Rock Musicians in Recovery Help Addicted Young Adults at Promises West L.A. Chart a New Course
Guided by professional rock musicians, the young residential rehab clients create their own band, write a song, perform it, record it and upload it for later listening. It’s one of the most popular groups at Promises West L.A., a renowned addiction treatment center for young adults ages 18 to 30.
The program is the brain child of Wesley Geer, a professional musician for more than two decades and former guitarist for the legendary rock band Korn. In recovery for nearly a decade, Geer founded Rock to Recovery in December 2012 to reach addicted youth and adults. Today the company has more than 15 clients at 30-plus locations.
Geer believes in the power of music to heal. “Because I had been in rehab myself,” he says, “I knew just how powerful music was for me in my own recovery. And once I started doing groups and saw the power that even a pink shaker (that looks like a baby rattle) has on a detoxing patient, I knew I was on to something.”
Sonny Mayo, who played with the rock bands Snot and Sevendust and now tours with Ugly Kid Joe, often leads the 90-minute sessions at Promises West L.A. When Mayo – a guitarist, songwriter, producer and mixer who is celebrating 13 years of recovery in January – arrives for the Friday sessions and unloads a cache of acoustic guitars, basses and other instruments, the excitement is palpable. “The kids have been in therapy all week, and by Friday, they’re ready for a change,” says Joni Ogle, director of the young adult rehab program at Promises.
Mayo shares his own story and leads a brief recovery-based discussion to help focus the group on their primary purpose — to create a song that taps the creativity of each member. After the discussion, everyone, regardless of musical training or experience, picks out an instrument, be it a guitar, keyboard, shaker, conga or lead vocals. The team then decides on a name for their band and starts creating a song by writing lyrics and music.
“Being in recovery and having gone through inpatient treatment when I was in my teens plays a huge role in connecting with the group, especially when we’re working on lyrics,” says Mayo. “They're writing about the hardships they're experiencing in making the transition from active alcoholism or addiction to a new life of sobriety, and I've been where they are,” he says. “I can write about the darkness with them while showing them that there’s more out there; that we can rise to the light.”
The process of constructing the song is surprisingly fluid. One member might start the beat, while another starts the lyrics. “Often the songs are written as a group, as a vehicle for expressing true emotions,” says Geer. “Recovery-based themes develop organically as part of the process.” The styles of the songs are across-the-board, from rock-n-roll to hip-hop to country. At the end of the session, the song is recorded and uploaded to www.Soundcloud.com/RockToRecovery.
Attendance is voluntary, says Ogle, but virtually all want to participate. “We don’t make anyone do anything, but by the end of the session, everyone is participating,” she says. “Wes and Sonny are laid back and energetic at the same time; they’ll show them how to play and they keep it very simple. I went in there and was just going to watch, and by the end I was participating,” she recalls.
“The program speaks to the kids because Wes and Sonny show by example that you can be cool and sober and your creativity doesn’t have to suffer,” she says. The sessions are also a potent metaphor for life. “You have people doing something for the first time and making mistakes, but then persevering and succeeding,” she says. “It’s really inspirational.”
“Time after time we watch people's spirits change dramatically – from tears to laughter, from self-doubt to self-esteem,” says Geer. “They overcome fear and sadness while learning to do things they never thought possible — to have fun, bond as a group, learn to shred a guitar and be rad. We use that word a lot,” he says with a smile.
About Promises Treatment Centers
Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu, CA, West Los Angeles, CA, and Austin, TX are among the nation’s premier addiction treatment centers. Led by some of the country’s leading addiction specialists, Promises has built an international reputation for innovative addiction treatment and exceptional service. Whether an individual requires detox, residential drug rehab, outpatient treatment, extended care or a sober living environment, Promises has been a drug rehabilitation center of choice for more than 25 years. For more information about Promises Treatment Centers, call (866) 285-9441 or visit www.promises.com.
Promises is a member of Elements Behavioral Health, a family of behavioral health care programs that also includes The Ranch, The Sexual Recovery Institute, The Recovery Place, Lucida Treatment Center, Clarity Way, COPAC, Journey Healing Centers, the Sundance Center, Park Bench Group Counseling, Brightwater Landing and Right Step. Elements offers comprehensive, innovative treatment for substance abuse, sexual addiction, trauma, eating disorders and other mental health disorders. We are committed to delivering clinically sophisticated treatment that promotes permanent lifestyle change, not only for the patient but for the entire family system. For more information about Elements Behavioral Health, visit www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com.