By: Tamara Evans
Group Facilitator, Transformations
I was never a songwriter.
When I was younger, about a decade ago, I dated someone who played guitar. Guitar is cool. It’s, you know, kind of sexy. (When you’re 23, I guess.) So I decided to start playing, and luckily it was something I stayed with, more or less, over the next few years.
When I landed myself in treatment, I had very little to go on when it came to my identity. I had been a Soldier, an overachiever, a biologist. Loud, sensitive, smart, annoying. I had been an addict, selfish, a failure. I was all of those things and I was none of them and I could not find my center. I had little concept of what it meant to be a whole human being with shifting, changing aspects that move and swirl gently, like leaves swept up in wind. I was a tornado of a person. I was begging for someone to tell me who I was.
Transformations, I was told as I stood in the psych ward at the VA, had a music program. That’s all the convincing I needed, so I went.
Slowly, painstakingly, I incorporated music into parts of me. I became a musician, with a lower-case “m.” It was a hobby, but I treated it as so much more. I was hungry for a new label I could cling to, something I could wear and display to get people to like me. So I wrote music; some from the heart, but most of it to sound good. “See me!” I begged. I need you to like me! When I left treatment, I became a Musician with a capital “M,” because sometimes I got paid for it. I liked the crowd. I felt like I fit in. I thought I’d found myself.
Inevitably, I relapsed. I was still attached to my idea of what would make me whole. If people liked me if I got enough approval, enough attention… if enough people told me I was worth something, that I was good, I might believe it. An externally defined identity did not stick, and at the first sign of disapproval, I was loaded.
When I returned to Transformations, the SoundPath staff tolerated my antics with love and patience. Thank goodness they did, because the smallest rejection was too much for me at the time. My ego was fragile, soft and attached to my self-worth. It took two more times through treatment before I dropped the act and found something genuine.
When I did, music became something else for me. It is nice to perform in front of people, and getting good feedback is lovely. But now, I know I’m good at singing, I know I’m good at playing, and I know I’m a good writer. I don’t need to be told. I say this to make something clear: whether a person likes or dislikes what I create is up to them, and it does not fundamentally shake what I think of myself and my talents. I have a center. My identity does not rely on anyone else’s opinion.
SoundPath taught me to write music. The program helped me grow and learn, and its staff was kind, and tolerant, and challenged me to question my motives when I created something. They asked, “Are you creating to express, or to impress?” I used to need to impress.
Now it’s optional.
Music helped save me, but it does not define me. Music helped me find out who I am, but it is not all I am. I’m a whole human being, and that is both beautiful and frightening. I will always be figuring out who I am.
And I’m grateful for the journey.
To learn more about our SoundPath Recovery program, click HERE.