‘It really saved my life’: Addicts using music as a pathway to recovery

The Appalachian School of Luthiery partners with local drug court programs
Weekday broadcast of WYMT Mountain News at 6
Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 5:42 PM EST
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Many say music brings healing, and for those at the Appalachian School of Luthiery, this statement is what they live by.

Doug Naselroad founded the Appalachian School of Luthiery in 2012 and since then he has used instrument making to help addicts overcome their addictions.

“When they first come in they are pretty raw you know nervous, shaky you know rehab I guess is no picnic," said Naselroad.

The Perry and Knott County Drug Court programs have partnered with the Appalachian Artisan Center to help addicts in their recovery using the arts.

“It’s a heartbreaking journey to go on with them to see all the damage that needs to be repaired but it’s also why we keep getting up in the morning and coming back to work," said Naselroad.

One of the recovering addicts who went through the ‘Culture of Recovery’ program is Nathan Smith.

“I had just let it get so far out of control that I didn’t know where to start to even try to get help and me getting in trouble saved my life," said Smith.

Smith is a former coal miner who relied on opioids for 24 years to get through the back breaking work in the mines.

“A lot of free time. A lot of time on my hands where I just didn’t have anything to do and I guess that was a lot of it, the reason I fell back into it," said Smith.

He was arrested in 2017 on drug charges and entered the drug court program. Through the program, he went to the Appalachian School of Luthiery. After his first lesson, he was hooked.

“I knew that I was starting something that I could really look back on that something that I built with my own hands," said Smith.

Building instruments gave Smith a sense of purpose, knowing this was his chance to turn his life around.

“I wish that it could have happened sooner, but I’m glad it did happen when it did and this has kept my mind far away from that lifestyle. This has given me a reason to not even think about looking back," said Smith.

Naselroad says when people complete a task that demands hands-on work and concentration, it begins to rewire the brain.

“We like to think of ourselves as agents of mitigating recidivism. In other words, when people come out we want them to go forward and not go back into the old patterns," said Naselroad.

Smith has been clean for three years and now he is an employee at the Troublesome Creek Stringed Instrument Company, the first hired from the ‘Culture of Recovery’ program.

“They seen that I had a passion for it and that’s why they offered me the job," said Smith.

Now, Smith is able to focus on more than his own needs, but the needs of his children.

“It’s an amazing feeling knowing that I can provide for them, and my family now is my number one priority," said Smith.

To learn more about the ‘Culture of Recovery’ program, click here.

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