Ironwood Maine Web Update

“If you play music with passion and love and honesty, than it will nourish your soul, heal your wounds and make life worth living. Music is its own reward.”


            Even before my Ironwood journey began, I was able to turn to music as an outlet for any stress, anger or depression I was feeling. Being able to turn these negative emotions into a piece of art that others could relate to, and ultimately use to help themselves feel better, has been my passion since I was young. Along with many other valuable lessons my recovery process has taught me, I have learned that to sustain a healthy life style, a passion along with achievable, goals, is crucial. Although my goals of writing and releasing music that helps others who have faced the same struggles as I have has stayed the same throughout my life, Ironwood has helped me strengthen my passion. This reanimation of my work ethic and emotional commitment to drawing awareness to my generation’s unique struggles has given me a sense of purpose and confidence in my ability to start fresh and pursue what I love and care about for the rest of my life. 

            This week I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to spend my Sunday with the Frye gentlemen, a new privilege I have earned with my level four promotion. Not too long ago, I had a demotion from level three, and spent some time at Frye campus to regroup and reflect.  At that time, Frye was in a pretty rough place behaviorally. However, upon my mentoring, they seemed to have really pulled it together. It always brings a smile to my face to watch them slowly start to accept change and realize that they’re doing it for themselves. Although I’d still hear the occasional off color comment or circular argument within the group, they all seem to want advancement in the program. Although that’s the first step, it’s a huge one that doesn’t always sink in as easily as it’s appearing to currently in the Frye boys’ group. During this Sunday at Frye, many of the boys expressed a new-found interest in playing the guitar or ukulele. I was thrilled and explained to them how important music was to me, and how important having a passion like that was. This fueled a pretty deep discussion. Upon asking, “What’s a hobby you have, or something you’re passionate about, or maybe some goals that you have for the future?” I got a lot of serious answers, such as: “I want to get a job and save up for a car” “I want to play D1 Football in college” and “I want to be accepted into an Ivy league school.” I was very excited to hear the aspirations that each of the gentlemen had, and continued explaining that, in order to reach those goals, there needs to be smaller ones, so that they can set themselves up for success. For example, building a good resume so that job applications go smoother, staying sober so that D1 schools accept you, finishing the current year you’re in with a high GPA, and coordinating extra credit opportunities when possible. The boys understood the message and enjoyed the confidence that I had in them. Having spent eight months at Frye, I’m well aware of the self-doubt that often times cloud their thinking. I think hearing insight from someone that knows what they’re going through and isn’t in an authority role over them, helps them relax and digest information much better. I look forward to mentoring with them again soon, and I’m glad to see that they’ve all got their eye on the ball.

            I can confidently say that both campuses are doing well through this holiday season, and that every Ironwood resident will be thinking of their families. 

            Music has the power to instill emotions in us that are impossible to describe verbally. Pain is a necessary evil in human life. That being said, we are not supposed to hold on to it and stuff it deep inside us until the pressure gets let out inappropriately. Within our society, especially regarding men, feeling pain, or showing signs of pain, is frowned upon. Why do we do this? Some of the strongest people I have met, spent years of their lives in agonizing mental pain, stuck within the dark, sphere of   anxiety and depression. Their ability to pull themselves out of it, even when every instinct in their body told them to do what’s comfortable, demonstrates true strength that is far greater than modern society’s portrayal of masculinity.

            The natural instinct when we feel negative emotions is to distract ourselves, which is a form of stuffing it inside. This could be done by watching TV, being too engaged in social media, video games, or chemical substances. The root of the strength that it takes to face depression head on is not letting yourself use these as distractions to take your focus off the way you’re feeling. I’m not saying unplug your TVs, Xboxs, Play stations, microwaves, and phones. I am saying that there is a different outlet for the extreme and negative feelings my generation feels. The difference between an outlet and a distraction is that a distraction, like TV, takes focus off the problem thus allowing it to build, and an outlet, like music, helps release those negative feelings in a constructive way. So many times I hear parents describe their kids and say; “They just don’t care about anything anymore.” It breaks my heart; I have been there. It’s a cancerous condition that now more than ever seems to be disseminating across the population of kids and teens in America. This apathy is a telltale sign of the beginning of what could be serious depression. In my case, my love for music stuck with me, even through the darkest periods of my life. It was the only thing I wanted to do. My descent into crisis was prolonged because I was constantly pumping the emotions I felt out, at only a little lower rate than they were building up inside of me. Even then, the only reason I did descend into crisis was because I used both an outlet, and unhealthy distractions. The times when I poured the negative emotions into my music were the times I felt most at  peace, those were the times when, what my dad referred to as the squirrels in my head, calmed down, and I could think clearly, and calmly. I was lucky enough to be blessed with this talent and passion, and because of that, it works for me. 

            However music might not be for everyone. I know a lot of kids enjoy playing sports. This passion could be used to help others as well, in the form of a fundraiser, or even just a way of giving human connection to those who engage in the sport. The key is, you have to love your outlet, and you have to use it to help other people; if these two elements can be combined, then you will find true fulfillment. During my time at Ironwood, I have studied the relationships between goals, passions, and helping others, which in the end, is what I believe to be the secret to real happiness. Everyone has a purpose in this world; when combined with something we love to do or are passionate about, we can spark positive change in the world, and feel real fulfillment in our lives. So, chase your dreams, yet stay grounded. Take care of yourself, yet help others in every opportunity you can. Set ambitious goals, and fall in love with the pursuit of their achievement. Everybody in this world is blessed with the opportunity of leaving it better than they found it. Start your legacy today; create change, and live forever in the change you’ve created, so that others recognize it, and are inspired to do the same.