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The Healing Force of Music Rescued Me In Recovery


The power of music impacts millions of people and can play a major role in the recovery or treatment process from drug and alcohol addictions.



“Music is life itself.” 

~ Louis Armstrong

Music is and always has been: it moves, stirs, drives, carries, delivers, palpitates, evokes, emotes, and thrusts me to a dimension where personal and salient experiences surface only to nourish me. It enthralls from every direction, where I’m not aimless, points me towards a whole purpose. It fills me seemingly beyond the body with a warm sensation that I have craved since I was a moppy-haired, Sears-tough-skin-wearing, latent-’70s puppy. 

Like a Rorschach experience (although free from interrogative examination), though from our ears to minds inner vision, what I hear in music, I see all colors that make life; Music is a language, a higher communication. Music does both, transports me back in time, blasts me forward to tomorrow’s imagined state, and all the while, I relish the moment. No drug, no person, nor place, nothing can take me to so many places in my lived present experience, entirely like music.  

“Music is the literature of the heart: it commences where speech ends.”

~ Alphonse De Lamartine 

The piece is an empirical, anecdotal exercise, though I’d be remiss not to be factoring in neuroscience. Example: the temporal lobe region of the human brain and its complex components, e.g., the hippocampus (memory, nicknamed the tiny seahorse, I see my active recollection doing the running-man motion and slam-dancing). The hypothalamus connection with the limbic system (emotion and survival drives) can take some people for a wild and dangerous ride in all its unconsciousness; I don’t mean a pleasant trip to Disneyland. Meaning: some in early recovery especially have uncomfortable experiences with music and their tethered memories and vice versa. The association can be disturbing. This is where euphoric recall, e.g., reliving an experience positively without intent, obscuring the truth of what was lived in the past. Some call it “selective memory,” remembering the past with rose-colored glasses that were not, in reality, rosy nor cozy. There is also the illusion that fun times using drugs are guaranteed if I can do it again, just this one time. Sometimes, music is a part of that personal and destructive concoction for a notable portion of the recovery-curious population or those in early recovery to mid recovery. 

Insomuch, I posit “all-mighty” neurotransmitters (molecules that bridge between two neurons, both the pre and post-synaptic neurons) such as dopamine (pursuit of reward) and oxytocin (affection, connection, and love) in an effective and natural form. It is of my understanding how powerful this can be for the dopaminergic (the highly sensitive to dopamine) among us, for better or worse. In my case, as it relates to the universal language that is music, thank the good heavens for such a prescription to mind, emotion, body, and soul. Music is medicine. 

Confucious say, “music produces the kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” 

My adventures with music are not uniform; however worth sharing. Through instrumentation, I draw elation from rhythm, melody, distortion, harmony, the slapping and cracking sounds of the bass and drums, the cacophonic and dynamic layers of symphonic expression. I’ve disassociated past submerged toxic spells vs. respiring moments; the latter wins by a blowout! 

The instrument I gravitated towards: the most primitive, rhythmic, tribally-pulsating, sexy, athletic, body commanding, and multi-limb thumping; the dRuMs.

For me playing music was as essential to my recovery as listening. After my 9-5 job, I went to 12-step meetings, and from there, I would practice until midnight. After drinking enough espresso to bounce an elephant upon getting up at 5:30 am, I’d go to the studio, sock the skins, and strike the cymbals with loving fervor and sweat like a Floridian in the belly of summer. It was salubrious; it gave me a broader and substantive purpose. It was as if I intuitively knew to seek equilibrium in music in my early recovery because without it. I’d suffer and die as life would if our planet lost its essential ozone layer. Dramatic? Maybe, moreover, I was able to replace an unhealthy reward (drugs) with a healthy pleasure (music). 

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” 

~ Berthold Auerbach 

I was consumed again—in comparison. While driving west on Venice Blvd, in West LA, at just over a year clean in my then Nissan Altima, ‘comfortably numb’ by Pink Floyd, reached from the Radio and pulled me to a moment, the present. A song I’ve heard many times before and enjoyed, I experienced transcendentally this time. A bubble bath of tears welled from my eyes and bathed my entire face and neck; it was as if my own body was cleansing itself through this song. I felt a peace that everything was alright. This particular tune, both lyrically and compositionally, smacked me alive. I don’t believe I ever felt a sense of peace and clarity about myself at any point in life quite like that. I felt a deep understanding of gratitude that has since bled episodically throughout my recovery to the present day. I’ve been restored to sanity one spiritual awakening at a time. 

A fond memory: in the mid-’70s, just a child sitting in the passenger seat in my father’s then VW bug, with the horizontal handle on the dashboard, perfect for a pretend steering wheel that I imagined. The VW’s syncopated jittery engine, in sync with sounds of the sixties and seventies Rock and R&B, is a distant memory I hold more closely today than ever; thanks, Dad. I shared the same experiences with my son, except in the aforementioned Nissan Altima, and him seated in the backseat. Less cool but safer. I also shared all the classic music of my youth and contemporary tunes with his unblemished spirit. Passing down such experiences is priceless; music makes those moments richer and more indelible. 

Take a moment to see Our Philosophy and how the power of music fits within the scope.

In what healthy pleasure gives your life healing and balance? 

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This article was submitted anonymously by a non-employee of FoxWhole Recovery Services

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