If playing the guitar is a trigger to drink alcohol, then take up the oboe….

A client painted me into a corner, clever as he is, by using my basic beliefs against me. I use 2 tools as a way to teach clients to better express themselves in the hopes of losing the need to suppress themselves with drugs and/or alcohol. The first of these tools is reflective writing; the second is some form of music therapy, either playing an instrument, writing lyrics, or lyric analysis. I use those tools as the building blocks for recovering a person’s soul. I strongly believe that humanity depends upon knowing itself and expressing itself and if there is a failing in either (or both), then I believe something destructive awaits.

However, a client found a loophole within my philosophy. While he recently made the decision to quit using alcohol and has been able to remain clean for a little bit, he has also decided to rejoin a band as their guitar player. “It’s what you always say,” he told me. “I should be playing my guitar and expressing myself and now I’m gonna.” Now, while I do think it’s healthy that he practices and plays his guitar rather than using alcohol, there’s also a huge risk to his health: The band he’s rejoining plays in several local bars. He will be placing himself in harm’s way…

“Ah,” he said when I brought the risk to his attention. “I’m done drinking, I don’t even think about it anymore and besides, the guys in the band don’t drink, either, so I’m solid.”

As usual, I could see the addict’s flawed logic: I want what I want, right now, and nothing else matters but what I want and I will manipulate anyone into understanding what I want. His wanting to play guitar, while healthy, is also detrimental, as he is wanting to join a bar band that will place him in the crosshairs of every trigger imaginable. He was using my own beliefs against me in order for him to head into the bar scene. I asked him if he’s shared his news about the band with his family.

“Uhh,” he said. “No because I already know what they’ll say.”

“Oh yeah,” I said. “What’s that?”

“That I shouldn’t because I’ll just start drinking again. But, you understand, right? A musician has to make music.”

“Sure, I do think that, but I also think a musician shouldn’t be ashamed of his music, either.”

Anger rose in him and lifted him out of his seat. “I’m not ashamed, it’s just they won’t understand.”

“Well,” I said. “I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you that being deceptive, on any level, is a pretty good sign that someone’s dong something they shouldn’t. If you’re gonna play in a bar band, own it and tell people, because if you don’t, there will come a time when you will have to outright lie about your doings, and your internal conflict will drive you right back to the bottle. Of that, I am certain.”

He sat down and nodded. “Maybe you’re right; I’ll tell them before we meet again.”

I suspect he won’t tell his family. But my message was clear: Health doesn’t need to be hidden. Yes, he should play the guitar, but I don’t believe that which is truly healthy can lead to unhealthy behavior. So – play, sing, write, share. But if there’s something shameful to you about that sharing, maybe you should figure it out….


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