Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Sanity, And Lack There Of Music

Living on the streets of Saint Paul in Winter with no place to call home is depressing enough, but to do it without music is unbearable. At first I thought it was not that important and was simply part of my penance, the suffering I must endure to, at first, remember how low I had sunk, then later as part of my program of recovery.

I’d given up on listening to music when I was drinking almost completely. The love songs reminded me of past relationships. Most songs on the radio I had listened to with my wife reminded me of the wonderful times we shared, the ones I’d drank away. Playing the radio meant walking a mental minefield. I often simply listened to talk shows on National Public Radio. Getting access to my CD collection was very difficult since they were still in my ex-wife’s possession. The hassle of contacting her for some music I was likely to relapse to was out of the question.

However, my little portable MP3 player was part of my property, held by a friend, that I acquired soon after moving into The House. With it came a few MP3 discs that I’d made at home while drinking and still married, but hadn’t really listened to. There are few places one can play an MP3 disc and my car was not one of them. So, now when I started playing them, I’d discovered hundreds of songs from artists not associated with bad past memories. I’d found the joy of music once again.

Like the martyr I am, I chose drinking songs. Figured it was part of my program. If I can handle those, I can handle anything. Came to find out later that’s not such a good idea. Just me working my own program again.

Some of these songs teach humility, in a humorous way. Listening to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s “You Me And The Bottle Makes Three Tonight” would be the poster song for humorous humility, ending in “What da ya mean it’s last call? I just got here.” Keep that sense of humor, it’s critical.

Now the next song can only be humorous if you’ve been there, done that, gone through treatment, been sober five years...or plain still drinking. George Thorogood and his trusty Destroyers have an apathetic way of romancing the idea to Drink Alone. For every alcoholic knows what ol’ George is singing about when he avoids a party to stay home with his old pal Johnny Walker and his brothers Blackie and Red. Now I never knew my dear ol’ Grand Dad, but I’ve heard enough about them in meetings to know they love to give their Grand sons and daughters a sip now and then.

And if you’ve ever had a wet rag for a spouse, Thorogood’s got you pegged. If You Don't Start Drinkin' has got every obvious thing you’ve wanted to say to her, but was never foolish (or drunk) enough to verbalize. Guaranteed to secure a slap from a sober spouse.

I’ve heard King Of The Road before, but never been a fan of Miller Roger’s, nor Country Music for that matter. However, living on the Streets of Saint Paul brought out the true meaning of this song and made me take it to heart. Another resentment I can look back on with ease because I know I’m not alone when I listen to this melody. Did the pan handling, odd chores for room and board, no phone, don’t smoke and never rode in a box car, but considered it. When I share my experience living on the streets at meetings and bring up this song it invokes much nodding. You look around the room and find many men and women who know what you’re talking about, but are too ashamed to pipe up.

I’ve listened to Alice In ChainsGot Me Wrong many times, but never listened to the words closely. “Reach for something strong,” was something I often did. Last time was in anger, it landed me in detox. I so do not want that to ever happen again, but I know it can...it always can.

All of the above mentioned songs were found on only one of the old MP3 discs. Given the state I was in when they were made, their content is understandable.

Starting or ending a relationship in the beginning of recovery is not recommended. Starting and ending a relationship within the first two months of sobriety, with a married woman met in treatment is insane. Yah, I did it. But don’t call me insane. I don’t think with my dick, my dick thinks for me. Since you cannot declare your penis mentally incompetent, and you can’t strange him (I’ve tried, but it only works for about 45 seconds and is quite messy), there’s angry breakup music.

On one of the MP3 discs from storage I found an album from Natalie Imbruglia, Left Of The Middle. On it you’ll find wonderfully pessimistic love songs such as Torn, One More Addiction (apropos), Big Mistake, Leave Me Alone, Wishing I Was There (don’t let the title fool you), Don’t You Think, and Impressed. I didn’t start listening to Imbruglia at all until several days before the breakup, but already felt the urge to plagiarize her lyrics in a letter to my girlfriend (term used loosely). I just pulled off my headphones and heard Imbruglia’s Torn, thought it was coming from the computer, but no it’s playing over the speaker system in the cafĂ©.

Now we’ve installed a CD-R burner in the computer at The House that I’ve been using to create MP3 discs with music I download from the Internet. Some new, mostly old: Cheap Trick, Devo, James Brown, Jane’s Addiction, Jimi Hendrix, Nine Inch Nails, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, The Fixx, Lenny Kravitz, Lenny Williams, Elvis Costello, Oingo Boingo, Thomas Dolby, The Cars, etc. Some for me, others for the guys in the house. It’s all good music.

Treatment says music is therapeutic and helps one meditate. It’s definitely helping. I’m glad I’ve found love of music once again.

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