Music in Recovery—A New Song
If you are suffering from the disease of addiction, or a have just been introduced to a program of recovery (i.e. 12-Steps or Non-12 Step Recovery), it is likely that the thought of continued sobriety of long periods of time may produce dull and drab images. Addicts and alcoholics, setting the pain aside for the moment, often associate drugging and/or drinking with having a good time. It is probably fair to say that before your life became truly unmanageable, you had a number of wonderful experiences at parties and events. If you are considering addiction recovery it is likely that that ship has long since sailed, and you find yourself in a state of utter despair.
Let’s face it, if the drugs and alcohol could still be balanced between work and responsibility, why would you consider renouncing all mind altering substances? The old saying “the road goes on forever and the party never ends” hardly applies to someone eking out an existence in the grips of addiction. When the party does in fact end for someone with a substance use disorder, it typically means one of two things; either you found recovery or you succumbed to your addiction. Those working in the field of addiction recovery know all too well that for many addicts and alcoholics, the latter is often the case—but we also know that it does not have to be.
In the United States and around the globe, millions of people wake up every day with the goal of not using a drink or drug—no matter what. What’s more, they also insist on thoroughly enjoying life. Recovery is not just sitting around drinking stale coffee in meeting houses with interior walls tinted yellow from years of chain smoking, pining for days of yore. On the contrary, people working programs of recovery resist the urge to pick up, help others do the same and have a good time in the process on a daily basis. It could easily be argued that recovery allows people to not only enjoy all that life has to offer, but remember it too—the gift of a clear mind.
Please do not read these words and think that they imply that recovery is all peaches and cream. Working a program involves a lot of hard work, introspective thinking, selflessness and reprogramming how one thinks. There will be hard times and good times, and everything in between. But those who stay committed typically find that life has so much to offer, and just about anything is possible if one stays the course. It will not happen overnight, but at some point owing to eternal vigilance, you will find that there isn’t anywhere you cannot go or any experience that will seem less sweet because you are not under the influence—especially when it comes to music.
Hearing the Music of Recovery
Looking back on the days of active drug and alcohol use, it is likely that you listened to music. There were probably times when you felt as though you were at “one” with a particular song. Perhaps you had the feeling that the musician wrote a song with someone like you in mind—and to some degree there is probably some to truth to that sensation. Now you find yourself sober. You may find that the music that once spoke to you is no longer communicating—which can be a troubling realization. Music was such an important part of your life and now you feel, to borrow from “American Pie:”
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play
Rest assured, music has not given you the cold shoulder, because you made the choice to live. In fact, you will realize that in sobriety new/different music will have a cathartic effect on you. Music is an invaluable resource that can pick you up when you are down or give you a joyous escape, and it does not require the use of drugs and/or alcohol to appreciate it. It is worth noting that many of the musicians you listened to when you were using, also struggled with addiction and found recovery. Not only are they still writing music and performing, much of what they create speaks to those working a program of recovery. James Taylor, Eric Clapton and Elton John are a just a few examples.
Music can be and often is therapeutic for many who are on the journey of recovery. Similar to other alternative therapies, like massage, art or biofeedback, music can assist people in managing mental health issues, cognitive processes and physical pain or discomfort.