By Trudie Merry
If you have ever been through any kind of structured recovery
programme, the likelihood is that you’ve heard of The Cycle of
Change. This model, formulated by Prochaska and DiClemente
in 1983, can help track ones progress through any kind of
behaviour modification or life change by placing you at a
particular stage in the cycle. It helps to understand the pending
journey, things to come and the journey made already.
Everyone’s recovery is their own and sometimes it
can be hard to explain to someone else the journey
that you’re on, the feelings and emotions you have
and the thought processes that come with those.
However, I’ve always thought of music as an international
form of communication, something we can
use to help people understand what’s actually going
on in our minds. In a very short and rather hastily
organised survey, it was concluded that music can
stir emotions in 76% of people asked, bring back
memories of 87% people and most importantly, 94%
of people said that it cheers them up.
To this end, I have tried to explain my journey
around the cycle with songs I feel really capture the
way I felt at each stage. Some of them are lyrically
accurate, while others have a melody, beat and overall
feel to them that struck a chord (HA! See what I
did there‽) with me, and make me think of how I felt
throughout my journey.
“When every night the set that’s smart is intruding
in nudist parties in studio’s – Anything goes”
Anything Goes from Anything Goes – Cole Porter
Although the title of this song, in itself, describes my
very carefree past existence, there is also a rather
whimsical feel to it that captures the spirit of my
younger days. It was fun, silly and really, anything
“You had chemicals boy…”
Born Slippy – Underworld
It’s not so much the lyrical content of this track that
gets me, more that composition itself. It’s chaotic
and fast paced, moving on from the carefree and fun
existence to a more chaotic and fast paced one, but still, before
I knew there was anything particularly worrying about my behaviour.
“Think I want you still but there may be pills at work”
A&E – Goldfrapp
“Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you
again, because a vision softly creeping, left it’s seed while I
Sound of Silence – Paul Simon (The Disturbed version is my
Both choices are important for me to try and explain how my
journey really started. For some, the realisation that something
must change comes as a result of a “rock bottom” kind of episode,
or a catastrophe of sorts. For me though, my “lightbulb”
moment happened after those. I had my disasters and my
“rock bottoms” but I always managed to find a rockier bottom.
The moment I knew was a quiet, reflective event. Both these
songs encapsulate that feeling, that inward, private and personal
discovery, that spoke to me far louder than any explosive
incident could have.
“It’s the terror of knowing what this world is about, watching
some good friends screaming – Let me Out!”
Under Pressure – Queen & David Bowie
The start of any journey is somewhat unnerving, but I think I
speak for a lot of people in recovery when I say the idea of sobriety,
and the changes one has to make to get there is utterly
terrifying. Facing the world without what could only be described
for me as my only true friend, the crutch I relied on for
so many years, was harrowing.
“Ain’t runnin’ from myself no more, I’m ready to face
Runnin’ (Lose it all) – Naughty Boy, Beyoncé & Arrow
Preparation for any journey or change has to start with
“I am ready”, without it, change does not happen. Simple.
How many of us have been through some sort of
recovery programme, only to come out the other side
and go straight back to where we started, because we
weren’t really ready. The idea of not running from
problems and facing up to things is intrinsic to the
whole thing. Couple that sentiment with the uplifting
and refreshing feel of this song and it really pins down
the way I felt when going through this stage in the cycle.
“Come break me down, bury me bury me, I am finished
The Kill – 30 Seconds To Mars
There’s a fight and finality to this track that I love. An
action plan that started with not really knowing what
to do, to the action simply being that I had finished,
enough was enough and I was now acting on that. It
says a lot about the way I felt and still feel about alcohol.
The statement “I am finished with you” and the
way Mr. Leto screams it out at certain points, really
speaks to me. “All I wanted was you”, also rings true,
because it really was, without caring about consequences.
But this is a strong and heavy song that reflects
the way I eventually felt about alcohol.
“I’m not a slave to a god that doesn’t exist…. Fight,
Fight, Fight, Fight”
Fight Song – Marilyn Manson
What can I say? Rousing, strong, shouty and full of
arrogant stubbornness. This was my loud stage of the
cycle. I was determined, and I did fight so hard, usually
with myself, but my stubbornness won out eventually,
and my action to this day is to fight, keep fighting and
then fight some more, and if I have to scream and
shout while doing it, so be it. I release my inner Marilyn.
“I know I can make it on my own, I owe it all to you”
Make it on my own – Alison Limerick
Fairly self-explanatory in the title, but I think the “you”
in the chorus line quoted above can mean different
things for different people. For me, to start with, it
meant alcohol. Odd maybe, but without it, I wouldn’t
have had a reason to change. A lifestyle of sobriety for me has
meant so much more than not drinking. I have had to change my
lifestyle completely, and it has truly been for the better. Secondly,
it meant all the “you’s” that stuck by me and helped me
through it all. It is a hard task to stick with someone when all they
want to do is throw it back in your face, someone that can’t actually
see that their behaviour is causing such harm to themselves
and is hurting you in the process. How much easier it would be to
simply walk away and think of self-preservation. Finally, in this
instance, “you” meant “me”. It is important to remember that in
sobriety and in the journey of recovery, the only person that really
can make or break the success of it, is you. The person doing the
realising and the planning and the fighting. And contrary to the
belief that it is impolite or improper to be proud of oneself, risking
the label “big-headed” or the like, it is truly an achievement to be
proud of. A long and hard battle, fought and won, deserves an
“I’m on the right track baby I was born to be brave”
Born this way – Lady Gaga
Controversial but honest admission for the day, I love Lady Gaga!
A few important things about this song. Being on the right track,
recognising that it is still a path to be followed, rather than a destination.
Being brave, because you need to be. To want to
change everything about the way you’ve lived your life for such a
long time, takes guts, some would say balls, but what ever it is,
courage is key. And the overwhelming message of this track, and
a lot I think about what this artist is about, is be yourself, its ok to
be yourself, whoever that might be, the ability to say “I’m beautiful
in my way” is powerful.
“Don’t hide yourself in regret, just love yourself and you’re set”.
What more is there to say?
“And you told me that I would forget you eventually (and I nearly
I thought it was over – The Feeling
Such a strong and poignant message but such an upbeat melody.
It’s easy to get stuck and bogged down with the seriousness of
recovery, and yes, it is a very serious process. But let’s not forget
the good that comes of it. This song, melody and beat wise makes
me think of that good.
The important message in this track for me is that it isn’t over. If
you forget, it will be your downfall. Complacency is the devil’s
tool, the strings that allow him to become a master puppeteer
over your life.
So that’s it, my Cycle of Change Soundtrack. And just to finish, a
song of unity, just to remind us all that there is someone out there
“We stick together and see it through, ‘Cause you’ve got a friend
You’ve got a friend in me from Toy Story – Randy Newman