After a decade of battling addiction, artist Ciro Di Ruocco found community and peace at the pottery wheel.
Di Ruocco got serious about ceramic art when he was in recovery in Nanaimo, B.C., for oxycontin and fentanyl addiction.
“When the clay is spinning at the wheel I’m not in stuck my head, I’m just thinking about what’s in front of me,” he told North By Northwest producer Matthew Parsons.
“I felt the most present when I was at the pottery wheel, and I felt like I walked away — sometimes — with something to show for what I did.”
After his family and close friends hosted an intervention, Di Ruocco travelled across the continent, from Vermont to Vancouver Island, to seek treatment for his addiction.
When he got to Nanaimo, he found a drop-in pottery studio close by. He could once again try his hand at the artform he’d set aside in high school and it fit into his treatment schedule.
The seriousness of Di Ruocco’s addiction began after a soccer injury in college. He remembers the strange feeling of realizing his body was detoxing the painkillers he was taking.
“I remember waking up one day and being like, ‘Why do I keep getting the flu?’ Really I was detoxing from this medication and it feels like the flu,” he said.
“You’re not even wanting to get high in the end … It’s really hard to explain to someone, this fear of being sick that’s driving your addiction — that it’s not enjoyment, it’s torture.”
Di Ruocco’s work is his form of advocacy, and a way to express the powerlessness he felt when his friends were dying around him of overdoses.
The community he formed while living in Nanaimo helped him feel like a “functioning member of society,” he said, after years of isolating addiction.
“What I found through art was I had something interesting to talk about and I was able to reach an older group of people that I now have this common language with,” he said. “Ceramics brought community into my life and I’m really grateful for that.”