Austin rehab center beating addiction through music

Hospital room at St. David's South Austin Medical Center_266869

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Live Music Capital of the World is now home to a rehab center centered around music. Recovery Unplugged works to break down defenses, inspire and motivate through music.

“This isn’t music therapy as much as it is therapy with music,” explains David Mariano, the Director of Programming. “We’re not a treatment center that is for musicians. We are a treatment center for people who want to recover from drugs and alcohol, that like music. And that’s any addict that’s using right now because everybody likes music, even when they’re using.”

While they do serve musicians, any adult can seek help through their program.

Whether it’s a jam session, or songs played during group therapy, music is used to help clients work through their emotions and recovery. When they can’t find words for how they’re feeling, music helps fill that gap.

“If we’re talking about acceptance, I would play ‘Let It Be’, by the Beetles,” said Mariano. “Maybe before, to get the clients talking.”

During their stay at the center, clients write songs and poems about addiction and recovery, and can share them with the group. Clients are also given MP3 players so that they always have music with them.

One Houston native has been getting treatment for about a month now.

“Alcohol and Xanax was what I was using mostly, really for self-medication. It started out as recreational, but over time the habit just grew more and more,” remembers the patient, who asked not to be named. “And physical symptoms just started to take on, mostly shakes.”

When he played music under the influence, he would make mistakes and alcohol infused his anger. His aunt discovered the music-based treatment center, and he knew that was the choice for him.

“Now that I’m here, I’m sober, I’m clear-headed, I’m just more focused, more involved,” he says. “Just on this natural energy, that’s just natural, and I love it.”

The organization first opened with a center in Florida, and has been in Austin for about two months. Clients stay in the detox program for seven to 10 days, and then move to the residential stay for about 30 to 45 days.

Mariano says Austin is a good place for people in recovery to come get help.

“The fact of the matter is you can get clean wherever you want, but if you have the choice to go somewhere safe, where there is an ample amount of sober homes and meetings and a million different 12-step fellowships, then why not come to a place like that? And Austin is certainly a place like that.”

He says the most common addictions they see are drugs and alcohol, specifically opioids.

In 2014, opioid-related overdoses accounted for 28,647 deaths, that’s an average of 78 opioid overdose deaths every day. Overdoses from all drugs combined caused a total of 47,055 deaths in 2014. That’s according to Mark Kinzly, with the Texas Overdose Naloxone Initiative. Kinzly, who manages sober living homes in Austin, is happy to have Recovery Unplugged come to town.

Once clients leave the facility, they can take the music with them as a tool in their recovery.

“Use it for those moments you don’t have anything else, to help you get through a tough time,” said Mariano.

Everyone at the center has their own story, and now music is helping them write the next chapter.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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