When people think about ways to treat addiction and prevent relapse, they often picture treatment programs, recovery groups, and possibly talk therapy. While these things are certainly important elements of treatment, long-term recovery from addiction requires the person to utilize as many tools as possible to build a whole new life after treatment ends. One tool that many individuals have found helpful to their recovery journey is music.
Music as a Ritual
For people in recovery, rituals can be hugely beneficial to their long-term sobriety. A ritual can be any intentional, carefully chosen habit that a person engages in regularly. Rituals often provide a great deal of comfort and structure to a person who has faced addiction. Having a planned structure and routine to follow is one way that people in recovery can reduce their chances of experiencing a relapse.
Music can easily be made part of any ritual or routine, in a variety of different ways. For people who already play musical instruments, regular practice may be one of the ways they find peace in their lives. For example, a former recovery counselor shared that many of his clients seemed calmer when they had their instruments with them; this inspired him to start a non-profit that focuses on using music to help people heal.
Learning an instrument for the first time can also be healing. Commitment to a regular practice time and/or weekly lessons can alleviate boredom, give people a sense of purpose, and foster well-being. Some people even choose to write their own songs about their recovery journey.
Other Ways to Use Music
Some people prefer to enjoy music simply by listening to it. Whether your musical taste leans toward country, rap, show tunes, or something else entirely, you can find songs whose messages support your recovery goals. Once you have selected the songs that speak to you, you can use them in combination with other recovery tools, including:
- “Your” Song – some people connect very strongly with a specific song and find that it becomes a sort of personal affirmation for them and their goals for their life. Whenever they hear this song, it helps them to feel good about themselves and what they are doing in their life.
- Exercise – whether you are out for a hike, hitting the gym, or just exercising at home, having some great music to lift your mood can increase your enjoyment of the activity and make it easier to stick to your exercise plan.
- Journaling – some people find it helpful to listen to music while they write, or they may focus their writing on a certain song and how it makes them feel.
- Meditation – soothing music can be helpful for maintaining focus during meditation exercises.
- Mental Health Support – it is very common for people who face addiction to also have one or more mental health conditions. Music can be a part of how a person chooses to manage those diagnoses.
- Sharing with Others – music has a way of bringing people together, and this can include people in recovery sharing songs that they have found helpful on their journeys.
How to Choose Songs that Support Recovery
Not all songs are beneficial to helping a person whose primary focus is staying sober. Songs that might do more harm than good include those that:
- Remind you of people with whom you used to drink or get high
- Make you think of places where you used to drink or get high
- You used to listen to while using or drinking
- Make substance abuse seem glamorous or fun
- Evoke angry or sad feelings
At Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, VA, we view recovery as a holistic process that should be tailored to fit each person. We encourage the participants in our program to use all of the tools they have available to strengthen their sobriety and build lives that feel happy and complete.