I’ve been listening to music quite a lot lately, I have an uplifting playlist for when I clean or want to lift my mood and an inspirational playlist to help me get into the mood for working.
However, when I first quit drinking I didn’t listen to music for the longest time and there are still some songs I can’t listen to. I want to explore my own experiences of music in sobriety and how music can be a wonderful therapy tool you can use in your own journey.
At home, I am well known for my terrible taste in music, I do like a whole range of different types of music, no particular genre really and if I like a song, I just like it, it doesn’t matter who the artist is, if I like it, I like it. My uplifting playlist features Metallica alongside Chesney Hawkes and Stone Sour right next to Wilson Phillips.
I don’t like anything too heavy, love a musical from time to time although hate it when there’s random singing in an otherwise perfectly good TV show – Grey’s Anatomy and Buffy come to mind here. I just can’t get into Jazz or the Blues and there are probably many other types of music I have no clue about. And I am certainly not cool when it comes to music.
I like songs that are so beautiful they break your heart in two and I love listening to songs that are so happy and uplifting they make you want to dance and sing, not that I do, but you know the feeling I’m sure.
Music inspires and uplifts me, soothes and calms me
Music inspires and uplifts me, soothes and calms me, I like listening to music to unwind, I find music motivational and fun, it fills me with joy and happiness but it also scares me.
When I was drinking, I loved listening to music, I would turn it up loud and just keep playing track after track, sometimes until 3 in the morning, not wanting to stop. This is an aspect of my drinking I am still trying to forgive myself for because these one person parties would happen when the kids were little.
Something would take over and there I was blasting the most awful music while my babies were trying to sleep. I would of course, feel terrible the next day and seeing the CD’s strewn all over the floor would remind me of how out of control I had been. I know it was the alcohol but some part of me is still scared to listen to too much music in case I can’t stop.
The way I listen to music in sobriety is different to my drinking days. I tend to listen in the mornings when it’s safe, I don’t listen to music in the evenings in case I am tempted to ‘keep the party going’ This is fine for me and as I have stopped watching the news so music in the morning is a great way to lift me up and put me in a good mood for the day.
When I do my Saturday morning cleaning I have an uplifting playlist to make the job a bit more fun but still find myself creeping up the volume and lingering in the same room as the speakers if a song I really like comes on. I still drive my husband a bit crazy with my choices and when I play a particular song on repeat!
Sometimes when I am meditating or just want to feel calm and relaxed while I work I put on something gentle and soothing
Music makes me happy, it changes my mood and there is nothing I like more than listening to my favourite songs on the way home from dropping Nico off at school. If I want to feel motivated then the training montage from Rocky IV fires me up and makes me want to do one armed press ups right there!
Sometimes when I am meditating or just want to feel calm and relaxed while I work I put on something gentle and soothing, but not anything I love too much as I will get distracted and focus on the music instead of my work.
Another way music in sobriety is different to my drinking days is I have not picked up my guitar since I quit drinking and I’m not sure why. Yes, I did most of my evening practices with the help of a few beers and I thought I was amazing (I wasn’t) but my guitar lessons were in the morning and I didn’t drink through them.
It’s a shame really and I do feel sad as I was making progress. I’d learned ‘Nothing else Matters, ‘For What it’s Worth,’ and ‘White Rabbit’ We’d just started on ‘More than words’ when I quit drinking and stopped my lessons. Maybe it’s the association I have with drinking and practicing but I just can’t bring myself to play.
Although I love music, I am not really a musical person. When I was growing up I wasn’t allowed to sing in the house. I was told that I was tone deaf and my flat notes were accompanied by lots of groaning and eye rolling. I got the message and haven’t uttered a flat note since, not even in the shower. I didn’t even sing to my kids.
Now, maybe I’m not that bad but I just don’t have the confidence to open my mouth and try which I do find very sad. We are not the kind of family that would gather round the piano at Christmas but I do wonder how it would feel to sing along to my favourite song. I’d love to let loose, dance without a care, and sing my head off but I can’t, I just don’t know what that would look or feel like. Maybe it’s a confidence thing or maybe its fear, shame or embarrassment, and maybe there is still work to be done there.
This fear of losing control and of not being able to stop makes me uncomfortable. Some songs remind me of my drinking days and I can’t listen to them. I was a DJ’s worst nightmare, my husband can vouch for that as he was a DJ, that’s how we met, and although he has tried, he hasn’t been able to ‘educate’ me when it comes to music!
I’ve given up caring about what other people think of my music choices (sorry family) and I’m quite happy listening to the Flying Pickets, Metallica, Enrique Iglesias, One Direction or Queen. I like some songs by Limp Bizkit, Slip Knot or Faith No More. I like film themes, musicals, rock ‘n’ roll, anything from the 80’s and Brit Pop.
But, most of all I like songs that lift my mood, make me happy, inspire or motivate me. And while there will probably be some songs I will never listen to again, I am happy that I get to enjoy music in sobriety, whatever that looks like.
Here are some ways to use music in sobriety to help your own journey
Expressing yourself to music in the form of dance can be such a lot of fun and leave you feeling energized and alive. Whether you dance in your kitchen or at a party or festival or even take dancing lessons, this can be a great way to connect and lift your spirits.
Find inner calm and peace through music. Listen to something while you meditate, especially if you have trouble sitting in silence. I also like the sound of rain or thunderstorms if I want to chill out and relax.
Exercise, walking, running is much more enjoyable if you have an appropriate track to accompany you. Music here can inspire you to keep going or motivate you to start. It can be a welcome distraction from boring jobs and again, lift your mood so you can enjoy what you’re doing.
Anytime I want to feel inspired or creative, I will play something to help me to get into the mood. My favourite song right now before I sit down to work is ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey. I also like certain relaxing playlists if I am studying or writing to help me focus, concentrate or just relax. Create a set of different playlists for different situations that you can turn to, to suit your mood. I listen to a brilliant Sober Bliss playlist created by one of our members
Music is so effective for stress management and relief. And it can be anything you like. My husband prefers Buried Tomorrow which, for me, is the least relaxing thing you can listen to, but hey – each to their own. Generally speaking though, the slower the pace of music, the calmer and more relaxed you will feel, while upbeat music will help you feel more positive and optimistic.
When was the last time, you really listened to a song, I mean really? What instruments did you notice, the lyrics, the melody? Mindfulness doesn’t have to be sitting in stillness and really tuning in to a song can be wonderfully calming and help you to stay in the moment, which is the only moment that matters.
Listening to great music can help enormously with cravings. When you’re struggling, put on your favourite happy tune and dance around the room or pound the streets with your headphones on. You will soon forget about the difficult feelings and come back feeling energized and uplifted.
Other benefits of listening to music in sobriety are:
- It encourages relaxation
- It can help with depression
- Music can help with boredom and anxiety
- Dancing with music can connect you with new people
- Music can help to combat loneliness
- Music has been shown to help with pain relief
- Music can help improve focus and concentration
- Listening to music can help deal with difficult emotions
- There is nothing like a great song to uplift and inspire you
My final words on music in sobriety are:
- If it makes you happy, listen to it
- If it feels safe, listen to it
- If you want to sing, sing. And if you want to dance, dance
I’d love to know what your experiences are of music in sobriety. Are there songs you can’t listen to? Is music supporting you in your journey? What is your favourite uplifting tune?
Wherever you are in your journey to an alcohol-free life, we are here to support and guide you.