Music has always been a way of life for Javier R. Growing up his father played in a salsa band and shared his love of music with his son. His father and family also shared the belief that men don’t talk about their feelings. Javier learned from an early age, “…real men must not show any emotions. Any expression of my feelings was seen as a sign of weakness and was disapproved of by those around me.” Not having the knowledge or skills to appropriately express his strong emotions, Javier, not surprisingly, turned to drugs as a way to manage his stress, fears, pain and depression. Eventually his addiction led to his being in and out of prison over the course of 15 years.
The last time Javier was released from prison, he realized he needed to make some changes. Javier recognized that he not only needed to overcome the trauma of being incarcerated, but that he also had to deal with being homeless and stay on his path to recovery. In 2018, Javier started an outpatient program at Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center. It was here that Javier was introduced to Harmony, Hope & Healing. Javier experienced first-hand the healing power of music. The class was listening to the song “Fly Like an Eagle” and reflecting on the lyrics. When Javier put his heart and soul into singing the song; Harmony, Hope & Healing’s Director of Programming Tina Villapando knew the song struck a chord with him. Javier shared with the group that the song was helping him to reimagine what his life could be. Javier remembers that first day, “I left that class with my spirit cleansed.” Javier continued to attend Harmony, Hope & Healing’s weekly classes at Above and Beyond. He recently stated, “Before I started with Harmony, Hope & Healing, my outlook on life was very negative and cynical. I couldn’t even express those emotions properly.” Through discussions, breathing exercises, listening to music, singing songs and exploring his musical talents, Javier was enabled to express his pain and hope for a better life.
Upon discovering his inner strengths, Javier took a risk and shared a very personal story with the group. He related, “It was scary, but the entire circle made me feel safe and I knew I could trust them.” Today, Javier is more aware of his emotional states and in control of himself. Over time, he has learned that he is not a “bad person” and that he deserves respect and understanding just as others do. He is building trusting relationships with his children and family and is motivated to be an inspiration and a positive role model to others in need. Javier proudly exclaimed, “I’ve grown into a man that is dependable, committed and authentic.”
In February 2019, Javier was hired as a music intern for Harmony, Hope & Healing. Javier co-facilitates music classes and shares his personal story, insights and love of music with others who are just beginning their healing journey. Javier’s supervisor, Tina Villapando who has observed Javier’s growth and transformation commented, “It has been and continues to be an amazing and powerful journey to witness Javier’s transformation from when I first met him until now. He brings such energy, passion and commitment to all aspects of our work. When he co-facilitates our music classes, he is honest about the experiences he has faced. He shares his challenges with addiction and incarceration and yet also expresses his tenacity through it all; which brings hope to our participants. His love for music and his commitment to sharing it with others is infectious. It’s an honor to watch him grow as a leader, as an advocate for himself and to be a mentor for his peers.”
- Written by Amanda Longe-Asque & Lou Marek