Studying the psychology and neurochemistry of addiction helped crystalize what I had always known about myself. I have a disease that ends in death. I’ve spiraled down the rabbit hole enough times to know that I’m better off above ground reading a book with my cat. Addiction isn’t a taboo decision. We aren’t out here making poor choices. If you’re still arguing that addicts are shitty people making bad decisions, read a book. Living on the road in the land of rock and roll lends itself nicely to drinking yourself to sleep and blowing smoke down the highway. Musicians have been associated with celebration and debauchery since Dionysus. Don’t worry, I’m not about to advocate that drugs and alcohol be eliminated from the music scene, that would be a nightmare. We need to party. It’s healthy. The point I’m hoping to drive home is that while some of us may have healthy relationships with drugs and alcohol (yes, I believe it’s possible), others (myself included), are pre-disposed to developing substance use disorders. I like to think of this as, party diversity.
I struggled for many years comparing my experiences to the experiences of others. “If they can do it, I can do it.” I was afraid to listen to my own body. I took comfort in the comparison. The culture that I was engrossed with encouraged me to push my body to stay awake, keep dancing, party on, and repeat. I’m not designed for it. I was forcing myself to live an extroverted life in an extrovert world, with an introverted soul. I need to be alone completely in order to re-charge. It was difficult for me to be honest with myself because the compulsion to fit in to that festive family of fun overhauled my ability to rationalize what my body/mind needed. After a while, I began using drugs and alcohol as a mechanism for shutting myself off. What had started as a means of joining in became a method of checking-out.
Checking-out wasn’t fun. It was painful. It may have looked like fun from the outside in, but let me assure you, from the inside out, it was hell. I lost touch with what mattered to me on a soul level and functioned robotically through each day pouring fluids and nutrients in each morning and hoping to feel neutral by noon. I battled myself daily; methodically schlepping off to the next campsite, venue, adventure, or party. It looked like I was having a great time through the lens of my Instagram, but the lens of my heart doesn’t lie, I was suffering.
I’ve spent a few years dancing this dangerous jig with myself. My habit of checking-out started to carry into the parts of my life that weren’t allocated for partying. Manic depression and suicidal ideation became chapters in my story. Death was becoming a friendly character that I felt myself getting closer to. I continued to feed into the lie that I could carry on functioning this way.
Reality came knocking when my ability to maintain my responsibilities as a student and caregiver were slipping away. It’s interesting that my internal cries for help were never loud enough to catch my own attention. It wasn’t until my addictive behaviors interfered in my external affairs that I was able to listen. My recovery began when my external world began to match my internal struggle. The antidote was to change or die this way.
The story of the 27 club is the greatest myth of rock-and-roll. It’s a Hollywood tale that glorifies pre-mature death. It’s mental pollution for musicians. Dying young is devastating. Overdosing is heart wrenchingly tragic. As my 27th birthday approaches, I am reminded how I’ve envisioned my own death. I was buying into the stigma that was holding me back from actualizing my own potential as an artist, student, daughter, lover, and friend.
When I began tending to my way of being with my addictions, I started living again. I began reconnecting with my body, nourishing my spirit, and decluttering my mind. Addiction isn’t a cool sidecar to being a musician, it’s a curse. Half of the musicians contributing to my upcoming album Reckless Duality are 27-years-old. We have dreams to chase and songs to write. Death isn’t hip.
Party diversity is real. Some folks have healthy relationships with drugs and alcohol. It’s important to recognize and honor that. I spent far too much time comparing, wishing, and pretending that I could party without self-destructing. I cannot. It took years of declining mental and physical health for me to be honest with myself about this disease. I hope that my story inspires others to consider their viewpoints, stigmas, and relationships with mental health and addiction. In the words of the late great Janis Joplin, “Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.”
Love Always Never;