Stopping The Rain: The Power Of Music In Recovery

By Robert Malfara 06/13/18

Music is powerful. Science all but confirms that humans are hard-wired to respond to music. Studies also suggest that someday music may even help patients heal from Parkinson's disease or a stroke. Scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function. That's why we see so much potential in music's power to change the brain and affect the way it works. I am about to tell you how not only music in general, but particularly one song that helped propel me through the barrier that a 14 year addiction to opiates constructed and kept me separated from the world of sobriety.

"Who'll Stop the Rain" was written by John Fogerty and is the ninth track off of Creedence Clearwater Revival's 1970 release Cosmo's Factory. Fogerty wrote the ballad in regard to what was happening at that time: social injustice and the corruption in Washington, pitted against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. He expressed a general cynicism altogether about self-centered politicians, hollow social movements, and corporate influence within the government. Growing up in the 70's, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this song. Always liked it, but never had any idea how it would impact my life three decades later. Never had any idea how it would parlay a completely different meaning to me. It was a fuel source, helping me power my self-propelled locomotive into an existence of responsibility. Something I had not experienced for the 14 continuous years of abusing narcotic pain medication.

I left MeadowWood Hospital in Newark, Delaware on May 13th, 2004 after a five day stay for the detoxification of the narcotics I had been flooding my body with since 1990 (I never went to a rehab). Now that I was clean, it was time to figure out just how I was going to pull this sobriety thing off. The constant question in my mind was...Are you really going to stay clean?

The answer I was committed to was "yes". Everything in my (new) world was coming at me completely different, or so I thought. I saw things differently. I tasted things differently. I heard things differently. And it did not take long before I was realizing that not only did I hear things differently, I could actually comprehend them correctly.

It was at this point that when I played my music, I actually started to look deeper behind the sound and began to hear what these talented artists were really telling us. I do not remember when, but some time after my release from MeadowWood, I heard "Who'll Stop the Rain" again. Something happened. The song that Fogerty aimed at Washington so long ago, I now decided to redirect its cannons toward my addiction. It became my go-to song when times of temptation came at me. It became my Anthem of Sobriety. My Musical Department of Defense.

So when I heard "Who'll Stop the Rain", I quickly related all that to this:
"Long as I remember the rain been comin' down"
(I've been a drug addict for so long now I cannot even remember the last time I was sober.)
"Clouds of mystery pourin' confusion on the ground"
(Will I ever find a way out of this chemical dependency…and just where and how do I start this new world without substance abuse? I was certainly confused.)
"Good men through the ages tryin' to find the sun"
(So many in the past have tried to beat this thing called addiction and have failed.)
"And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain?"
(Would I be any different from all those who have failed in the past? Who was going to stop my addiction?)
"I went down Virginia seekin' shelter from the storm"
(Well, not exactly Virginia, but I did head South to Delaware looking for refuge from my storm.)
"Caught up in the fable, I watched the tower grow"
(That is to say, I got caught up in the "fairy tale" that addicts actually do recover sometimes. One day at a time, I watched my sobriety start to grow.)
"Five year plans and new deals wrapped in golden chains"
(Five years is seen as a milestone in recovery, the location at which sincere addicts practicing their recovery should react and respond to the environment they find themselves in with more maturity and responsibility. We should have been restored to sanity, as we learn in Step 2. The Golden Chain I wrapped myself in was Jesus Christ.)
"And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain?"
(Still I questioned my own integrity. When was I going to relapse?)
"Heard the singers playin', how we cheered for more"
(I heard the voices of those sober for 20+ years telling me I can do this, but still I wanted more encouragement from others.)
"The crowd had rushed together, tryin' to keep warm"
(I remembered one day at MeadowWood when the entire 38 of us in the detox were outside on a break when patients were allowed to smoke. It was raining and cold. Even though I was not out there to smoke, I gathered in the tight circle we were forming, trying to stay warm.)
"Still the rain kept pourin', fallin' on my ears"
(Regardless of my honest effort to stay sober, still the thoughts of returning to my substance abuse echoed in my ears.)
"And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain?"
(Is this question of, will I ever reach my new sober life, ever going to go away?)

That was how I envisioned that song every time I heard it…every time I elected to play it. I got a lot better by getting a little better…a little at a time. And as I got better, I would play "Who'll Stop the Rain" more and more. I entered Narcotics Anonymous for my long term abuse...I stayed so I could learn how to become of good use. On my travels to those meetings, Fogerty's song now became a constant. I'd start my car and as soon as the radio could be turned on…so was "Who'll Stop the Rain".

Proverbs 27:17 says: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another". Perhaps there should be an amendment to this proverb. Not only can one man sharpen another, but a man's pen can do the same. John Fogerty's pen back in 1970 came up with a musical composition that we all have heard. It also became an integral part in the composing of my new life.

I learned how to stop my rain for over 14 years. What I had no idea about was the overall driving influence a song would have on me. I have often thought about reaching out to Mr. Fogerty just to let him know how something he wrote in 1970 would (over three decades later) become so influential to someone's sobriety.

Look, sobriety needs a number of things to work right for it to be achieved. The more tools you acquire as you set out on this journey, the better. Learn how to use music for your sober promotion…find your anthem…stop your rain from falling…learn the power of music.

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