Music in Recovery
Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in and out of recovery since the mid-2000’s, both in detox and full-time residential programs. As a part-time musician, any involvement in music while in the processes has been a godsend, on any level that I participated.
My earliest experiences were going in and out of a local detox, doing the old ‘spin-dry’ method, of repeat two-week treatments every few months (it never worked, I hasten to add, but it may have kept me alive until I was really ready to get clean). I did, however, manage to build a friendship with one of the counselors, who had been a professional musician in his past life. He somehow knew what I needed. On all of my visits, he managed to wrangle me a guitar to play (naturally, any I owned were in the pawn shop). It did more than pass the time. I found that I was able to express the angst I was going through in an honest, mostly non-verbal level. Process groups, as well as therapy are keystones in treatment. However, to make a dramatic shift and allow an entirely other part of my brain and nervous system participate in my recovery – a wholly abstract way – was dramatic and life affirming.
I was very fortunate that in the first real residential program I attended had a bona fide music department. The facility was faith-based, and presented services with music twice over the weekend, as well as having a couple of weekly music-related process groups. Thankfully, I also had a counselor who made sure that I kept up with my 12-step meeting schedule and standard treatment requirements; I would later learn how important this was. But it was the music in recovery program that kept me engaged. From helping write songs (prayers into music), performing at services as well as teaching newer residents the songs, etc., I became accountable and an active member of a community. The overall effect of teamwork, from the sound engineers to production assistants and beyond, helped me become a part of, and this galvanized my recovery in ways I never thought possible.
As much as I enjoyed and valued the above-mentioned aspects of the program, it was in the area of working with newer residents that was the most beneficial to my overall recovery. Guiding people through the process, opening up doors to recovery, and being a true mentor were things I never thought I’d do. At this stage of the game in my third year of sobriety, helping others has become a surprising cornerstone in my program, and remains a tool I can keep and need to use to this very day. It’s all about giving freely what I have found, and it’s talked about everywhere in 12-step programs, and for good reason. But to relate it and put it into action in conjunction with my own artistic passion is more than just fortunate. It’s a blessing.