Wisconsin News

At Java Jam, performers fight addiction with a microphone

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Once a month, a group of people in the La Crosse community gather to share their talents and meet new friends at an open mic night.

Most of the people who come are at various stages in their recovery from addiction.

It's called Java Jam, and it's held at Coulee Council on Addictions.

As a recovering heroin addict, Emily Lodoen usually has a lot on her mind. But when she's singing and playing her guitar at Java Jam, the only thing on her mind is the music.

"It's really just me feeling the song. It's me processing feelings through music," said Lodoen.

The lyrics of the song she sang Saturday strike a very personal note.

"It's kind of this man telling a story about an experience he had with somebody else who was an addict, and kind of watching their life fall apart because of it," said Lodoen. "The story goes on to say, 'I know you have a heavy heart, but you're going to get through this.'"

"We invite everybody -- anybody -- to get up there and sing, play an instrument. They can read poetry. They can tell jokes -- anything that they feel like they want to get up there and share," said Peggy Ham, Coulee Council on Addictions event coordinator.


Every month, as many as 40 people get together for Java Jam. Most of them are in 12-step programs.

"It's safe. You know, nobody's looking at anybody weird or different. We're all in recovery. We're all sober. And that's the main focus is just to feel comfortable and get back into being social with people, because it's scary. It's a hard thing to get yourself back into," said Ham.

Lodoen has been clean for a year and a half.

While she said performing at Java Jam helps her stay sober, it's a struggle every day.

"I don't think any addict can ever say that they're recovered. For me, I'm always recovering. It's a life-long journey. There is no destination about it," said Lodoen.

For the last 12 years, Lodoen has been in and out of recovery programs. She said it took her 10 years to work up the courage to actually perform at Java Jam.

The event is held the first Saturday of every month at Coulee Council on Addictions.

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