by Sara Brown
Wes Geer toured the world as the former guitarist for the wildly popular rock band, KoRn.
And yet, the thrill of playing mega-stadiums pales in comparison to the feeling he got from founding Rock to Recovery.
“It enlarges my spirit,” he said. “I get a spiritual high off of it.”
Geer battled with his own addictions and got sober in 2004. His experiences led him to conceptualize Rock to Recovery, an organization that uses music to help people in the early phases of treatment.
Geer says music is a powerful spiritual force, one that has aided him in his journey. Because of that, he wanted to share the healing power of music with others.
“In my drug use, when I was depressed, using might have helped me for a little bit but not really,” he said. “Music always helped.”
When members of Rock to Recovery go into treatment facilities of two to 10 people, they bring along a vast array of instruments and for an hour or so form a band with patients — no musical talent required.
“People are a lot more musical than they give themselves credit for,” Geer said.
Before the music starts, the discussion flows.
Geer shares his story of recovery, spiritual attachment to music, and the peace he found playing guitar in early recovery. He tells the soon-to-be-rockers this is why he founded Rock to Recovery.
Then the group gets to know each other. People share their length of sobriety, what music means to them and have a brief recovery-based discussion, which helps them to focus on their primary purpose.
“We get the conversation started,” he said. “Then we see who can play and perform what and start writing. We take as much input as we can.”
In that one session, the group writes, performs and records one song. The song is loaded to Soundcloud for everyone to keep.
Geer says he can see a transformation in the group in just 60 minutes.
“There are people that walk into the room depressed, crying, not into it at all,” he said. “Afterward, they are elated.”
Usually, patients go into the experience hesitant; some even try fighting it.
“There are some people who sit in the back at first and say they can’t do it. No one wants to fail,” Geer said. “Addicts are especially afraid of failure. [But] people start to learn they can do [it], that they do have rhythm. That is our favorite thing to find.”
Many people find songwriting in a group can be therapeutic.
“It’s a spiritual experience,” Geer said. “It’s a bonding experience.”
Geer believes this to be true because music touches everyone, no matter what language they speak, their culture or their identity.
“Music was used in ancient times to come together,” he said. “It can be a moving experience for people. It moves the soul.”
Geer has seen the power of music firsthand in his own career.
“I've seen people in South America singing every word to a song. Not just every word but every guitar riff,” he said. “English isn't even their language. Music can blur all those lines.”
Geer founded Rock to Recovery when he was still in KoRn and at first was conflicted on what path he should take.
“My mother is a very spiritual woman and she would always say sometimes God will take everything away from you to give you what you needed,” he said.
He says when he gets into those periods, he looks introspectively.
“I go heavy in meditation. That's how I get the clutter out and connect to what is important,” he said.
“This is what I am supposed to do.”