As the founding member of the band Hed P.E., Wesley “Wes” Geer has been a professional in the music industry for the past 20 years. Before departing from the band in 2003, Wes was their guitarist, songwriter and producer. Upon leaving the band, Wes sought a lifestyle change—a life of sobriety. After obtaining this life for himself, Wes decided it was time to take this journey even further; that is, getting other to join him in this lifestyle. December 12th, 2012 was the birth of Rock to Recovery and the beginning of an organization using its uniqueness, care and love for music to change the lives of those seeking sobriety.
With over 60 locations and 30 different treatment programs, Wes and his organization are busy changing lives. Luckily, we were able to get a hold of him and dive into Wesley Geer and Rock to Recovery.
Soberocity [S]: What makes music such a successful tactic in obtaining sobriety?
Wes [W]: Well music doesn’t help people get sober on its own, otherwise musicians wouldn’t die in droves. But as part of a treatment program, it is quite magical. People suffering from mental health, addiction, PTSD, the like, are used to escaping; to seeking to change how they feel. Music is a healthy, spiritual way to do that. But it also offers the ability to release emotions, whereas getting loaded only numbs and suppresses them.
S: What makes Rock to Recovery different from other places that use music as a form of rehabilitation?
W: Rock to Recovery is not a treatment program. We are an ancillary service created to give the ability for other programs like VA’s, foster care, addiction/mental health treatment providers to plug the magic of playing music into their program. And the way our program works is not like your typical music therapy- it’s much more interactive and expressive.
S: What do you believe is the key to why Rock to Recovery is so successful?
W: We are so successful because how we do what we do is unique. We didn’t create music therapy, and certainly there have been incarnations that have to do with writing and playing music. But just like there are lots of online retailers, there’s only one Amazon. We are unique in how and what we do. We have cultivated this into an art form. We have a staff of people in recovery that are literally Rockstars in their own right, and extremely passionate about helping people recover. Dare I say in my experience, most music therapists rely on playing music the way we do. And no one does it the way we do. People come in doubting the concept, and they all leave singing a song that they had part in writing, which has now become a recording- in one session.
S: What was it that drove you to get sober?
W: That’s an interesting way to phrase it. I wasn’t driven to get sober. I was beaten into submission; into a state of reasonableness. I fought with everything I had for a way to stay loaded, but finally gave up. So, once I was sober, I was driven to stay sober, knowing that if I didn’t do the work, I was miserable. And if I’m miserable, I will pick up again, and that is Hell or death; no in between for people like me. Once I realized that, there is no choice.
S: How did becoming sober better your life?
W: All my greatest successes have come in sobriety. Most people—like me—got loaded their entire adult life. So, my whole life I was a mentally and spiritually ill person, living a life far beneath my potential. Not only did I get to grow up and become a man, I also had to address the faults, problems, issues and trauma that had been holding me back my whole life. My drinking and using wasn’t the problem—it was my solution. And my solution, then, became the problem. I have no ‘problems’ today, only challenges, and they all make me a better person. I am now a person that loves to help other people. I thrive on it. A drug addict/alcoholic is a tornado, a source of destruction to all they encounter, and they don’t even realize it. Today, together, we do great things, amazing things!
S: Do you have any advice that you would give to people who are seeking to become sober?
W: There is no excuse to not BE sober. There is always someone that had it worse than you, or better than you, or more trauma, or whatever, and recovered! You are not different in that way you think you are. You suffer from all the same challenges that millions of other have suffered with. The disease model shows we all have very similar traits, and challenges. There is a giant network of people in recovery out there with love and answers and support. Why do it alone? Einstein said something like, ‘You can’t fix a problem with the same mind that created it.’ For me, it was about having an open mind and being led by those who had proven success and HAPPINESS in recovery.
S: Can you recall of a success story from a participant or participants in Rock to Recovery that truly touched your heart?
W: A woman—a mother who was in rehab for addiction herself—had already lost both her daughters to the disease. She had never written music, or lyrics, but decided to give it a go—a chance at catharsis. She wrote lyrics processing her grief over the loss of her children. She was emotionally moved in ways I could never transmit through text, but came out the other side to say, ‘I’ve never been able to process my feelings about losing my daughters. Writing lyrics, and putting these feelings, MY feeling to music, and letting it come out in singing has me feeling lighter and more healed than any counseling, or therapy I have ever received. I finally feel ready to take the next steps in creating my new life’.
Another quote that came from a rape victim, who was also a wounded warrior that had made a plan to kill herself was, ‘Rock to Recovery put a song back in my heart’.
S: Being mostly based in Southern California, are you working towards a national—or even international—expansion of Rock to Recovery?
W: We are in Nashville, Portland, and have an event in Austin. We work in 7 different states w the Dept of Defense, and just added Rammstein AFB in Germany!
S: What experiences/knowledge did you take from going through rehabilitation that you utilize in Rock to Recovery?
W: Everything we do in Rock to Recovery comes from our own experience in recovery. We share our experiences, strength and hope, with others. That is the great connective force we have with those we encounter. We aren’t therapists that never used; we are people that nearly died from addiction, who have amazing lives now. We share that from our heart.
S: What hardships did you face in your recovery process?
W: Life is still in session. We face life on life’s terms. People die endlessly, especially in the recovery circles which are closest to us. Aside from that, addiction is a mental disorder. So, somedays just ‘feel’ horrible because we can go to very darker, depressed places, even sober. But that’s why there is a recovery community that supports it’s ‘members’ and we have work we can do, tools we can use that are tried and true. They will always bring us back home to that happy place again.
With powerful uniqueness and an endless drive to get people’s lives back in order, Wes and the Rock to Recovery team is showing people that they can take back their lives. Though it may be hard, though it may be a challenge, though everything may seem impossible, that doesn’t mean you can’t get it done.