Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Music Carried Her Through the Craving

It was one of those nights that seems to stretch on forever. It had been a long week for Anita, yet exhausted as she was, sleep eluded her. Looking through the list of movies she could stream, Anita couldn't find one that spoke to her. Then she realized why: She'd set a strict filter on her Netflix account to keep the kids from stumbling onto something raunchy. She was about to temporarily remove the filter to broaden her options when she realized what she was really looking for.

"I had a desire to be held, to have a release, to have a sexual moment." It had occurred to her, in some part of her brain, that maybe a strong R-rated movie with passionate lovemaking scene might hit the spot.

Since her divorce three years ago, she'd had a harder time with sexual temptation than before. She had never been one to engage in or explore pornography. She sometimes watched romantic movie to relax, but never anything over a PG-13 rating. That particular night, she could feel herself being drawn into letting her guard down. What would she do? As the struggle brewed, she got mad. "I felt that I was being controlled by some outside force. My agency was under attack! All I really want is to be held, yet here it was, full force, to give into something that would give me release, but that would not give me peace of mind after."

She determined to hold onto herself amidst the tidal wave of temptation and navigate herself toward a different kind of release. Her mind landed on music. Music!

"When I realized what was happening, that I was being pulled in this darker direction, I decided to turn to music because I knew that it would carry me away to a safe place." She wondered whether she should listen to classical? New age? Being in the driver's seat of her own mind was important to her, so she narrowed her choices down to instrumental options so that she wouldn't have to grapple with lyrics and the images that might go with them.

She opened the Andre Rieu channel on her Pandora app. Waltzes, polkas, that kind of classical. She connected within seconds to the first song, Strauss' "Voices of Spring". "For the first time that night, my body started to relax. I can see that looking back that, in a sense, the 'crises' was over.

"As I got into it, the music, provided a complete escape---part emotional, part sexual, sort of like a massage. Unlike the sexual fantasies that I didn't want to indulge, I could relax into the music and let it envelop me. It was a safe place to let my body feel what it felt and do what it would."

What her body did after an hour or so was fall asleep.

But then the next day, the restlessness returned and quickly grew into a horrible fear. The hurt and darkness was almost palpable. "I wanted out again and that instant gratification beckoned. I was terrified. Here I was tempted, and without a clue how to handle it. I started struggling against it. But then I remembered the futility of fighting. I remembered that light doesn't have to fight darkness, it simply arrives on the scene and the darkness is banished."

She decided to turn the music back on. "For the rest of the day, Strauss was my soundtrack. I studied Business Finance to it, it set the pace as I loaded the dishwasher, it was my workout buddy at the gym." After a while, she didn't want to stop listening. "It was like a lifeline. I knew it was keeping me grounded and able to focus on what I needed to do instead of having my mind haunted and chased about by temptation. It was wonderful to feel nurtured, loved, protected, and safe as I was going about my day. I had a lot of responsibilities that took a long time, but all along the music was helping restore my emotional balance.

"All the emotion I wanted to feel, I felt in the end. I felt held, comforted. My vulnerability was soothed. Gradually the music had become less powerful, the Spirit more powerful. The Lord was helping me get through my struggle and guided me to music as a healer." At the end of that second day, she let it lull her to sleep again.

Summing it up, Anita said, "It worked wonders. The music staved off temptation. The yearnings in my body were held and carried along by something uplifting, so I was able to move on with my life in a productive way."

Anita also appreciated an effect that she attributed to reading this blog and the work we'd been doing in therapy. "I don't see those sexual feelings as bad anymore. I'm not wrong for having them. Those feelings are normal. I'm a good person. I don't feel ashamed anymore." Although she had grown up in a loving home, her parents had been too embarrassed to talk much about sex. That left Anita feeling like sexual feelings were dirty and wrong. It was healing for her to allow herself to have all those feelings and relax into them (rather than bracing against them) as she listened to the music.

The day after we talked about this experience, I heard via email from Anita: "I would have told you this in the session, but I was still trying to figure out why I listened to the music for so many hours. I think what was happening was that I was building up a reservoir of protection."

A week and a half later, the effects of that healing experience still lingered: "Since then, I've still struggled with feelings of loneliness and longing. When I do, I remember how I felt when I listened to the music and that memory is enough to get me through the crisis."

Thanks for sharing your experience Anita!

Readers, what experiences and tools have aided your recovery the way music did Anita's? Have you tried relying on music for strength in weak moments? What was the effect for you?

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