It’s impossible to define exactly how important music is in our day-to-day lives. It has the power to bring people together, to soothe sad feelings, and even outline the beliefs and cultural touchstones of the many unique societies around the globe.
So, it’s not an exaggeration to suggest that music, in many ways, is a universal language.
Just like the population at large, however, musicians sometimes fall prey to addiction. They are, after all, regular people despite their sonic inclinations.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), around one in five adults in the U.S. – more than 44 million people – live with mental health issues.
For artists caught in the blinding glare of fame, substance abuse can be a way to ease the constant pressure to create, perform and meet the demanding schedules and expectations of an industry that moves on all too quickly.
Though they often work behind the scenes and receive little to no praise, there is a growing focus on music-industry organizations dedicated to addressing the all too common problems of mental health and addiction among musical artists.
Here Are Three Organizations Focused on Musicians and Recovery
As a branch of the Recording Academy, MusiCares is a charity that helps generate the attention and resources of the music industry for members of their community struggling with health and welfare issues.
For the past 25 years, the foundation has been an outlet that musicians can “turn to in times of financial, medical and personal crisis.”
“We are the generation that’s watched several other generations of musicians turn to drugs and turn to excess and coping mechanisms that have destroyed them,” singer-songwriter James Blake said in an interview with MusiCares.
“There are so many high-profile people recently who have taken their own lives. So we have a responsibility to talk about [mental health] and remove the stigma.”
Rock to Recovery
“I always wanted to help others in my work, but I didn’t really realize how much it would transform me,” rock star and former guitarist for the Grammy Award winning heavy metal band Korn, Wes Greer, told Thrive Global.
Greer, who described himself as a once “gnarly drug addict,” used his success and public profile to start Rock to Recovery after noticing the absence of a music curriculum in each of his rehab stints.
Now, with years of sobriety under his belt, Greer and Rock to Recovery bring music to treatment in an effort to teach those in treatment how to harness a “natural escape from the fear-based mind.”
With a slightly different twist, the Road Recovery Foundation grew out of Gene Bowen’s decade-long experience as a tour manager for a variety of internationally acclaimed artists and bands.
Part of Bowen’s job, as he describes it, was the daily ritual of getting drugs for the musicians and crews he worked with, as well as himself.
Bowen counts himself as one of the “lucky ones who embraced recovery” with the help of his family, friends and colleagues in the music business.
In 1998, he enlisted the help of Sony Music Entertainment and Dreamworks Records to create this nonprofit organization focused on educating young people about addiction and other challenges.
The Road Recovery Foundation uses programs, such as RoadTrax, that partner with residential treatment programs to empower young people, whether they have previous creative experience or not.
The staff at the organization are former entertainment professionals that overcame similar addiction issues and are now sharing their knowledge, experience and skills with a new generation.
Enriching the Lives of the Music Community
Battling the disease of addiction can be an isolating experience not just in the midst of the struggle, but also in sobriety. A staggering number of people that are coping with substance abuse issues are also dealing with a undiagnosed mental health problems.
This combination of addiction and mental health illnesses is known as co-occurring disorders. The most effective treatment addresses both the addiction and the mental health issues simultaneously.
For some people in the music industry, their talent and success is often, at least on the surface, what led them down a path of substance abuse.
So, it takes courage and support to learn to separate their love for music from the triggers and cravings that previously fueled their self-destructive behaviors.
Organizations like Road Recovery, Rock to Recovery and MusiCares prove once again that helping others move past their addiction enriches the lives and experiences of the community as a whole.