you’d like to receive Hazelden Betty Ford’s advocacy emails, subscribe today.

Alexia Jones

Art + Recovery = Freedom. That’s the motto of R2ISE, a nonprofit recovery community organization in Atlanta, and its founder and executive director Alexia Jones. Combining her experience as a dancer and person in long-term addiction recovery, Alexia established R2ISE in 2016 to provide a space and community where art could be utilized to empower recovery, wellness, and advocacy. One of her latest inspirations is The Comfort of Recovery — a large, beautiful quilt handcrafted by members of the R2ISE community to demonstrate the healing power of connection, recovery and stories. The quilt has already been displayed at the Governor’s Office, in hospitals and at medical schools — sparking awareness, education and new conversations about recovery. Next up: an installation April 1–31 and special evening event April 9 at the Emory Addiction Center in Atlanta — an outpatient substance use and mental health care facility operated by the Addiction Alliance of Georgia, a partnership between Emory Healthcare and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

The Comfort of Recovery

Q — In 1985, the famous AIDS Memorial Quilt was first imagined by a gay rights activist who wanted to confront the social stigma preventing many AIDS victims from receiving funerals. When did you first imagine The Comfort of Recovery quilt, and what was the initial inspiration?

A —While attending a Faces & Voices of Recovery national summit in Minneapolis in 2022, I took the time to visit George Floyd Square, which includes a great deal of deeply meaningful public art. I remember feeling inspired at the time to do some sort of public art project with the peers I work with at R2ISE. Around that same time, one of our veteran peers, Rhonda Lawson, approached me about her desire to teach a quilting class; quilting is her way of maintaining her wellness. Despite initial lack of interest from other peers, I was determined to support her vision. Reflecting on Rhonda’s dream of engaging our peer community in making quilts— a tradition deeply ingrained in African-American culture, reminiscent of my own family’s history of crafting quilts to preserve our heritage — the idea came to me: we could make a quilt as a public art project centered around recovery.

George Floyd Square in Minneapolis. Left, or first, photo courtesy of Alexia Jones. Middle, or second, photo by mana5280 on Unsplash. Right, or third, photo Photo by munshots on Unsplash.

Q — How did the Carlos Museum come to be a supporter and collaborator, and in what ways do you work with them?

A —One morning during our “Saturday Flow” session at R2ISE, Henry Kim, director of the Carlos Museum at Emory, walked into our center on a whim. With great curiosity, he inquired about our activities, and we passionately shared how art helps those in recovery maintain wellness and sobriety. Henry began attending our weekly men’s group and eventually brought his colleagues along. When he asked what I envisioned for our community, I spoke of my desire for public art, inspired by my visit to Minneapolis and discussions with Rhonda about a quilt project. This led to a collaborative effort to share the beauty of art in recovery with medical professionals who may want to integrate art into their practices. Through the collaboration, we’ve realized the power of art to convey recovery stories to people who may otherwise see addiction through the lens of stigma. The quilt helps us illustrate the power of resilience and strength in overcoming all sorts of intersecting life challenges, including trauma. It has also united us and the broader community, revealing the common ground we all share when it comes to addiction, mental health and the opioid crisis, which affect people regardless of race, gender, or sexual identity.

Q — The quilt will be on display at the Emory Addiction Center throughout April, and there will be a special evening event on April 9. What can attendees of the event expect?

A —At R2ISE, we use art to convey our narratives. While the resulting pieces of art hold significance, it’s the process of creating the art that best represents the transformative process of recovery. We aim to highlight the healing properties of neuro-arts (the blend of science and art), demonstrating that art can serve as a form of medicine within a recovering person’s toolkit. It is a language through which we articulate deeply felt trauma and illustrate our stories, fostering a deeper level of understanding and rewriting our narratives. At this event, attendees will get to engage with art in various forms and hear/participate in a discussion. Our hope is that those who engage with our work not only attend our events but leave with a shifted perspective, understanding that art isn’t solely reserved for “artists” but is accessible to all who seek alternative forms of self-expression on their journey to wellness.

Q — Who was involved in putting the quilt together? What was the experience like for all those involved?

A —The quilt was crafted by a diverse community encompassing people of all ages, genders, races, and backgrounds, including individuals in recovery, artists, and non-artists. With 100 people and 200 hands contributing, we collectively decided to portray a tree motif, symbolizing our interconnectedness and the various seasons of change in our lives. Just as trees remain rooted, we are reminded to stay grounded as we navigate through life’s challenges. This quilt embodies our commitment to healing as a community, bridging divides and offering support to one another. Within the African-American community, quilting has long been a cultural tradition, serving as a means to share stories and unite communities. By stitching together each square intentionally, we break down barriers and work toward a common goal: providing comfort to those hurting and in mourning and advocating for those striving to find their way home from addiction amidst a devastating opioid overdose epidemic.

Q — What are your hopes and ambitions for the quilt?

A —My hope is that this initiative sparks conversations, evokes memories of our history, and challenges perspectives, ultimately dismantling the stigma surrounding recovery. I envision it as a focus point for dialogue, inspiring individuals and empowering communities to confront addiction’s grip creatively. Just as mycelium connects the roots of trees in a forest, I hope we, as a global community, continue weaving our hearts together, fostering healing through this quilt for countless generations to come.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (fourth from right) welcomes The Comfort of Recovery to his office in Atlanta.

Q — Why do you feel art and recovery complement each other so well, and what are some other examples of the work and projects you all do at R2ISE?

A —Art and recovery go together as well as peanut butter and jelly, offering a space where we can dream limitlessly, transcending the boundaries of addiction and trauma. Art allows us to rewrite our narratives, think outside of the box, and expand beyond traditional approaches to recovery. In this realm, the sky is not the limit; there are no right or wrong ways of expression. Instead, art becomes a bridge to restoration, inspiration, support, empowerment and growth. It empowers and helps sustain recovery, which is deeply personal, guiding us to rediscover ourselves, realign our values, exercise self-control, make amends, and heal our inner selves. Art fosters community and serves as a reset button, helping us reclaim what was lost. When art and recovery intertwine, a newfound freedom emerges, granting us a second chance to reach for a brighter future. Through this journey, I’ve discovered that the most transformative work occurs within oneself, as we rewrite internal dialogues, reclaim freedom, and build a space for individual expression. Witnessing this process in myself and others has been an honor — a divine and sacred journey of growth and renewal.

Q — You have been in recovery and advocating for recovery for almost 30 years. What does it mean to you personally to be able to advocate for recovery? What do you wish the whole world knew and understood better about recovery?

A —Advocating for recovery has given me a platform to amplify the voices of those in recovery, offering them a space to share their stories and overcome fear, shame, guilt and stigma. Instead of scratching the surface of issues, advocacy initiates a shift in perspective, encouraging individuals to explore their passions. Advocating for the Art of Recovery is about recognizing the healing power of art throughout history, from the Harlem Renaissance to the era of rhythm and blues. Art has always been a pathway to healing, offering multiple avenues for our peers to navigate their own recovery journey. Whether through music, visual arts, or other forms of expression, art is an alternative language to communicate experiences and emotions. Each person’s journey to recovery is unique, and art offers a personalized space for self-expression and growth. By advocating for the integration of art into recovery processes, we acknowledge and celebrate the multitude of pathways to healing and transformation.

I wish the whole world would keep a song in their heart for the hard times, celebrate their good times through dance, and paint their stories with every color of the rainbow.

Another quilt created by the peers at R2ISE.
Alexia Jones (left) with Rhonda Lawson, who helped inspire the creation of The Comfort of Recovery quilt draped behind them.



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