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Music memories quell addictions

Vol. 5, No. 3 / March 2006

A friend and colleague recently gave me the book Live at the Fillmore East: A Photographic Memoir (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1999), in which photographer Amalie R. Rothschild chronicles the celebrated rock music venue on New York’s Lower East Side.

The book has been a powerful therapeutic tool for three of my patients:

1) Mr. S, age 56, has a long history of alcoholism and depression and had been fighting with his wife over his impulsive purchase of a guitar that belonged to Pete Townshend of The Who. For Mr. S, the guitar brings back memories of the Fillmore, where he met Townshend backstage. He considers that period the high point of his life, which has since been a series of personal and professional disappointments.

When I showed Mr. S the book, he wept inconsolably for his lost youth. I encouraged him to tell his wife about what he experienced. The couple talked honestly for the first time in 20 years, and he made a commitment to her to stop drinking. He remains sober.

2) Mr. Z, a 22-year-old paralegal, battled marijuana dependence and an anxiety disorder. His parents divorced when he was age 4. His mother and stepfather have been pushing him to go to law school, while his father, a former music producer who is bedridden with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, feels he should do whatever makes him happy. Mr. Z grew up listening to 1960’s music with his father.

Mr. Z noticed the Fillmore East book during a recent session. He convulsed with tears as he looked through it and spoke lovingly of his father for the first time. He has since stopped smoking marijuana and has reconnected with his dying father. He is now going to law school and wants to specialize in entertainment law.

3) Mr. M, age 33, has been treated for alcoholism and attention deficit disorder. Unable to stop drinking as an outpatient, he checked into the Crossroads Rehabilitation Centre in Antigua, West Indies, for 1 month. When he returned he “felt like an adult for the first time.” He regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and feels “spirituality” replacing the anger he once felt toward himself and the world.

Upon seeing the Fillmore East book, Mr. M cried over the photos of Eric Clapton. He is inspired by Clapton’s recovery from addiction and how Clapton, after his preschool son’s death, founded Crossroads, which provides free substance abuse treatment for Antiguans.

Like Clapton, Mr. M wants to help other alcoholics recover. He is applying to school to become a substance abuse counselor.

Jeffrey S. Rosecan, MD
New York, NY

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