The Man Who Never Wrote a Song
By: John McAndrew
I’ve been playing music and telling stories in treatment centers for more years than I want to admit. But it has been decades. I’ve had a front row seat to how music effects the brain, the body and the spirit. It never ceases to amaze me when someone wakes up and starts their healing process right in front of our eyes.
I want to share a story that happened recently at Cumberland Heights where I work, and I call it, “The man who never wrote a song.”
It always starts with meeting them where they are musically speaking and spiritually speaking. What instrument can they play, and what are they comfortable doing. And where are they in honestly facing their disease and recovery. We start by playing together and talking about each other’s stories to see where the meeting place will be. This patient played guitar, but not for long, and was not real confident. But I made sure that he knew what he did know was good.
I asked this patient to start journaling about his thoughts and feelings and bring them next week to start writing a song. he said, ” I’ve never written a song, do you think I can?” I said, ” I know you can.”
The next week he brought some lyrics and we took pieces of those and added others and I started with some easy piano chords that he could join in on guitar with. We talked more about his powerlessness, and he said, “I ain’t going back!” That became the working title and the song flowed out of him after that. The voice he found was new to him and it was fun to see him smile about how well he could sing. We then recorded it in a rough fashion on a cell phone so we could remember what we did.
The following week we do a Spiritual Emphasis Day and often in the afternoon of that day patients get an opportunity to get up and do creative things in front of the whole population. This day “the man who never wrote a song” let alone perform in front of people, got up and did his song.
It was amazing to see him find things inside himself he never knew was there, and when the standing ovation faded, he was in tears. Here now stood a man who has made his first commitment to recovery and to the solution. It happens over and over again, and it is a testament to the power of the human spirit and music. I’m blessed to have had a front row seat.