Music Therapy and Getting Sober
Early on, we are often taught the advantages of playing an instrument or singing such as improving math and comprehension skills, but there are so many other benefits that we don’t learn about as we get older. For example, studies have shown that singing in groups can extend life expectancy, and playing a musical instrument can improve the connection between the hearing and motor skill areas of the brain. Learning to play an instrument or sing can benefit anyone, but for those of us in addiction recovery, the healing powers of playing music vary greatly and can help us tremendously! Here are some ways that implementing music by playing an instrument or singing can enhance our recovery:
Provides an Outlet for Self-Expression
As people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, learning to identify and express our emotions is crucial to staying clean and sober. It can be challenging for many of us to clearly tell others how we are feeling but taking the time to write or perform a song can allow us to articulate exactly what we’re going through. Even playing a song without lyrics can showcase what we’re trying to express through the use of dynamics, tempo changes, and general musicality. As recovering addicts, if we keep our emotional state buried inside, we can lead ourselves down a dark road of isolation, self-harm, and relapse.
Serves as a Natural Stress Reliever
The pressure we had put on our minds and bodies in active addiction could lead to stress-related disorders such as heart disease and stomach ulcers, so we need to find things to do in recovery that reduce our stress levels and keep us away from unnecessary chaos. Musicians have been found to have lower blood pressure and decreased risk of complications from heart disease. The repetition of movements and sounds while playing instruments or singing calms our minds and brings our stress levels down. How often did we justify our drinking and drug use because we had a bad day at work or the kids were driving us crazy? In addiction recovery, dealing with the stresses of daily life in healthy ways is pertinent to maintaining our sobriety since we can no longer rely on the crutch of substance abuse.
In early addiction recovery, we can get easily frustrated, feeling that our brains and bodies aren’t keeping up and functioning as well as they once did. We often feel foggy, slow, and like the lights are on but nobody’s home. Drugs and alcohol impair many brain functions, but there is good news – music can help us restore and even improve those skills! First and foremost, hand-eye coordination is increased while playing instruments since our mind has to work quickly to tell our bodies what to do. If we are reading and playing music, our cognitive functions will sharpen and reaction times will quicken. All of these enhancements will not just benefit us musically but also apply to other aspects of our lives such as work and school.
Increases Time Management Skills
As people in addiction recovery, time management and routines are extremely important in making sure that we accomplish all the things we need to do to stay sober. Many people view both musicians and addicts as lazy but gaining proficiency in an instrument requires extensive practice and staying sober takes a lot of hard work. Finding the time to schedule individual practice and group rehearsals amid our therapy sessions and mutual support group meetings forces us to sit down and do a little planning. Once we have a schedule written out, sticking to it will lead to a routine that can keep us busy in healthy and fulfilling ways.
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