The music that moves me

When I was 20, I never thought I would get sober. I was in a successful rock group, touring the world with some of my favorite bands, and living the (literal) high life. Music has always been a passion of mine, and served as one of my only escapes. Paired with drugs and alcohol, I had found my way to escape the reality of my pain and discomfort. Life was certainly not good on the inside, but I continued to see myself as an artist, able to live the rock and roll lifestyle.

I am indeed an alcoholic and a drug addict, and I used heavily since my teenage years. Like many others who suffer from addiction, I never really felt like I fit in with my peers. I felt a little “different". In fact, I was a little different! When I found music, I felt like I had finally discovered something with which I could relate. Listening to Saves the Day, Thursday, and the Get Up Kids, I had found some music that represented how I felt. The partying that came along with a passion for music among my friends really helped me feel at home.

Although my life was glamorous on the outside, I was suffering deeply. I made decisions that caused myself and others harm, and just turned to drugs and alcohol to not feel the guilt. I used all night and slept all day. I would show up, play my show, and spend my time wreaking havoc on myself and those around me. As is the case with addiction, it’s a snowball effect. The more I used my music and substances to make me happy, the unhappier I became. I wasn’t facing my own demons. The unhappier I became, the more I used. And so it goes downhill.

I got sober when I was 27, so it took me many years of suffering to even consider recovery. My girlfriend at the time brought me to treatment, where I spent a couple months working on myself. It wasn’t a quick fix, and I left sober in the body, but overwhelmed in mind and heart. My life had been in the music industry. After I left my band, I worked in management. Music was all I had ever known, and I was left a bit lost. I felt like I had lost two of my most effective coping strategies: music and drugs. It was a real double-hitter for me.

As I stabilized in my recovery, I found I had to change my relationship to certain things. As an atheist in recovery, I struggled with twelve-step meetings a bit. I ended up finding a meditation-based path to recovery that helped me greatly. I also met a sponsor in twelve-step that was also an atheist, and began to learn how to make meetings work for me. With music, I also had to investigate a change in the relationship. Music could no longer be a distraction for me, as that would lead me down a road I didn’t want to go. Instead, music became a healthy creative outlet. I still listen to a lot of music, go to shows, and play casually with friends.

Music is a way for me to express myself, and it serves as a form of meditation. I do have a daily formal sitting meditation practice as well, and this has been a foundational piece of my sobriety and life. Music is an extension of this practice, helping me discover what is going on within. When I pause to look at the music I am listening to, it tells me something about my mood. Playing music, I am able to express myself, be honest, and have an open relationship with my emotions and thought patterns. I no longer play music to hide how I feel. Instead, I play music to express how I feel.

In recovery, life happens. We’ve all heard this a bunch of times in meetings. This piece of information is useful, but we also must find what to do about life that is happening. For me, recovery has been about bringing awareness to my relationship with experiences, actions, and my own thoughts and feelings. When I brought dedicated awareness to my relationship with music, I realized I did not have to let it go out of my life. I truly believe that we create our own happiness and suffering, and it has been up to me to see what I can do to find a lasting recovery.

I don’t want to pretend that life is all good, all the time. I have my difficult days, anger arises, and I feel lonely sometimes. Today, I have the tools to at least make progress by bringing awareness to these difficulties and start the process of changing my relationship to them. My life today is not at all what I ever imagined. I own and run a sober living home, am married to a beautiful and incredibly intelligent woman, and have a nine month old son. Without my recovery and support from those around me, I would simply not be where I am today.

Dave Miller owns Atlas Recovery, a coed sober living home in Los Angeles. Dave has found a healthy recovery through a daily meditation practice and engagement with a sober community. Dave is passionate about music, his wife and young son and being there for others trying to get and stay sober. You can see what they are up to at Atlas here and here! Go say HI!