The Influential Power Music Has on Addiction Recovery

Two friends listening to music

The other morning I was exercising at the gym when all of a sudden a song came on over the speakers that instantly brought me back to one of the darkest times in my life. It had been years since I had heard that song, and almost just as long since I had relived certain memories I associated with it. All it took was a few seconds into that one song and BAM! I was back in my old room feeling alone and depressed. Thankfully, now that I have some years of sobriety under my belt, I was able to snap out of it pretty quickly, but it got me to thinking just how powerful music can really be.

As a teenager, I began to experience intense emotions of anxiety and depression. Because of this, I naturally began to relate to music that, looking back on now, I can only describe as depressing. It is human nature to want to feel understood which is why we are drawn to people and things we feel we can connect with. While listening to this type of music I began to feel that there were other people out there who understood what I was feeling. There is nothing wrong with this, because people naturally want to have other people that they can relate to. The true problem I ran into with listening to depressing music was that it compounded my already depressed mindset, which in turn made me want to listen to it even more. This developed into a vicious cycle that pushed me towards a road of self-destruction and substance abuse.

Teenager smoking and drinking

To say that music was responsible for my downward spiral would be incorrect. It would also be an oversimplification of a complex issue. There were multiple contributing factors that led to my addiction—some of which I had control over and others which I did not. Having gone through the process of getting sober I have since taken responsibility for my actions and learned from my mistakes. But looking back at it, knowing what I know now, I can say with certainty that the music I listened to did contribute to the overall problem.

People often underestimate the influence that music has on our day-to-day lives. Much like the relationship our bodies have with the food that we eat, what we put into our minds will affect how we feel, either on a conscious or subconscious level. This is why it is especially important to guard your thoughts when you are in addiction recovery.

When I first got sober I remember listening to some old drinking songs that I used to love. At first, it made me reminisce about some of the good times I had with friends, but about halfway through the song I began to feel depressed and I could almost taste the alcohol which then triggered powerful cravings. Unfortunately, it took me a while to finally realize that I didn’t want to remember all of those things and that if I wanted to stay sober, then I needed to stop listening to music that reminded me of drinking and using.

On the other hand, music can be very empowering. There were certain songs about recovery that I listened to over and over in my early days of sobriety. To be honest, these songs helped me fight through some of the most difficult days on my journey. It was inspiring to hear other people express their experiences and to know that, not only had they made it through what I was going through, but they were living a new life and thriving.

If we maintain the same unhealthy mindset and thinking patterns that we lived with during active addiction it is going to be so much more difficult to live a life of sobriety. One line of lyrics can bring you back to a specific moment in time. These flashbacks can be so intense that they can recreate the same emotions, sights, sounds and smells from years past. Ultimately it is up to you how often you want to relive these moments. It’s not about forgetting where you came from, it’s about no longer allowing the past to damage the present or affect the future.

There are certain moments in my life that I don’t want to go back to. I have confronted them and worked through them so that they are no longer having a negative impact on who I am today. I have stopped listening to certain songs because I no longer want to keep revisiting those parts of my past. I have taken responsibility for what I allow to influence my thoughts and have made a personal commitment to my own well-being—which is why I do my best to keep those things positive.

Person looking in a rearview mirror

So is there anything wrong with taking a trip down memory lane? In and of itself, no. There are times when it is important to remember certain things so that we can learn from them. When life situations come up to test your sobriety, it is helpful to remember all of the problems addiction caused to help maintain your resolve. There is nothing wrong with looking back on our memories with fondness and, at the end of our lives, these will be the most precious things we hold on to. The important thing to remember when it comes to visiting the past is to not get stuck living there.

We are all responsible for our own actions, but much like the people who we choose to surround ourselves with, the music we listen to has a powerful influence on the way we think. Because of this, it is important to make a conscious effort to make wise decisions regarding the music we listen to. What we let into our minds will shape our thoughts which will ultimately shape our actions. When it comes to addiction recovery this can be the difference between a life of long-term sobriety and chronic relapses which can also mean the difference between life and death.



Certified Addiction Counselor and Staff Member at Narconon Colorado.