Soundtrack to Recovery

Therapy has encouraged me to be honest and public about a very private battle I have fought for more than 10 years. At 25 I was diagnosed with anorexia. While I received treatment and returned to a healthy weight, I couldn’t stop one of the behaviors of my illness. For more than 10 years, I continued to chew and spit food. Through therapy I found I did it because I needed a reason to hate myself; I needed a reason to make the voices in my head ring true. For most of my life the voices in my head told me I was a horrible, ugly person. My disorder was horrible and ugly, not me. Yet separating myself from it seemed impossible.

So what finally changed? I like to say, “I found the music,” or rediscovered how big of a role music plays in my life. Growing up, all my fondest memories are soundtracked by great songs. Today, I find listening to music helps to quiet the voices in my head. Paying attention to the details in the composition, production and lyrics does not leave much room in my head for negative self-talk. I funnel this renewed love of music to a column where I revisit old albums. So the rest of my recovery story will be in the form of one of my revisits.

Volbeat’s Outlaw Gentleman and Shady Ladies is sort of an anthem for my recovery and is one of my go-to albums when I am having a particularly bad day. The memories of my first Volbeat concert immediately put me in a good mood. It may seem funny that a concept album that is a sort-of western ghost story feels like it could be a soundtrack for my recovery. But, many songs are about fighting demons and outlaws, and beating an eating disorder means fighting a lot of demons.

Rock ballads, weird western instrumentals, heavy guitars, pounding drums, mixed with Volbeat’s signature rockabilly style make for an amazing rock album. The album provides a great outlet for stress with hard driving guitars and strong bass lines. Heavy metal songs like “Dead but Rising” and “Room 24” motivate me to fight the demons in my head. Meanwhile, I find deep, personal meaning in most of the lyrics. “Cape of Our Hero” is wedged between these two heavy songs and is the first song on the album that speaks to me with its beautiful lyrics.

All of the perfection nothing will and can be made
The old skin has to shed before the new one sees the day
Opportunities to find the deeper powers in ourselves
Comes when life is breathing and seems more than what it is

The tough guitars of “Room 24” flow right into the eerie tones that make up “Hangman’s Body.” To me, the hangman represents the very real voice in my head I can’t escape. No matter what, he’s coming for me. “Hear his boots and see the figure dressed in black. Echoes of him have been heard, spiritually, he’s all intact… judgment will prevail, the hangman is here.”

It’s very appropriate Volbeat chose to follow the dark “Hangman’s Body” with their upbeat cover of Young the Giant’s “My Body.” The inescapable demon in “Hangman’s Body” is no match for self-ambition and the drive described in “My Body.” Lyrics like, “I won’t quit because I want more. It’s my road, my war, I won’t quit,” motivate me to keep fighting for a healthy mind and body.

Music and writing allow me to put the self-hate behind me and find a new level of confidence that attracts new friendships and makes me step-out and try new experiences. It’s almost a level of confidence I imagine the enchanting woman in the song “Lola Montez” to have. While Lola Montez is a witchy woman who pulls men into her spell, I am pulling new friendships and new experiences with my new found positive attitude.

As the album continues, it mixes heavy tones with upbeat rockabilly in songs like “Lonesome Rider” and “The Sinner is You,” while peppering in inspirational lyrics.

Is this a sign for all of us

To take care of the life we have

Please wake up and feel the love

Moving beyond my ED, allows me to feel the love from my family and amazing friends around me. The cliché is true, when you love yourself, you can truly love others. This allows me to forge the new and renewed friendships that motivate me to stay strong. Fighting battles alone is futile; embrace those around you and seek professional help if you are struggling.

The album closes with “Our Loved Ones.” Complete with a great guitar solo, it caps the album with inspiration.

I used to think that life was ugly and a mess

Well, I was right but what else do you do other than your best

The meaning of it all you find within yourself

I hold the key but where’s the door

I kick it in

It’s not like one day you just wake-up and you are recovered from an eating disorder; it’s a daily struggle but eventually that struggle gets easier. I may always have to fight the demons in my head. But I have new ammunition.