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[ Opinion ] [ Personal Narratives ]

The Power Of Music In Recovery

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” Bob Marley

Music drives our thoughts and arouses our emotions. One piece makes us happy, the next makes us sad. Music triggers electrical impulses that make fingers tap and feet dance. There is a deeper power in music that society may not initially recognize. Music can intensify an emotion related to a particular event. Music colours our memories. Music expands our consciousness.

Most of my adult life has revolved around making and writing music. For a couple of decades I attempted to make it pay me a wage:

“Which may have driven me insane or into the loving arms of addiction.” 

Curiously to me, though it is probably a cliche’, it was when I was at my most creatively productive and successful that I fell (or leapt) into heroin addiction.

From 1995 until 2000, in our projects Interact, Id-Entity, Juttajaw and One True Parker we wrote and produced seven albums, numerous singles and another two albums’ worth of remixes. Our pro-legislation stance was unashamed and further enhanced when we recorded an album with Howard Marks, one of the most infamous cannabis smugglers of the last century. As Juttajaw couldn’t find anybody imaginative enough to book us to play, we created our own gigs by holding what became the notorious Dirty Cow parties. The mantra: the freedom to experiment with shared experience using psychedelic drugs. Lots and lots of psychedelic drugs. A glass of acid punch came free on entry, a leveler we thought. We never advertised or printed a single flyer but the word spread and the parties grew. At one point we had over six rooms of music pounding out the night in Farringdon, with celebrity DJ’s accepting the £50 we paid everyone. Meetings on our dance-floors led to lifelong friendships and even marriages.

Juttajaw performing at a Dirty Cow party (1998) That’s me on the right, not looking very well

Our pace of work became increasingly frantic. We had a crazy schedule in a studio we shared with Test Department, working 24/7 for our 3.5 days. We made life complicated for ourselves by never playing the same arrangements twice, re-writing and arranging our sets for every performance. In the midst of this creative madness, I fell in with some kindred spirits, who must remain nameless here. Like me, with successful careers in the music industry, they found all the hedonism, hard work though it was, a bit empty and meaningless. Our drug of choice: heroin, although sometimes crack and DMT. I would consume anything to calm the raging creative and emotional whirlwind in my mind. Smoking heroin certainly worked. Addiction obviously followed. Although not the only reason, my heroin addiction contributed to the dissolution of all these projects. Addiction ended all creativity.

As I recently wrote for the Recovery Revolution Online, “both times I have been in the depths of addiction, to heroin in the late nineties and until recently alcohol, I isolated myself from the world and people. I also stopped listening to and playing music. Both times when I cleaned myself up music poured back into my life.” I wrote poured, but it is more of a torrent.

As I have written before, I have a golden memory of my epiphany listening to Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’ when I finally found myself free from heroin in 2003. I went on to write and produce another album and run an altogether more relaxed party night called Book Club. Music, and its resulting magical power of connection, had returned.

Over the last year, during my recovery from alcoholism, the regular weekly jam I have attended since I returned to Cambridge has morphed into a band, The Warning Shadows. The regular discipline of rehearsing complicated songs has got my fingers moving in the same way that recovery and writing my blog (addict2016) have got my brain moving. Writing music without the aid of a pharmaceutical enhancement of some kind, is a new experience for me. The music is still as crazy as ever so selling it would, as ever, prove problematic. But I’m not writing music to sell it this time. I have no further ambition than to play a few gigs for friends. My pay-off is that my creativity has returned.

                  The Warning Shadows playing at the Cambridge Corn Exchange (2016)

I am also DJ-ing again (I use the term loosely), as I was recently honoured to accept a monthly residency on Recovery Revolution Online’s ‘RecovRemix’ feature. My first downloadable mix, ‘The Devil Is Dope‘ , was posted on the 7th October. I have already recorded November’s mix, ‘The Big Chill’, and I can feel a glow of anticipation building, waiting for it to be posted. A new mix will be posted on the first Friday of every month.

Making music is free. Music brings people together and smiles to their faces. Once again music is filling my life, heart and soul. I am grateful.

                             “Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” Lao Tzu

A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:   Andrew Ahmad-Cooke

I am a recovering addict. I have had addiction problems with various substances for over twenty-five years. Many of my best friends and the most interesting people in my life have had addiction problems in one form or another. Some are in or are seeking recovery, some are happy to remain dependent.

A great deal has been written on the subject of addiction, much research carried out, many theories expounded, but everyone’s experience is individual. I want to share mine and other people’s experience of substance and behavioral dependency and its impact on them and the people around them. 

 I am also interested in conversations with people sharing their lives with an addict. I have been interviewing friends from the music industry, journalism, education and from as many diverse fields of occupation as possible. I welcome suggestions and posts from anyone with something to share on the subject.

          You may find my site at the following link:
               The Facebook page for Addict 2016 is:
                   The twitter feed for Addict 2016 is: