I’ve been clean and sober for 25 years but my sobriety doesn’t erase my past or change that essential part of who I am. In fact, it’s a guiding principle in my life and has affected the majority of my decisions.
One of the decisions I made in recovery from addiction and after my release from prison was my choice of professions. I am a licensed mental health therapist specializing in addictions. Most people know me as “Jennifer Hazen,” a name I originally took on Facebook to avoid “dual relationships” with my clients. The name Jennifer Hazen took on a life of its own and now I accept it as much as I do my legal name.
So let me start again:
“Hello. My name is Jennifer Coyne and I’m a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. I also sing in some bands and I’m asking you for your help.”
I work at a small, community-based, non-profit counseling center in Menomonie, Wisconsin called Arbor Place. Arbor Place is known, primarily, for its residential drug treatment center but we also offer outpatient mental health services, and we are moving into an integrated model treating both addictions and mental health in our residential program.
I started my career at Arbor and worked there for almost 6 years until moving forward in 2008. In November of 2013 I got a call from the director, Jill Gamez, offering me a job. I had no intention of accepting the offer, but I thought I’d meet with her and hear her out. When I got there she showed me the plans for a new building. I was riveted. Like my clients, I’d spent my career in battered, tired offices with faded carpet and stained industrial furniture. The idea of working in an aesthetically pleasing environment was a new concept. And providing our clients a place equipped with luxuries like bathrooms, temperature-controlled rooms, an exercise room, an art room, a garden and comfortable furniture was revolutionary. And doing this all while doubling our capacity and keeping the costs of treatment affordable is unheard of. You see, Arbor Place is the area’s most inexpensive treatment center. Let me give you an example: Hazelden, an illustrious treatment center in Minnesota, is approximately $28,000 for a 28-day stay. Closer to home the costs range from $10,000 to $17,000. Arbor Place is approximately $6000. And Jill’s vision is to keep our costs affordable, despite the new building. I accepted the job and started back at Arbor in January of 2014. You see I, too, have a vision for our new center: The infusion of music into treatment.
I’d avoided music for almost 13 years. I’d decided music was a “trigger.” I believed that music brought flashbacks of my drug-using. That changed one day when, in my undergraduate program, after a long day of work my then 13-year-old-son, Toby, invited me into his room to listen to some music. I didn’t want to. I was tired. I had no interest in his teeny-bopper music. Still, wanting to be a good mother and be involved in his enthusiasms, I did. He played me Big N Rich and System Of A Down.
I was electrified.
In that moment I understood it wasn’t all music that evoked memories of my drug-using past, just certain songs and genres. I dove into music, saddened by its absence from my life and desperate to make up for lost time.
I believe music is important. It is important for our quality of life and important for the quality of our mental health. It walks as partner with us through our fears, joys, heartaches and triumphs, echoing, reflecting and comforting us in our life’s journey. It alters our perspective, lifts us up in times of need and, quite literally, changes the way our synapses fire. Music is valuable and must be a psychological need, since we’ve been making music since the dawn of time.
Unfortunately, too many musicians succumb to the myth of “sex and drugs and rock and roll” as a path to creativity and happiness. And we lose talented musicians all the time. I’m not just talking about Jimmy Morrison or Amy Winehouse. I’m talking about people close to home, close to our families and to us. Many of them are out there as I write, slowing killing themselves with their sweet, deadly poison. We know who they are. We see them. We regretfully shake our heads. Perhaps we’ll turn to our friend saying something like, “S/he’s got so much talent, too bad….”
Many people come to treatment with nothing. No money, no clothes, nowhere to live. They’ve burned their bridges and have no one to turn to for support. They’ve pawned their TVs, their phones, their microwaves and their guitars. I want Arbor Place to be prepared for that. Certainly many will—and do—come to Arbor with their instruments, but I want one of the intake questions to be, “Do you play an instrument? If so, you are welcome to bring it in and if you don’t have one, we’ve got one you can use.”
I’ve already developed my own music intervention group, now used at two area treatment centers, and I will be presenting that group at a state conference in November. I want more. I want to continue to make our new Arbor Place the place our local musicians can go when they’ve had too much. When they wake up and say, “I can’t do this anymore. It’s killing me. I have to stop.” I want them to know that Arbor Place is where they can come to get clean and sober and reacquaint themselves with their craft--their passion--without drugs and alcohol.
As an addict I did terrible things and went to terrible places. I understand how addiction steals our very essence: it steals our morals, our integrity, our passion, our creativity, our honesty—it steals everything that is good, right and real. And, as a recovering addict, I know that there’s always hope. We can restore and remake ourselves in recovery. I know, because I did it and I’ve seen countless others who have also done it.
Now here’s where I’m busting myself out. Fronting myself off. I’ve worked hard at keeping my professional life separate from my private life. The boundaries have been blurring of late and that’s OK, because I’m merging Jennifer Hazen and Jennifer Coyne in the interest of my passions: Music and helping people recovering from addiction.
And here’s where you come in:
I’ve initiated this Campaign to buy musical equipment for the new building and the Eau Claire area musicians and their fans have been incredibly generous. We now have a PA system, microphones, amps, a bass, guitars—electric and acoustic--drums and other percussion instruments.
My new goal is to make this project self-sustaining so it can continue on without me. I’d like to buy some basic recording equipment and, perhaps in years to come, put out some Arbor Place recovery CDs. Because of the generosity of the musical community, we've already recorded our first original music, written by people in early recovery. I want music available to all our clients in whatever form suits them best. I want money to buy the needed equipment with enough to set aside for maintenance and upkeep. Music Heals will also continue to accept donations of musical equipment and MP3 players, all of which will stay in-house, for use by current clients.
July 11th 2015 was the date of our grand opening celebration. It was open to everyone and there was live music from noon to 5:00. The last two hours were an open recovery jam and it was amazing. We're eternally grateful to all the musicians who donated their time and talent, making the event possible:
· The Eclectic Barn Boys with Randy Sinz, Gregg Wheeler and Johnny Lynch.
· Jenny and the Lost Boys with Jennifer Hazen, Jim Phillips, David Jones and John LeBrun.
· Jenny and the Jets with John LeBrun, Billy Angell, Bentley Harder and Jennifer Hazen hosted the open jam.
· Yata , made a special appearance.
Because of the area’s generosity we now have weekly drum circles and yearly recovery jams. This year's jam was on September 18th it was open to the public and will be an annual Arbor Place tradition.
Please consider helping us keep The Music Heals Project alive and thank you so much for reading.
Jennifer Hazen Coyne.