Posts

 

UnDude

Jeremy Bixler can be found playing live with UnDude March 22, 2019 at Twilight Café, Portland, OR Facebook/undude2000 and Soundcloud/undude2000

 

 

 

 

I’m sitting in a randomly hip Portland coffee shop trying to not continue procrastinating writing this article, sipping on coconut milk matcha latte, and the lyrics of the song playing overhead sing : “I love music… funky funky music…. It’s the universal language… spoken by every woman, man and child…”

And it’s undeniably true.  Music is magical; a wormhole that can transport us through time and space, reminding us of times forgotten, making us dance like a happy baby, or even move us to tears, somehow communicating with our hearts. Music affects us physically and mentally as well, firing off neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, and that’s just from listening. When we play an instrument or sing, especially in a group, oxytocin can make us actually feel high, with no drugs or alcohol. “Free-lapse!” Oxytocin is often called the natural love drug, or the “connection hormone”. We get it from hugs, petting animals, and group meditation too!

I’ve played music all my life—starting first with saxophone in school orchestra, jazz and marching bands, which later evolved into the electric guitar, which had me forming bands off-and-on (depending how strong my depression and/or addiction was at the time) and writing songs. When I was deep in my addiction I continued to play and write, sometimes even suicidal songs; in isolation and sad drunkenness, I found comfort in those songs.  It made me feel less alone.  Maybe the oxytocin kept me from going over the edge and helped me survive. One of the last songs I wrote before getting sober was called “Sick of Being Sick.”

More than 15 years of self-sabotage and three DUIs on my resume, in late 2015 I was finally ready to admit I had to stop for good. I flew from my parent’s house in LA to a treatment center in Battle Creek, Michigan, and luckily for me they had an acoustic guitar I could use.  I wrote soothing instrumental songs in a new tuning I figured out, and performed one of them, “Good Morning,” as my final speech in front of my peers. It was a CBT-based program, but I chose the aforementioned treatment center because it had a holistic “track” where monks from the local Soto-Zen Temple Monastery, Sokukoji, actually came in and taught those willing to meditate, answer questions, and attend services, including all-day sesshins.  I was finally able to marry my love of music with spirituality—something I definitely wasn’t able to do on my own, getting loaded. It took me drying up, and a compassionate community.

After graduating from the treatment program, I moved into Sokukoji’s converted VA Hall monastery for a couple of weeks, writing songs on my teacher Sokuzan’s ancient guitar, lulling myself to sleep before waking at 5am for a two and a half hour sit every morning. I still have a recording on my phone of “Emptiness” that was written while we were studying Dzogchen.

Rock to Recovery

Wes Geer, founder of Rock To Recovery; Jeremy Bixler, NW Program Administrator; Constance Scharff, PhD, Board of Directors

 

From there I moved to Portland, OR, and found Refuge Recovery, where I also found musician friends and started a grunge band, UnDude (a nod to The Big Lebowski). With the aid of Refuge Recovery, I started exploring career options, in line with right livelihood, taking the eightfold path to heart. Fuck being a barista! My friend and mentor Gary Sanders (who started one of the very first RR meetings in LA) now lived in Portland also. And through him, met someone connected to Rock To Recovery, a company that brings a specialized music therapy into treatment centers. The Program Administrators of this company are genuine rock stars! Had record deals! Toured the world! And, importantly, had found sobriety, spreading the joy of music to those healing from years of self-abuse, just like I was only 3 short years ago. After intense training with the bona fide rock stars that comprise Rock to Recovery down in LA, and my experience playing “mindful grunge” around PDX for a couple years, I’ve now joined the Rock to Recovery family, leading sessions as the flagship NW Program Administrator. The foundation I unknowingly laid way back in elementary school with music allowed me to survive my addiction, propelling me through treatment, stumbling onto the path—and buoyed by the collective strength of my Refuge Recovery sangha—has allowed me to connect to clients with a presence I’d never have been capable of alone.

Although all sessions are unique, the basic flow is similar. We do check-ins at the beginning of groups to establish a feel and theme, often gratitude-based in nature, and I share about my recovery process, always tying music and mindfulness together. We write a brand new song every time, as a group, and divvy up roles and instruments forming a band that’s never existed. Concept to completion takes 90 minutes, during which time we finalize the song and record it to be uploaded online for all perpetuity! It’s an amazing phenomenon being in the moment all together, speaking that universal language, and is truly transformative how anyone just days from being dope-sick can be singing, smiling, laughing, and most importantly, singing their new song! I’m privileged to be a part of that interconnected process.

Refuge in rocking, and rocking in Refuge…. Recovery is possible! 

For more information on Rock to Recovery please visit: www.RockToRecovery.org or email directly: [email protected]

The South Florida intersangha as been working together to provide opportunities to turn Dharma into practice, build a strong recovery community, and encourage and support the work in which each individual member is engaged.
  • During June, Daniel Fishburn from Asheville, NC joined members of our own community to explore specific key practices that, collectively, are parts of the Refuge Path to Recovery. Over 40 members from throughout Florida spent an afternoon exploring addiction, renunciation, inventory and understanding, meditation as investigative practice, mentorship and spiritual friendship, and personal ethical conduct and the precepts as learning opportunities.
  • Beginning in July, the intersangha is hosting a series focusing on how central finding our authentic voices is to our recovery process. The biweekly series will explore challenges faced by women, members from the LGBTQI community, those recovering from process addictions, persons with both mental and physical disabilities, persons of color, and cys-identified straight men in owning their individual voices during developmental periods, during addiction, and in recovery (both within and outside of Refuge). Our goal is to find ways to make our sangha truly safe and welcoming for each of us.
  • Throughout 2018 we have met weekly as a group to work through the inventory process, learning how to investigate these central concerns by supporting each other spiritually through the process. Although this meeting began in response to the scarcity of available mentors, it has shown the tremendous value of friendships based on spiritual connection, honesty, and compassionately confronting our truths with others!
  • We have started taking meetings into two residential treatment centers, and have begun conversations with a number of traditionally 12-step based programs on how we can augment options for their clients.
As a peer-led community, it has been exciting this year to expand upon the ways we are connecting and learning to support each other. We continue to talk about new ways to welcome and embrace those new to Refuge and recovery, increase connections to the large south Florida recovery industry, and focus as a group on being a safe, welcoming, and meaningful part of people’s recovery!
Molly R.
Refuge Recovery Oakland
Infrastructure is about creating pathways. As an organization, Refuge Recovery began with a bunch of meetings popping up all over. Those meetings connected into local areas, and intersanghas, which sometimes are in a single geographic area, and sometimes span several states.
This plan is to help construct clearer lines of communication between meetings within a defined region (such as Region 1: roughly Alaska down to the southern tip of California). This way when a new meeting is started, regional reps will know and then reach out to local intersanghas to make the connect. The intention of this is not to force collaboration, rather to make sure that if you want support, you know where to get it. None of this is carved in stone.
In the great tradition of punk touring routes; we’ve gotten by with the record stores we know, the folks we’ve met locally, folks we have met at the shows (Refcons 1, 2 and 3)…Now we need to make a map of how all of these things are connected so that any one of us can “go on tour” without missing a meeting. We don’t want to change your local structure. Not one iota. We just want to better connect you to each other in a meaningful way.

Click here to view the draft document