Music is a gift, one which has the power to change your mood, perception or an experience. There is a plethora of different styles of music, from classical to rock and roll; the music that speaks to you may not speak to another.
There is something out there for everyone, and it is likely that even the most cantankerous of people cannot help but smile when they hear a certain melody. While most people think of music as something that entertains, others are finding that it also has the power to heal—which is especially important for those at the onset of addiction recovery.
Humans are social, feeling and communicative beings that require external stimulation that touches one internally. Those who are struggling will an illness, arguably, necessitate stimuli to help their recovery along. Healing doesn’t just demand doctors, medicine and time. If recovery from any form of malady is to be achieved—a multifaceted regimen is required.
The Orchestra of Recovery
Many of the best addiction treatment recovery centers across the country use various techniques to insure that clients have the highest chance at long term abstinence and a productive life upon completing and leaving treatment. In addition to using evidence-based methods and introducing clients to the 12-Steps or Smart Recovery, effective treatment centers present clients with various modalities to facilitate the healing process.
It is no secret that when someone is in need of recovery they are usually in pretty bad shape. Clients are, more times than not, spiritually bankrupt. Believing that if there is a higher power out there, it has most certainly abandoned them. One of the most important aspects of addiction recovery is connecting (or reconnecting) with the world and energy that coursing in and out of everyone—the spirit that unites us all. Active addiction is an isolated, dark existence; so then, it stands to reason that recovery needs be the exact opposite.
It is for that reason that recovery counselors will encourage clients to open their hearts and minds by way of prayer and/or meditation. Through such mediums, even the most broken of spirits can reunite with the world at large and see that they too, in time, can be free from the bondage of self. Just as a beautiful symphony requires the spectrum of instruments playing in sync, recovery requires the combined effort of everyone working together towards the common goal of living a life free from drugs and alcohol.
…And the Music Heals
It worth pointing out that a number of hospital around the country have begun using alternative therapeutic methods to help patients battle life threatening disorders, such as cancer. ABC News published an article recently called “How Music Therapy Can Lift Body and Soul for Patients.” The piece took a close look at various medical centers that are using music to help their patients heal. For instance:
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City has music therapists onsite to help ease pain, expand social connections, and bring peace and comfort to patients.
- Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai Hospital, utilizes music therapy to help patients express and cope with their mood, pain and need for sleep.
- Mount Sinai St. Luke’s music therapists help adolescent psychiatric inpatients.
If you are new to recovery, and think that music may help strengthen your coping skills and ease the transitional pain, talk to your counselor about the options available. You may find that music is an invaluable tool when times are hard and you feel urges to use drugs or alcohol. There isn’t a single formula for achieving recovery, and sometimes thinking outside the box is a must.
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.