Mara Shapshay, Contributor
Saving Me Softly With His Songs – How Rock to Recovery Saves Lives
I wish to God Rock to Recovery, a musical therapy program founded by former Korn guitarist, Wes Geer, in 2012, was around when I was in rehab! It would have been so awesome to have rock stars visit me in rehab instead of a Mary Kay beautician who gave me a French prostitute makeover. What I’m saying is that Rock to Recovery fills a major void in recovery treatment with its cool musical therapy approach.
Wes Geer describes how the program works: “We come to a treatment facility and form a band with the clients. We bring all the gear, and have a topic of discussion finding our common ground in life and struggles, and recovery, and its challenges. We use those answers for lyrics and help the band mates write lyrics, music and melody. We get ‘non-musicians’ all singing and playing the song. We record it at the end of the session. The magic is the effect the energy of playing music and singing our song written by us, for us, together. Connecting. And having it to listen to, forever, and share.”
The response has been overwhelming and Rock to Recovery has grown! They now have 10 full time staffers and they take their program into 70 plus rehabs, doing over 400 sessions each month. That means that over 400 new songs are written and performed each month with those struggling in recovery.
They have a for profit entity where they charge higher end rehabs for their services and this funds their non-profit entity. The non-profit donates sessions to the Department of Defense, working with wounded warriors of the Air Force and U.S. Army, as well as working regularly with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The musical therapy works well with addiction, PTSD and other mental illnesses.
If you go on to the Rock to Recovery website you will see quotes from many of those the program has helped. One client wrote:
“I wanted to leave treatment, but told myself, ‘If I can just make it to Rock to Recovery I’ll be ok.’”
Music has the power to heal and also for those struggling in early sobriety and with mental illness a way to express their emotions. I don’t know about you but when I was new in sobriety my emotions were like a Rubix Cube, all jumbled and impossible to figure out. Which is why this musical therapy is working really well to bring out repressed emotions. Another happy client wrote:
“Rock to Recovery lets me get the emotions out I’ve struggled with my whole life.”
Wes knows about struggling with addiction. He can relate to his clients completely because he’s been there. Wes now has over 10 years clean and sober and hit a molten lava bottom himself. He was very honest with me and told me about his sexual abuse growing up along with his heavy drug and alcohol use. He knew very young that he was bodily and mentally different from his fellows.
“From an early age while “partying,” my friends singled me out as taking it too far”. He said.
He also told me that he was often overwhelmed by this “darkness” or depression that went hand in hand with his drug and alcohol addiction. We all know that darkness well if we’re in the recovery.
It’s that same blackness or mental health and addiction issues that claimed the lives of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. Their deaths brought to the forefront the need to treat mental illness AND addiction together, which is what Wes’ form of musical therapy, does. Wes has lofty dreams for his organization.
“Our dream is to help more hurting people with the uplifting and powerful force of music. The Rock To Recovery events are to support the recovery community and a lot of people come who are newly sober or battling depression or mental health. We say that music is the medicine and people should be prescribed more music and less drugs.” He said.
Speaking of events, not only is Wes busy with the musical therapy but Rock to Recovery also puts on kick ass shows. This year at the Fonda they have an incredible rock show (9/16/17) featuring Matt Sorum (Guns n Roses, The Cult, Velvet Revolver), Franky Perez (Apocalyptica, Scars On Broadway), Steve Stevens (Billy Idol), Robert Deleo (Stone Temple Pilots) and they honored Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) and Wayne Kramer (MCS) (tickets can be bought at axs.com).
I have no doubt that Rock to Recovery will continue to have more sold out benefit shows and continue to bring their musical therapy into more and more treatment centers. They may even go international!
It is truly Wes’ purpose in life to give hope to the hopeless through music. Rock on with your bad self, Wes. Please continue to save lives softly or with jamming force, one precious song at a time.