Time to Face the Music

By The Fix staff 05/02/18

Paul Pellinger was frustrated seeing people without money turned away from treatment programs. So, he set out to help anyone access addiction treatment.

Paul Pellinger with Steven Tyler

As a court liaison for more than 20 years, Paul Pellinger helped many people get into treatment and recovery programs. These programs were an alternative to jail time or other legal consequences for people with substance use disorders, and they helped many people turn their lives around. But despite the number of people he helped, Pellinger was frustrated by those who fell through the cracks because they lacked the resources needed to access treatment.

“Ninety percent of them didn’t have money or insurance to get the treatment they needed,” Pellinger said. “I was forced to put them on waiting lists for state funding or work with lower levels of funding. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that I can’t help you unless you have money.”

Pellinger knew that finances shouldn’t dictate whether or not someone had access to treatment. He had already challenged the established model of treatment when he founded Recovery Unplugged, a unique music-based rehabilitation program. Now, he knew he had to do something to improve access to care.

His solution was to begin Face The Music, a charity that raises awareness and understanding about addiction, provides the means for people struggling with addiction to get clean and sober, and helps people in recovery develop the tools to maintain long-term sobriety.

The charity was officially launched in 2015, and has since helped countless people connect with treatment. In addition to covering the cost of treatment, if needed, Face The Music also helps provide wrap around care. For example, the charity might cover the cost of much-needed dental care for someone who has addiction treatment coverage but no dental insurance. Or, it might provide rent subsidies for someone transitioning from treatment to life on their own.

“We help them with a variety of things,” Pellinger said.

In addition to supporting people in recovery with financial assistance, Face The Music also helps dispel the myth that people with addiction all look like the homeless, track-marked man on the street.

“That makes up three percent of addictions and alcoholics, but the other 97 percent are people like me and you,” Pellinger said.

In order to dispel this and other myths around addiction, Face The Music does school presentations, talking to kids about drug use and life with a substance use disorder. However, this isn’t a typical scare-tactic school presentation. Just like Recovery Unplugged uses music to build rapport and connect with clients in treatment, Face The Music uses music to engage students with the presentation.

This might mean bringing in a rapper who can incorporate each audience member’s name into a positive freestyle rap, or having an artist play a set on the acoustic guitar.

“We incorporate music into every presentation we do,” Pellinger said. “That engages the students, establishes rapport with them, and it becomes more memorable. They’re able to retain some of the skillsets and behaviors that we’re teaching them.”

Although Face The Music incorporates music into its programming, its services are not just for people who are musicians. In fact, 85 percent of the people who Face The Music has helped are not musically-inclined, Pellinger said. Anyone who needs help can reach out to the organization to be connected with resources.

As part of the campaign to raise awareness of addiction and hope for recovery, Face The Music worked with singer and songwriter Richie Supa to produce an original song and music video for “I Got This,” a track that explores the denial that most people with addiction experience.

“That was part of our goal to help people understand what those myths around addiction are,” Pellinger said. “Once people are armed with that info, they become much more open to seeking help and stepping out of denial.”

Face The Music has also connected with other charities in the addiction, recovery and music fields to help support access to treatment for people inside and outside the music industry. Face The Music is an official partner of MusiCares, a charity run by the Grammy Foundation. Face The Music participates in monthly events and fundraises in partnership with MusiCares.

“Our goal is not only raise awareness of addiction, but to help with changing the stigma that is attached to this disease,” Pellinger said. “God forbid someone has cancer or diabetes, there is a different perception than if someone dies of an overdose.”

Pellinger sees Face The Music as one part of a larger push to destigmatize the disease of addiction and improve treatment for those who need it.

“Face The Music is a nonprofit organization, but it’s really more of a movement,” he said.

Recovery Unplugged is a music-based rehabilitation and recovery center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Austin, Texas. It is the primary sponsor of Face The Music, a charity that raises awareness and understanding about addiction, provides the means for people struggling with addiction to get clean and sober, and helps people in recovery develop the tools to maintain long-term sobriety. Get more information at www.recoveryunplugged.com or connect on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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