Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Pondering Sobriety


The following was a post I made on Facebook to "celebrate" one year of sobriety. It is a hollow celebration, for sure, but this statement won't matter at all to anybody except for any person that could need to see it.

It is no secret that music and substance abuse go hand-in-hand; drug use and alcoholism is glorified in our general perception of musicians, and this archetype filters down through every level of player. The conflation of work with hobby makes for ambiguous modalities where you spend a lot of time “at work” in pubs, clubs, or rehearsal rooms, outflanked by people who are able to drink or use drugs.

It is also well-understood that mental illness is over-represented in creative industries, which offer a different path for people who struggle with a “normal” job. “They’re amazing, but you couldn’t imagine them working in a bank,” is a statement I’ve heard levied at a significant number of the most talented people I’ve worked with – and it certainly matches my experience prior to committing to music work full-time.

The conflation of those two negative elements is equally well-codified within our perception of musicians: “the 27 club,” genre-defining musicians who were killed by substance abuse far too soon, and then celebrated for doing so, musicians crushed underfoot by the pressures of their vulnerability, choosing to take their own life, and so on. These are not mutually exclusive, and one element certainly portends to the others - and this horrid list is hardly even exhaustive.

There are people for whom the above will never be an issue, and then there are people for whom the above will only ever be an issue. It is easy to be in the latter group, hoping to assume the strength of the former – but it is easier to reject the game outright. I’m not particularly happy to celebrate one year of sobriety today, but I would rather publicly stand for that in the hopes that some other person at some time would maybe see it and perhaps be empowered to choose life, than, in my silence, allow this already disparate group of survivors, to which I belong, live in that pressured solitude, which crushes underfoot so quickly and easily.

Philip K. Dick ends “A Scanner Darkly” with a sombre eulogy for “some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did.” The dead should, if possible, be used to serve the purposes of the living, and so for me (and for nobody else, as it is my personal choice relating only to myself, with no judgement upon the way anyone else lives, or chooses to live), with a heart full of dead friends and heroes, it seems better to steer clear outright. When the consequences for losing are so severe, it is better to win; it is easy to win, and anybody can win.

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