Listening to and playing music in recovery from addiction or alcoholism
Listening to and playing music in recovery from addiction or alcoholism
One of the things that has been really important to me in recovery from alcoholism and addiction, has been developing my interest in music. I have always enjoyed music and my first jobs were in the music industry, partly because I was attracted to the wild lifestyle, as well as the creativity and freedom compared to a more normal environment, which would still bore me. Although I was influenced in a bad way, by some in the music business, when I was young, I was also given a lot of hope, when I was trying to turn my life around by the fact that some high-profile people had managed to change their ways. I realised a lot of these people had gone to 12 step groups and this partly influenced me to join as well, when I really made the decision to stop. I feel it is very important that people who have lived excessive lifestyles and manage to recover, speak out about it and influence people in a good way. I am not sure I would have reached out for help when I did, if I had not seen people that I felt were important had used these methods.
It basically felt alright for me to try to do recovery, when I realised other people who I had admired had managed to do it themselves. This can sometimes be quite hard for them as they are often around other people who are using. I can see why many of them are attracted to recovery groups that are available to members all over the world as it gives them a break from the sometimes crazy world of touring. These may not be the most rational of groups at times, but they do give people a place to go, where they can have some peace for an hour and be away from drink etc, when they are on the road. I was traveling a lot in my early days and used meetings in a similar way. I was not interested in all the higher power stuff but it was good to have some contact with other people who were aiming to achieve the same thing, and there is something positive about knowing that a group exists. A lot of the musicians knew people in groups all over the world and this was useful for me in my early days, before I changed my approach and moved on from the 12 step world.
Some of the devout members of the “12 step congregation” get really upset if somebody well-known, breaks their anonymity and says they are in AA etc. They do not seem to realise that this actually encourages people, to attempt recovery themselves. Many are against breaking anonymity, because they worry that public figures who relapse are a poor reflection on AA. The truth is that most people do not stay abstinent the whole time in AA or most other methods,especially at first, despite the claims in the Big Book, and that they often go through a process of relapse and dangerous binges, until they finally decide to stop for a worthwhile period. There is still a stigma about asking for help in stopping drinking and this is partly due to the old-fashioned attitudes in the 12 step, world which moralise recovery in the steps. Of course AA groups are not all about religion and the steps and are also a place where people with common interests can meet up and form new friendships, which is really important. I met a lot of musicians in recovery groups and it is great to bump into them from time to time and see how they are doing. Most seem to do quite well if they stay working, and throw themselves into life. I am not one of these people who avoids people who use different recovery methods to me, and wish everyone well. It is good to meet with people who use different methods in a social gathering as you can see which ones are the most relaxed and how they cope with life away from recovery groups, which are different to real life.
Recently I was at a great club watching Jimmie Vaughan, who I knew from my younger days when he was in a band called the Fabulous Thunderbirds. He quit the old lifestyle many years ago and is sounding as good as ever. You always get a lot of serious musicians, at these types of gigs, and it was great to see quite a few old faces that I know, especially those who have put down the drink and got on with life. I chatted with many people that night and it was good to see how well they were doing. Some still go to groups while others have moved on like myself after a few years. It was great to see people out in a club enjoying the atmosphere without having to drink and without having to worry about drinking. That is a great thing, when having an alcohol free night out, becomes the norm, and something to look forward to and not something that feels unnatural. It also somehow comforting, to know that there are other people in the same position, out there enjoying themselves. These people have the type of recovery that interests me, rather than the types whose life revolves around AA meetings and other recovery people. The people in the club have moved on and can get on with everybody else on a night out. They are not full of fear that they are going to have a drink or avoiding having a social life. they are living life and enjoying it.
Listening to music and playing it also has a calming effect on me these days. I have no wish to go travelling all over the country or world doing gigs, but do enjoy playing at home a lot. I do actually try to play better these days, than I used to and have spent a lot of time working out some complicated tunes. I got into studying theory again and this has helped me progress well. This was not something that I would do much when I was drinking and then I would be annoyed that I could not play something. I really do think it is important to find things that are worthwhile to fill your time, especially in the early days when cravings are strong and it is easy to give into temptation. I set myself really hard projects in my early days, such as working out Mike Stern guitar solos or things by Larry Carlton. That kept me occupied!
Playing music in public can be a bit strange at first, especially if you are used to having some kind of mood enhancer first, which I did for every gig for about 25 years, but it feels great after you have done it a few times. It is great to feel you are in control rather than worrying that you might not be able to play well. Of course, playing live can take you into a drinking environment which some will find hard to deal with. This is something that I managed to come to terms with and it does not bother me. I certainly do not make habit of going to pubs or clubs unless there is a good reason to do so. Playing or listening to music, is a good reason as far as I am concerned. If you are worried about doing this, then perhaps go with some friends who have some sober time and are used to going out.
I also found some books that musicians had written were really inspiring. I took the attitude if they can do it, then so can I. One that I read in my early days was by the great jazz guitarist Larry Coryell and you can see it leaning on my arch top guitar in the picture above. He really overcame a lot and also wrote about the benefits of meditation, which is something that has become important for me over time. Meditation was something that I ignored in the past, but somehow reading about people who I admired using it to enhance their life, made it alright for me to try, in a similar way to attempting recovery. All these things have been part of making my life better. I have met Larry a couple of times at concerts over the years and am always inspired by him. I see a lot of people who get stuck in a little recovery world and never push any boundaries, and this often ends up with somebody who has a low self-image, who concentrates on their flaws rather than good points. These people often are the ones would end up having problems staying sober.
Listening to music is also a great way of relaxing and can help change a mood. I do carry an iPod around with me and always run while listening to music. I also find it relaxing in the car and anything that can help out with the traffic jams in London is a good thing. Im writing this at work, but am looking forward to going home soon and going for a run while listening to some sounds. It will help take me away from the hard part of the day and will help me sleep well tonight.Google+