Music has the capacity to connect us instantaneously with powerful memories. When the memory is pleasant or loving, the effect can be calming or energizing. When music evokes memories of drinking or other drug use, the experience for the person in recovery can be frightening.
Anything that one associates with past use can potentially "trigger" cravings or strong emotions that lead to urges to use. Music is just one trigger. Pictures, weather patterns, items of clothing, locations, even an accent that reminds one of a location where using behavior occurred in the past can unexpectedly trigger physical reactions usually associated with use. The heart beat or breathing can speed up, saliva begins to fill the mouth, fidgeting may increase, or non-verbal clues such as raised voice can occur, and may be the body preparing for the anticipated physical "rush" associated with drug use or drinking.
Some triggers are easiter to eliminate than others. "Change playmates, playgrounds, and playthings" is one of the mantras those in early recovery hear frequently. This can be easier said than done when the musical trigger shows up as part of a commercial or on the radio?
Being aware of the signs that one has experienced a trigger associated with past use is an important step in sustaining recovery.
When I feel triggered by a song that brings up powerful memories, I will talk with my sponsor or supportive family member. I will seek to build new, non-using memories that I can associate with music that I love.