The songs that save your life

Awhile back Chris over at Rainbow Alliance wrote a brilliant blog entitled Music is Emotion.  Since then, I’ve been thinking about songs that have pulled me through, made me smile or maybe just affirmed in one way or another that it was all gonna be okay.

I worked at a record store on Vermont in the late 90s and early 2000’s in Los Angeles. Being around that much music was an education. Anything I was remotely curious about, I could listen to. And that’s what I continued to do as an employee, a deejay and a music lover. Little did I know I was also building an army of musical soldiers whose songs would come to my rescue when times were tough.

Flash forward 9 or so years when music’s healing powers were needed more than ever. As I tried to shake off 20 years of drinking and using drugs and end a 12 year relationship at the same time, my iPod headphones needed to act as a sign that life was more than this and that things would change.  They just had to. See, music has always been able to do and say what mere mortals never could- tell the truth, give me hope and make me listen. When Chrissie Hynde says “The reason we’re here, a man and woman, is to love each other, take care of  each other.” I believe her. When I feel like the world is conspiring against me and Bjork tells me “It’s not up to you. It never really was.” I know deep down in my bones, she’s right. When my heart is breaking, sometimes Dorothy Moore is the only one who understands. When I think human intelligence is non-existent, Elvis Costello proves me wrong time and time again. Music can’t solve all of my probelms but my world  is certainly more bleak without it.

In that first year of recovery, there were some songs I listened to over and over again. Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley fame personally kept me from jumping off a cliff about a dozen times that year with her beautiful and soul shaking songs from her Acid Tongue record. But it was Godspeed that made the tears drip down my cheek and told me I could get through all of the crap I was going through. The words, “No good, no how no man should treat you like he do” rung true and gave me the strength I didn’t have on my own. Kate Bush’s “Cloudbursting”suddenly had new hope behind it when she sang, “I just know that something good is going happen. I don’t know when but just saying it could even make it happen.”Paddy Casey, Annie Lennox, David Bowie, Jill Scott, M83, and even Kelly Clarkson were some of the  other artists I had to lean on that year too.

Yet when it came the song that proved the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t a speeding train, I had to look to Doly Parton. Say what you will about Dolly but she’s a badass songwriter, an amazing musicain and can harmonize with a buzzsaw. The Light of the Clear Blue Morning is a song she’s recorded several times in different decades. It’s now become a standard for choirs and choral groups. You can easily see why. For me, the song played in mind when I walked home from difficult doctors appontments or struggled to get through days without thinking about using. It wasn’t even on my iPod but playing in my brain, on repeat. Until I believed it. And eventually I did and the days of crying with the iPod became less frequent. And Dolly was right.

So if you’re struggling, get yourself a theme song or a mantra or a soundtrack. And if you dont have one, feel free to borrow mine.

Its been a long dark night
And Ive been a waitin for the morning
Its been a long hard fight
But I see a brand new day a dawning
Ive been looking for the sunshine
Cause I aint seen it in so long
But everythings gonna work out just fine
Everythings gonna be all right
That’s been all wrong

Cause I can see the light of a clear blue morning
I can see the light of a brand new day
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
And everythings gonna be all right
Its gonna be okay

The Light of Clear Blue Morning, Dolly Parton


Two Doors Down, They’re Laughing and Drinking and Having a Party

The poetess, prophetess and all around goddess Dolly Parton once sang those words in the headline. And last night, two doors down, they were actually having a party. Unlike the lyrics in Miss Parton’s song however, I was not “crying my heart out and feeling sorry.” I was just annoyed. I mean hi. It was a Tuesday. Like who parties and gets loud on a week night? Oh yeah. Right. Never mind.

After I removed the stick out of my ass, realized it was only 9pm, and laughed with the husband about wanting to move, I calmed down. I figured I kept hundreds of neighbors awake with my drunken shenanigans the least I could do is let our usually quiet neighbors off the hook. Unlike my exploits, they wrapped it up early, clearly out of consideration for those around them. Again, not how I used to party.

When I first got sober and I was living by the beach, I would go outside for a cigarette and always hear some kind of function or party. It was that kind of barbecue, drink wine all night sort of Southern Californian neighborhood. Sadly, I was no longer on the guest list for those sorts of get togethers.  I felt terribly alone those first few months. I left all of my drinking buddies on the East side and hadn’t met many people. Hearing people have fun or looking at pictures on Facebook of my old friends sipping margaritas on a patio made me feel like everybody was having more fun than I was. When I told my sponsor this he said, “That’s because they are having more fun than you are.” He was right. Getting sober and breaking up with my partner of 12 years wasn’t supposed to be fun. But did it mean I was never going to have fun now that I got sober? Hell no.

First of all, I truly believe that fun is subjective. Sure drinking for me was under the guise of “fun” but it never really was that much fun. Unless blackouts and throwing shoes at people is your idea of a party. I wanted to have fun and wanted to be lively and loved and the life of the party. For a few minutes I was but after awhile, the blacking out and shoe throwing would commence. I guess I didn’t really know how to have a good time even though I was always looking for one. And you will never hear me say in a meeting, “sobriety can be fun!’ because sobriety itself isn’t supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to save my life and that life can be filled with fun. But I got sober so I could be happy so that meant I had to find fun in different things. I sort of returned to what I thought of as fun as a kid– going to the movies, petting dogs, roller skating, coloring with my niece. And then there was the new fun in things like always knowing where my phone was or waking up without anxiety. I’ve gone dancing and been to parties and seen concerts sober and it’s all been a good time. Do I have to do those things to make myself seem a fun person? Again, hell no. I’m not terribly interested (anymore) in if anyone thinks I’m boring.

Today, fun for me looks like taking a walk to get an ice cream cone or decorating cookies with my other niece or spending all day at the bookstore with my husband. But let’s hear from you– what’s your idea of fun and how has it changed since you got sober?