There is no straight and narrow path to recovery. Addicts all share the same disease but they don’t share the same story. That’s why it’s important that addiction treatment is tailored to the individual. However, there are certain tools that can help recovery in general. One of these tools is music.
Have you ever heard people claim that music is their sanity or that they can’t live without music? These claims may sound extreme (unless you’re a music buff yourself), but there’s actual science behind the positive influence that music has on the brain and on a person’s life in general. Music can help during treatment as well as in long-term sobriety.
Benefits of Music Therapy During Treatment:
Music therapy is commonly used in addiction treatment as a supplement to more traditional treatment methods. It uses music as a tool to help stimulate physical, emotional, and social healing and growth. It can involve creating, signing, listening to, or moving to music. Treatment definitely still needs to include traditional methods like individual therapy, group sessions, and case management. But music therapy can have a very positive impact on an individual when incorporated into a recovery program.
1. Emotional awareness
Addicts develop many bad habits during their addictions. They’re likely to lie, manipulate, falsely rationalize, and constantly deny to get or use their drug of choice and maintain their addictions. It’s not the addict’s fault. Addiction actually changes brain chemistry, which will obviously have an impact on how the person thinks and behaves. Music therapy can help a recovering addict become more in tune with positive emotions that promote healthier habits.
2. Breaks rigidity
The creative nature of music is a stark contrast to the fixed ways of thinking that addicts adopt through their addictions. Addicts fixate on when and how they can get their next fix. Musical creativity can definitely inspire someone in recovery to think more openly and fluidly.
3. Promotes relaxation
Treatment can feel intense and stressful at first. After all, you’re completely changing your way of living by giving up your addiction and entering treatment. Relaxation is definitely encouraged in early recovery, as it will make the transition into recovery much easier. Music therapy can be very calming and peaceful, thus helpful in promoting relaxation.
4. Healthy expression
Sometimes it’s hard for people to find the words to explain how they’re feeling, especially in early recovery. They might have had unhealthy or negative experiences sharing their feelings in the past. Or maybe they’re just unsure of how they feel. Music therapy can help facilitate healthy expression of those emotions without forcing a person to speak his mind.
5. Builds social bonds
Addiction can easily strip someone of their ability to interact in healthy ways with other people. Again, lying to and manipulating other people to feed an addiction is very common among addicts. It’s important that recovering addicts learn how to have healthy interactions with people. Music therapy promotes teamwork and social interaction.
How Music Helps in Long-Term Recovery:
Music can also be a helpful tool in long-term recovery. When you’ve graduated from treatment and you’re once again functioning in society, it’s important to remain aware of the tools you learned while in treatment. Even if music therapy wasn’t specifically part of your residential treatment program, you still learned that stress management and mood awareness are crucial to staying clean and sober in the long run. Music can help with that.
1. Increases self-esteem
Addiction can strip a person of their individuality outside of their drug of choice. It doesn’t take long for a person to feel like they can’t live without their drug. This is not healthy at all and is basically a green light for low self-esteem to weave its way through a person’s mind. Depression also contributes to low self-esteem and is actually a common side effect for many substances, including cocaine and alcohol. Addicts can struggle with low self-esteem even after years in recovery. Music gives people the opportunity to create something they like and are proud of, which increases self-esteem. Listening to songs that make you happy can increase self-esteem as well.
2. Reduces stress
Stress is a major trigger for relapse, so it’s important to be able to balance stress in long-term recovery. Listening to music can help to calm nerves and distract a person from boisterous or negative thoughts. Furthermore, music creation – singing, playing, producing, or writing music – can be a healthy hobby to help balance the more serious or stressful aspects of a person’s life. And if you don’t currently know how to play an instrument, learning how can be a very rewarding experience. Learning how to do something new can keep you busy, give you something to look forward to, and show you that you’re always able to enhance or change your life, all of which help keep you happy and reduce stress.
3. Improves mood
Listening to music can actually trigger the release of dopamine in the brain. This is exciting news for recovered addicts who were once addicted to drugs that unhealthily did the same, such as alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. That dopamine increase will immediately boost a person’s mood. Interestingly, you don’t even have to be currently listening to music for dopamine to be released. Even the anticipation of the mood-boost reward that comes with merely thinking about listening to your favorite song can trigger your brain’s dopamine.
Music may not be everyone’s go-to for stress relief or therapy tactics. But there’s no denying that it can help if you let it. New Start actually incorporates it into our residential program with “Musical Vibes,” during which clients will listen to music and express their emotions. However, music and other therapy methods can’t help until you take the first step and seek help for your addiction.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Call our addiction staff at 855-737-7363 or talk to us on our live chat.