Music and Addiction Recovery: How the Beat Keeps Me Clean

Music and Addiction Recovery: How the Beat Keeps Me Clean
February 17, 2017 californiahigh

Music and addiction recovery can come in many forms. For this recovering addict, music became a gateway to staying clean and feeling naturally high without the use of drugs.

I came into recovery a shell of a woman. Growing up with Puerto Rican musician parents, music and dancing was as part of the daily routine as brushing my teeth in the morning. Before drug addiction, Motown, deep house, disco, metal, hip-hop, indie pop and so on was the soundtrack to my life.

With such an upbringing, I surrounded myself with musician friends in college, and I tapped into the off-the-wall, intimate music culture of artistic millennials. The music itself got me to a high on a seemingly celestial frequency. Naturally, my drug use involved tons of music, head bobs, shaking hips, and full-out dancing like no one was watching. But as my addiction progressed, there were fewer lights, less movement, less sound, and then nothing at all.

Two Addicts and a Hatchback

Like many people new to recovery, I was not sure if I could have the same fun, the same duende—the natural, magical high when experiencing an art form—as I did before my addiction became dark. Can I still dance? Can I still connect to music as deeply as I did on acid? When I was wasted out of my mind? When I was miserably drowning into the ground with a needle in my arm blissful despite the wreckage that was my life and mental state?  

Is the magic still alive in recovery or is it as dead as the innocent, hip-shaking, little girl of pizazz that I was before I picked up my first shot of whiskey?

I found a friend along the way that felt the same way. She spent her entire teens and early twenties in the nightlife scene of Wynwood Miami. She was the life of the party, but as soon as she came into recovery, she was suddenly too insecure to do any of that: to dance, goof around, and to connect with other people because the drugs no longer shut down her insecurities that never went away to begin with—because she never dealt with it. We never dealt with anything on drugs.


The old hatchback I picked her up in had no aux cable, and although I would be embarrassed by that in the past, I wasn’t embarrassed with her. I immediately felt a magical bond with her—my first experience of
duende clean. We suffered through commercial radio until she brought in some old CDs. As we grew up by working on our behaviors so that we could stay clean and reach self-acceptance and happiness, one of the blessings of our hard work besides honest relationships, new jobs, and self-sustainability was a radio aux cable.  

Something happened during that time of constant car rides to meetings, to restaurants, to nowhere and everywhere. Since I was so grateful to find another woman my age in recovery that I connected with, I decided to full out jam out in my car.

Is the Beat Better Without Drugs?

There’s something about dancing that is infectious. A beat is infectious just as a laugh is infectious. Even though She was completely new to recovery, the beat infected her, too, because it doesn’t matter how much clean time you have to experience duende. The melody and the words infected us both. Music began to help us to recover.

There’s this misconception that art without drugs isn’t art. I’ve come to realize that drugs suppress my feelings, emotions, perception, and thought process to a level of obsession, compulsion, and self-centeredness that is debilitating on a spiritually bankrupt level. Art has always been about the organic truth of connection, nature, and the universe as a whole. That’s what songs are written about. That’s what the beat tries to encompass when it hits the listener and gets them moving—gets them naturally high without a substance in their body.

Active addiction had me in the most self-centered place I could be. Art is about empathy. How am I supposed to experience music freely and honestly if the flow of my own humanity was hindered by drugs that left me only concerned about me getting that next one instead of living in the moment?

Music Junkies Recover

Now, music is a constant way I connect. We drive, we jam, we dance like nobody’s watching. We grab coffee. We talk about nonsense and everything. It all started with a turn of the ignition and a single sound from my old car’s speakers.

So if you’re new to recovery and think you can’t have fun without drugs, what I can tell you is I work steps, I dance, I go to concerts and music festivals, and I stay clean. The music hits me harder, better, faster, and more honestly than it ever did with a substance in my body that I thought took me to another level of magic. It’s that beat that connects me to friends, strangers, and to that little girl of pizazz that was in me all along.

By dancing like nobody’s watching on our car rides and eventually concerts, self-acceptance has increased more and more with each song. I can write more freely than I could on drugs when I used to think they enhanced my art. The center of addiction is self-centeredness, and the key to staying clean is self-acceptance and empathy. For me, music was the gateway to recovery, and I dance along the way to the sounds and lyrics that help me to recover.

Need Help with Addiction?

Music and addiction recovery may not seem like it will be as fun as it was with drugs. Not to mention that getting clean off drugs and alcohol can be a scary change. At Elevate Recovery Center, our drug and alcohol specialists are waiting 24-7 to take your call and answer all your questions and concerns involving addiction and recovery. If you or your loved one is struggling with active addiction, call us now at (855) 456-0622!

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