I had a great last minute opportunity to play on the radio last night. I got to the station and met a guy who happened to be raising money for an SLE (sober living environment) in town. I happened to mention that many of my songs are written about addiction and recovery, Naturally, on air, that's exactly what came up. I was asked a question "Was music something that helped you through some of those hard times or was it something you always had..." I began to respond "I was trying to play music while I was having hard times..." and I was interrupted by the radio host, who asked me exactly what "hard times" meant. Flustered for a moment, live on air with thousands of listeners, and being live-streamed on fb to a thousand more.... OK, I thought to myself... I am going to go there...
"I struggled with addiction of my own".
Anyone who listens to the lyrics of my songs may have caught on to this. The song "Hello Baby" is written from the perspective of the bottle, calling to the despondent alcoholic who spends day after day repeating the cycle, only to be interrupted briefly by hope. The lyrics in the bridge there are :
"Hello baby it's you and me, again, alone again (the bottle's perspective)
Except for that one damn bird (hope)
sits in your window and sings to you all night
as soon as you close your eyes
an untimely reminder of a pending sunrise
another "maybe today" (what I used to say to myself every day before I got sober) is gone, really is your life disposable son...."
And the lyrics to "Just Like Me" which is about early recovery and it's many confusing faces..
"the sun felt bright against my skin, until it burned...
I looked up, and there you were, just like me... who can stop once they've started...I can't stop once I've started"
So, yes, it's there in plain sight. And I have once or twice mentioned during a singer-songwriter set when I sing "It Ain't Easy" (not a band song) that I am an addict. So, some people might wonder what the big deal is and why it mattered.
Well, people don't always listen to the lyrics. People don't listen, don't pay attention, and see what they want to see. If being an addict is a bad thing, I can just hide myself by not directly talking about it. But not now. It's part of my story.
All my life I have suffered from the affliction of addiction, which I managed to "manage" most of my life. I didn't lose everything. I came close to losing my marriage, and I'd say my reputation was at stake. But I didn't quite relate to the patients I managed in the ER who were literally fighting to stay alive, or warm, or who had lost everyone. I didn't ever see my photo on a mugshot. I managed never to end up in trouble with work. My children didn't know. Most of my family and friend's weren't aware either.
What I did lose wasn't visible or measurable. My career singing classical music. My college graduation from UConn. Relationships, respect, self-reliance, confidence.... my personal best. I really had a hard time accepting I was an addict, because I wasn't living on a park bench. Still, and thankfully, I eventually made my way to an outpatient program. I learned "everyone's bottom is different." I decided that I'd reached my bottom and began the process of moving on up. And it was in those months following that outpatient program that I began to write most of my music. And played my first open mic. And made some real progress musically speaking. And it was through music that I processed, and became self-aware, and willing.
So, it matters, and it doesn't. It shouldn't matter, unless you needed to hear about it from me. It doesn't change anything, unless you are the person who is listening to the song and hears the lyrics because you needed to. It doesn't make any difference at all, unless you needed to know that your bottom doesn't need to be a park bench, or that someone else just like you wasn't too afraid to say it.
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