Guest Column: Recovery Sucks

“Every junkie’s like the setting sun”

– Neil Young

“Neil Young and The Damage Done, he got it wrong / never been a junkie like the setting sun, so reliable and strong “

– Jon Dee Graham

Recovery sucks. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

This piece is not going to be a succession of elaborate and gruesome tales of misadventure glorifying the halcyon days of my drinking and drugging, nor is it going to be about the friends I’ve buried, some of whom are still living. This is not because I’m some kind of Mother Theresa of the 12 steps, completely devoid of ego and self-centeredness, but more because the ultimate truth of addiction is this: Once you’ve heard one addict’s story, you’ve pretty much heard them all. However, if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and seeking help, I can provide information on the best rehab in UK.

They’re not that compelling on an individual basis. Awwww, did you drink so much Spicy Grownup Juice that your life became unmanageable? Grow up and get Private Rehab if you want to overcome addiction.

The thing about recovery is, you have to spend so much time staring into the abyss of the self, your motives, your trauma, and the baffling decisions you made in active addiction that the abyss ends up staring back at you. Which, as it turns out, is just a reflection so unique and fascinating that you decide you immediately need to tell everyone about it, all the time. So, like some junkie Narcissus, you see out the rest of your days staring into the muddy pool and combing your hair like a baboon until you take that one final plunge. In the words of Joni Mitchell, ‘I’ll be at the bar”. Returning to my earlier point, I personally believe that the truly compelling thing about addiction it that it’s both specific yet universal. Just like the best songs. This is why “Pancho and Lefty” is a great song while “Imagine” is one of the worst songs ever written. We all know someone who’s an addict. None of us will be spared. So I don’t have to spell it out for any of y’all: addiction sucks. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

My first night in detox, I cried until I passed out. When I woke up, and they took one look at me and immediately put me on a suboxone and valium taper. That stopped the crying, and I spent the next few days in a blissful haze until I woke up in the facility, at which point they cut off my drug supply, and I felt like boiled shit all over again. If it hadn’t been for the friends in there and a few dedicated therapists, I don’t know if I wouldn’t have made it through the full 30 days. Most of those friends are now dead. Rehab sucks. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

As terrible as rehab is, most of us miss it when we leave. The structure, the camaraderie, the hope… even the shared misery. Apart from shared misery, these are all things that are sorely lacking from our lives in active addiction. I work in a rehab for adolescent boys ,and I tell them this constantly. Most of them don’t believe it when I tell them. But most of them find out later that it’s true. Rehab sucks. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. But sometimes what follows is worse.

I may have made something of a tactical error when I immediately left for tour four days after completing my stay at the residential treatment center. I may have made a tactical error driving to Canada to make a record during the polar vortex. Or maybe it was because I refused to work any kind of program and thought I could go it alone. I don’t think so, but some might view it differently, allowing that within six months I was using drugs again. A little over a year later, I decided to go cold turkey on an Australian tour, which was as gruesome as you imagine.

Again—tactical error? Yeah, probably. But not long after I returned from that dingo-haunted, upside-down world, and after a few stays at the booby hatch, I finally got sober. I hope that this time it’s for good. And at the risk of sounding like a cliché (which all addicts in a sense are anyway), my life has gotten immeasurably better—although how can you measure “better” in the first place? You can’t. That’s why I said it. But I did sign my first record deal, got to work with one of my personal heroes on a record, landed a dream job working with adolescent boys at a treatment center, and fell in love with someone in a way I didn’t think was even possible. So maybe you can define “better” after all.

I’m writing this sitting in my bed on a laptop. That might sound boring to you. And you might be right. But when I’m waiting on line at the Kroger and it’s 10 deep with crying babies and people inexplicably purchasing 73 items at the self-checkout, or when the check engine light comes on in my car, or when my ex-wife tried to take custody of our daughter for no reason other than a deep and abiding resentment that I had no control over, I just think to myself: This is what you asked for. This is a normal life.

Photo courtesy of William Payne Harrison

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