“It’s all for you I do this. It’s how you want me, trust me. It’s all waiting inside: love, compassion, a deeper understanding of self and a shift from the animal brain to a compassionate mind; accepting love and owning your actions. It’s all there in that bottle too: freedom, no pain, a voice to be heard, a confidence so desperately needed. But ya know it’s all for you I do this; it’s YOUR LOVE I serve. I serve no bottle, no excuses, and by giving myself over to love, I have found no greater purpose. That day I decided to paint the canvas a different color, and just like that, it was totally different; it was like I woke from a bad dream.” – Chris Unck, High Lonesome Recording
By Lisa Morgan
Thursday, July 16th, a benefit concert will be held for a nonprofit organization that for all intents and purposes, saved this writer’s life. I can tell you from firsthand experience how vital this little home for women in Desert Hot Springs was for me, as it has been for thousands of women like myself who found themselves at the crossroads of life and death.
I was bankrupt of hope and overdrawn on self loathing. I looked in the mirror and saw nothing but my family’s disappointment and a lifetime of failure. I had made the decision not to drink again, “ever,” many times, only to find myself even more dependent on alcohol to get through the day. I had some legitimately tough issues that some have told me would make them want to drink. I’d had those all my life. But when I began ‘self-medicating’ or hiding from them with alcohol, the stuff grew claws that dug deep into my spirit and psyche. Maybe it was genetic, but whatever the reason, it grabbed a hold of me differently than it did all my drinking buddies.
I’d prayed so many times for God to just let me die in my sleep. “Please don’t let me wake up,” I’d beg. My life (finances, family, relationships) had already pretty much flat lined, so one day, I made the conscious decision to drink until I didn’t wake up. Ironically, I failed at that too. The alcohol I attempted to drown myself in would not stay down no matter how hard I tried and the symptoms of a very rough detox began to take over. Complicated by a bleeding ulcer that worked like sandpaper on my throat and esophagus every time anything I tried to keep down came back up, I ended up in Eisenhower’s ER. They manually stopped my heart three times to keep me from going into VFib. Each time they injected a serum that would shut down my heart (much like the restart button on a computer) I could feel the very essence of life leaving my body. Talk about a wakeup call. It was as if the God I had been begging to take my life finally woke up, took me by the shirt collar and hung me over a cliff and said, ‘Here you go. Is this what you want? We can do this right now. I’ve got people over here begging to live and here you are begging to die. Just say the word and I can answer your prayer.’ Three times this happened and each time I begged God not to let go, not yet, not like this. I am forever grateful for the tough love I found in that moment.
As I recovered, though I had finally realized I didn’t want to die, I sure as hell did not know the first thing about how to live. I’d tried everything I knew how to make life work and failed. I knew I had to find a better way, or I’d be right back at the bottom I had barely survived. With no insurance or money (a place most alcoholics and addicts find themselves when they hit bottom), I was a bit lost. I’d never known anyone in recovery, so I had no map to follow. As I began the scary walk into my first weeks of AA meetings, a dear friend (Pam Field) involved with Soroptimist International of the Americas let me know about House of Hope. I was able to get a place in the program, and for the next 45 days, I was equipped with tools I’d been living without. It was like I’d been fishing my whole life without a tackle box. I am walking towards my fifth year sober, and my life has become a living, breathing miracle, at least to me. The fact that I can string two words together or sing a note is a miracle in itself after what I put myself through, but no greater than going to bed each night, looking forward to what the next day will bring. I would not have dared to dream the life I live now, and cannot even begin to express my gratitude fully, but I’ll die trying – just not anytime soon, thank you very much.
I tend to believe that alcohol handles women a bit differently, and that this women centered, intimate recovery home is a necessary and important part of our community. The tools House of Hope and AA have given me, the love of some of the most amazing people, along with the inspiration Travis Meadows bled into the musical journal of his own recovery (his album, Killing Uncle Buzzy,) have all been food for my recovering soul, helping me to not only survive, but to thrive. My greatest hope is that others who are ready and willing will find what I have found. My greatest honor would be to have a hand in helping them find it.
HOUSE OF HOPE: Soroptimist House of Hope (SHOH) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1981 to provide recovery programs to women with substance abuse disorders. The women they serve are in need of housing and support to establish clean and sober lifestyles, to re-establish their lives, and become productive members of society. They provide residential substance abuse recovery programs for women at their Desert Hot Springs, California recovery facility and at their Banning, California transitional living home. Since 1981, SHOH has helped thousands of women through a comprehensive and effective social model program offering housing, companionship and guidance, therapeutic activities, and a structured daily routine that enables them to establish and maintain sober and healthy lives. www.recoveryhouseofhope.org/about-us
House of Hope Benefit Concert featuring Travis Meadows and Jann Browne:
When: Thursday, July 16th
Doors Open 7pm
Cost: Suggested minimum donation $10.
No one will be turned away for lack of funds.
Travis Meadows: I was introduced to Meadows by a mutual friend when I was 7 months sober. Putting his CD Killing Uncle Buzzy into my truck stereo was like church for me. Woven into his songs were all my struggles and pain with a hope chaser. The man bled his own soul as he himself went through recovery, and it’s all on this album. Now, Rolling Stone calls him “Nashville’s most badass songwriter.” Travis Meadows calls himself, “an orphan who turned into a preacher, a preacher who turned into a songwriter, a songwriter that turned into a drunk, a drunk that is learning to be a human being.” They are both right, and as far as humans go, Meadows may be one of the most inspiring of the race. Writer on songs recorded by Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, Jake Owen, Hank Williams Jr., Wynonna, Blackberry Smoke, Lynyrd Skynyrd and more, Meadows has left an indelible mark on anyone who has attended his shows. On this very special Thursday, he will be sharing songs and stories in the way only he can. travismeadows.com/about
Jann Browne: The stage will also be graced by Grammy winning singer songwriter, Jann Browne and her husband, Matthew Barnes. CCMA award winning Jann Browne has recorded/performed with Emmy Lou Harris, Asleep at the Wheel and opened for the likes of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. Her energetic performances are an absolute treat. jannbrowne.com
Local Bands: One of my favorite local country artists, Wade Crawford, will be making a rare appearance. My band, Lisa Lynn and the Country Gentlemen will be contributing as well, all to benefit Soroptimist House of Hope in Desert Hot Springs.
This event will be as much a celebration of lives redeemed, as it will be a place to get answers, not only for those struggling from alcohol, but those loved ones and family members who bear scars from the shrapnel loving an alcoholic or addict comes with.
FAMOUS FACES OF RECOVERY:
As my life blossomed into the miracle it has become and continues to become, I’ve had amazing opportunities to talk one on one with legendary artists. At first I was ashamed to be known or identified as an alcoholic and treasured (and even hid behind) the world “anonymity.” When I found myself talking to well-known artist whose struggle with addiction was very public, and I asked them questions as one alcoholic to another explaining my early time in the program, suddenly I found myself embraced by big brothers. As I was strengthened and encouraged by their openness with me, it allowed me to be more open.
Gregg Allman: “You’re two years sober? Well congratulations! That is a big deal. Good for you! I’m 19 years clean and sober and have a brand new 29 year old liver! I feel like a million bucks most of the time. Before I cleaned up, I didn’t know how to stop. Nobody does. All’s I know, is when I’d stop, hours later, my body would be just crying for it. It would overtake me, and I’d go to the bar. I did most of my drinking at home. I didn’t like to be seen and all that shit. It finally came to me in 1996. I got a letter saying ‘You’ve been voted to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.’ I thought, ‘Oh my God, I cannot go up there and look like I so much as thought about having a drink!’ Well that was impossible. So that day, I measured the exact amount; I sat down and figured it out – just how much I could drink per hour, so I wouldn’t have the shakes but wouldn’t be all gaga.” He started laughing and apologized. “I realize I can’t say that ‘cause there’s a ‘Lady Gaga’, so to be politically perfect, I’ll say I didn’t want to get screwed up! I was staying at the Waldorf Astoria, of course. I went down stairs to get some Marlboros and, of course, I saw everybody there. Band members I hadn’t seen in years! All sitting at the bar, sayin’, ‘Come on Gregg, let us buy ya one.’ That was a mistake. Long story short, I get to the ceremony, and I could barely stand up. I was kind of rockin’ back and forth. Willie Nelson who was presenting it to us asked me, ‘Gregory, are you all right boy?’ I said, ‘No sir, I am NOT alright.’ He said, ‘Well, you want to sit down?’ And I said, ‘Will, there ain’t no chairs up here.’ We went on through with it. I meant to say something about everybody who had a hand in getting me there, and I walked up there and said ‘This is for my brother,’ and walked off,” he said reflecting the deep disappointment he bore at the memory. With ice in his voice he continued, “Some kind soul shoved that video in my face the next morning while I was all hung over! That did it. That DID IT! I said to myself, ‘This has gone too far! I’m not going to live like this!’’
“I went home to California, ordered a private male nurse to my house. It was the only time out of 14 rehabs that I didn’t have that tiny voice way in the back of my head saying, ‘Yeah, man, we’re gonna do this dance for ‘em, and go through all this crap like everybody wants you to. We’ll clear on down the road. We’ll be alright then; we’ll have a couple of cold beers and watch the game.’ It doesn’t work like that. This time the voice wasn’t there. And that’s about the only thing comforting about the whole thing. That voice was not there. The next two weeks, I quit cocaine, alcohol, cigarettes and all of it. Today I can barely remember it. I remember I hurt like hell all the time, and that there was an earth quake. It was so bad, I guess my mind just wiped it out.”
“I don’t go to meetings,” he added. “Meetings work for most people. They bothered me. I went to my buddy, Waylon Jennings, and I said, ‘Man, what do you do when you go to the damn meeting and they ask you for an autograph! Anonymous, my ass!’ Waylon said, ‘Man, I don’t go to meetings. Me and Mr. Johnny Cash sit down at the kitchen table over a coffee pot and we yap about things once a week. That’s our meeting.’”
Ray Wylie Hubbard: “Well congratulations on your three years darlin! Give me a call Saturday before the show and we’ll get together and have us a meeting together. When I first got sober, Stevie Ray Vaughn and another friend of ours named BC came and talked to me. My dad had just died and it hit me pretty hard – I was an orphan, even though I was 38 or 39 years old. In the grieving process, I used up all my beer coupons, drug coupons and my whiskey coupons…I used ‘em ALL up. Stevie Ray was very instrumental at that time. He took the time to come and talk to me – to share his experience, his strength and his hope. He had 14 months sober at the time, and he was the first guy I’d seen sober up who still had an edge. He still had that fire in him, and he was just very inspirational. It was good to know I could get sober and not turn into a square. Stevie preferred the term ‘spiritual awakening’ to ‘religious conversion’, and that made a lot of sense to me. Because of him, I got into the program – there weren’t any elevators there, so I had to take ‘the steps.’ That’s how it started. Today, I still take it one day at a time, and try to give each day the respect that it deserves and just doing the next, right thing. These days are precious.”
Duff McKagan (Guns and Roses): “That’s great. How long have you been sober? One and half years? That is something to be proud of! And I promise you, it keeps getting better.” Then we talked off the record for a bit, and today, because I’m sober, I remember my promises so that I can keep them.
LOCAL FACES OF RECOVERY:
“My drinking was a real problem because I basically never stopped. I was constantly drinking. I mean, you can never have a hangover if you never stop, right? It got to the point where everything in my life was failing, and I was making poor decisions. It was time to quit.
I was doing a gig, and one of my band mate’s brothers who had gone sober was there. We started talking, and I asked him a bunch of questions about sobriety and how he managed to overcome his addiction. He just advised me to wake up and tell myself, ‘You’re not going to drink today.’ So the next day, when I got up, I went to work at the [Desert] Fox to tend bar. My regulars were asking me, ‘Jimmy, you’re not drinking! What’s going on?’ I said, ‘I’m quitting.’ They all laughed and someone replied, ‘That’ll last for about 15 days!’ That was over three years ago.
It hasn’t been easy, but it was the best decision I have ever made. Sure, there have been some rough times – like re-learning to play drums sober. But all in all, it has been a great life choice that has worked well for me. I am in a beautiful sober relationship now with a wonderful woman. I am playing in a great band. I have done a lot of things in my life. I have to say this was the only thing I had never done before, and it has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever accomplished. I’m proud of myself for doing it, and only wish I had done it years ago.”
“Up until a year and a half ago I was a full blown alcoholic. I had a long career of drinking to get wasted every day from age 19 to 36 – 17 years in total. I use to think I had it under control. I tried to make a conscious effort every day, saying, ‘Today I won’t have a drink,’ but I would end up cracking a beer or two before work. After work, I would drink until I was down for the count. The last year or two of my drinking, it was getting harder to control; blackouts where a weekly thing at this point – not just once a month, or at a fun event. I knew I needed to make a change for a long time, I just never felt strong enough, because the booze had taken too tight of a hold of me. My attempts at quitting were weak.
It wasn’t until I had a black out on October 9, 2014, one Thursday after work. I blacked out after work because I drank a whole bottle of Jägermeister with-in about an hour. This led to the worst day/night of my life. I was in a bad mood and drank myself stupid that evening, I don’t remember anything except a glimpse of myself fighting with my wife. The next morning I woke up, I had no hangover, and I had this feeling that something went horribly wrong that evening. I had glimpses to work with, trying to figure out what happened. My wife filled in the missing parts and I broke down. I didn’t trust myself or my actions when I was drinking; I had lost all control. I had never been an angry drunk; I was always a happy, positive drunk. This was no longer the case. My health was shot, my urine was bloody, my eyes were yellow, my skin didn’t look right, I smelled, and I could have done something that I would have regretted for my whole life, and I probably wouldn’t have remembered it. That morning, on October 10th, I knew this was it. I had to stop drinking, for my health, my sanity, and my marriage. I told myself this was it, I can’t drink anymore. I stopped cold turkey, as they say.
I didn’t feel the need for meetings or rehab. The first couple of weeks were tough. I just took it one day at a time. Not drinking got easier and easier every day. I had to come to terms with the idea of never having another drink, and that sounded scary for so many years. Quitting drinking was the best thing I have ever done. My health improved, my mind sharpened, I had more money and time. My marriage got better, and I started doing the things I love, better and more frequently.
I have been drink free now for a little over a year and a half. I don’t feel that I am cured, I just don’t drink anymore; I can’t. This disease is something that is different for everyone who drinks. I wish I could go to a nice dinner and have one glass of wine, or go watch a punk rock band with some friends and have a few beers, but it doesn’t work that way for me. It took a lot of good times, bad times, blackouts, money, and relationships to realize that myself and booze don’t mix. For anyone experiencing a lack of control when it comes to drinking, take note. Alcoholism is a strong disease, but just know that you can be much stronger.”
See Rockwell perform with Sunday Funeral and The Sweat Act , June 25, at the Hood Bar and Pizza. Check out the Hellions album, Hymns from the Other Side, on Spotify or iTunes.
“I had a few incidents with alcohol at an early age. The first time I drank, I was about to begin 9th grade, and I drank until I blacked out. That was an early sign that I wasn’t really equipped with an ‘off switch.’ I definitely drank on the weekends all throughout high school. I never gave it a thought. I thought that my drinking habits were on par with all of my friends. I was 19 years old when my mother told me that a very good friend of mine, who obviously cared about me, had a talk with her about my drinking and told her that he thought I drank too much. This has stayed with me all of my life.
My drinking ebbed and flowed for many years. Any time I thought I was indulging too much, I’d rein it in. It wasn’t until I was 40 that someone finally called me on it. My husband-to-be suggested that I stop for the sake of our future together. After my initial denial of my problem, I started a 12 step program to prove to him that I could stop at any time…but I didn’t do it for myself. I stayed sober for a period of time, but I wasn’t happy. I was simply a ‘dry drunk.’ It was after leaving San Francisco and moving to the desert that I began to drink again. At first, only occasionally in social situations, but soon, depression took over with the change in my life, and I started drinking more and more to deal with it. It progressed to the point that if I wasn’t at work, I was drinking… and alone most of the time. I was hiding it from my husband and kids, although not very well. I made many bad decisions behind drinking and was becoming increasingly unhappy with myself and what I was becoming. I knew that I was out of control, and was putting more thought into getting help, but always over a drink.
There was one particular day where I lost track of my schedule and I hadn’t hid the evidence of the days drinking before my husband came home. All it took was the look of sadness and disappointment on my husband’s face to tell me that this was it. I knew it was time to either stop, or continue on my path and lose everything that I love. I started a 12 step program the next day and I have been sober ever since – over 2 ½ years now.
I spent a lot of time during my first year and a half of sobriety staying closely connected to the people in my 12 step program. They really helped to hold me accountable for my actions, and were there to listen if I ever felt like I was struggling with the thought of that first drink. A lot of the principals I learned for sobriety also apply to everyday life. I stay sober by applying these principals to life every single day. I love the life that I have now, and the thought of losing that helps to keep me focused. The craving for alcohol is long past, but I know that it will always be sitting on my shoulder, just waiting. I will never be cured, but knowing that keeps me vigilant in my work to maintain sobriety.
For anyone who can relate to my story, I would just encourage you to reach out and ask for help. There are local groups that are full of people who care and have been through exactly what you’re going through. Believe it or not, there are others that understand and know how to help. It may seem like a daunting task, but I promise that there is a lot of happiness on the other side.”
“The first Martini I ever tasted was from my mother’s womb. Made sense though. Hers was a generation that celebrated hard work with hard liquor. My grandfathers had fewer choices though. It was either a boilermaker, or whiskey straight up. No matter what, it drove them into the grave ultimately too soon. So I grew up with the stigma that drinking was bad. But at the same time, everything pointed to drinking being good. The ads on TV and in the magazines, the signs along the highways. I knew what drinking had done to my grandfathers, but couldn’t stop from trying that first beer (5 actually) with my buddies who arranged to buy me a six pack of the ‘champagne of beers’. That was at 16. And then came college. Drink as much as you want, in fact, a bit more than that. I even played three seasons of Big Ten rugby, because I loved the party and the drinking afterwards so much. It was worth all the work in getting in shape to play, and getting beat up in all those games, to drink like a fish afterwards and make a fool of myself.
The working world after college brought responsible drinking to the forefront. I had to make the money to drink it. So I became a salesman who sold pianos by day and would perform at night in bars and country clubs. There, drinking became a reward for good work. And I was good at work, and loved to play.
Drinking became ritualized. Drink before the gig to loosen up. Then one during the gig to keep the vocal cords stretched. I would have a ‘shifter’ after I was done playing. And then usually I would have a beer or two at the bar with the patrons. Then there was the chance I might go out and have a couple more. By the time I got home, I was always in the mood to finish off that half a bottle of wine I left from before the gig.
This went on for many years. It cost me some of my best playing gigs. Not that I got too sloppy or passed out, but I thought that I was entitled to free booze. I always wanted more. I gained a lot of weight, and saw two marriages go down the drain. As the second marriage ended, I had hit the end. Failing as a real estate agent, and making poor choices as a husband, I contemplated suicide, much as my grandfather had. And it was at that point that I realized I could stop. I could break the chain. I remembered back to years before, when an old-timer told me that I could quit anything if I could just ‘beat the threes’. He explained to me that when you are addicted to something, you tend to start back up again either 3 seconds, three minutes, three hours, three days, three weeks, three months, or three years. If you could overcome those anniversaries and reward yourself handsomely, you could quit anything for the rest of your life.
I decided to shut people up. I made it 3 seconds, then I made it 3 days. Things got worse at home, but sobriety got me through the toughest times. I rationalized that we each have our own God inside us, as individual as snowflakes. I started praying to mine. You forget the value of Prayer…the value of being able to touch the Creator – the spark. It’s in each of us. I personally think that it is in our genetic makeup, our DNA, and that it allows us to touch the original creator. It helps us find the flow in the river of life; helping to avoid its rocks, and find it’s eddies to regroup and relax.
I pray that everybody finds their spark and touches the source of our existence… the reason for our being. I’ve been sober over 11 years now, and I still play where I work, and work where I play. And I pray every day. It’s through sober eyes that I appreciate every little thing so much more. I’m indeed blessed.”
“My dad passed away when I was 5, and the sadness and loneliness felt as a child turned into anger and confusion when I was an early teen. But I was inherently a good kid. I loved and respected and listened to my mom. I didn’t drink. I didn’t do drugs. I’d practice the drums and hit them as hard as I could for hours upon hours. That was my therapy, my escape, my vice. When I’d go to parties and see kids that I knew from school, acting stupid because they had a beer or wine cooler and a cigarette in their hands, I couldn’t stand it. Fortunately that impression kept me sober through my teens and provided a strong platform that I’d need to fall back on later in life.
I strayed a bit over the next few years, but even by my mid-20’s I’d only drank a handful of times. Then changes in my personal life, employment and social environment led me to abandon my old principles, namely my aversion to alcohol, and over time, drinking became, for me, an acceptable lifestyle. I was now the guy always wanting and willing to buy the first round to get the party started, or the last round to try to keep it going. Certainly there were fun nights, but then there were awful nights, stupid nights, shameful nights, and apologetic next mornings. I lived on that stupid roller coaster for more than a decade, bargaining, cutting back and half-ass quitting several times along the way.
I had my 2nd son, October 10, 2010. I was 37. I remember coming home buzzed after a band practice one night when he was only a couple weeks old, and holding him and playing with him and it just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel right that I was buzzed and trying to cultivate a relationship with my tiny baby boy…I was never drunk like that around my older son who was now eight. I was older, but less mature. Shortly thereafter, at my anniversary dinner with my wife, after already drinking a couple glasses, I wanted to order a bottle of wine. We were there to celebrate our love and marriage, and all I craved was more wine. I knew there was never going to be enough wine.
The next day I called on an old friend to meet me for lunch. I told him that I didn’t know where I was going with this, but I needed to stop drinking for a while and figure it all out, and I needed to be accountable to someone. I haven’t had a drink in my hand since I was given a small flute of champagne at a New Year’s Eve party for a toast at midnight. I knew that if I drank those couple of ounces of champagne, I would not only undo the great feelings I had surrounding me then, with almost two months of sobriety, but that afterward, I’d be in the kitchen with a bottle to my lips, chugging away, justifying it, and shaming myself for it the next day, perhaps trying to quit again…’someday.’
I have not had a drink since Nov. 3rd, 2010. My kids know who their father is, all day, every day. My wife can trust me when I’m half way around the world. I know without a doubt that my drinking days are behind me forever. I have absolutely no desire to drink. I love myself and I value immensely the fact that I live each and every day, good or bad, with a clear sober mind and heart, and that every feeling and emotion that I have and openly share with my loved ones is all my own, and not influenced or enhanced by what’s in my bloodstream.
My advice for anyone struggling with addiction, or anyone who feels like you have a problem, or who just feels sick and tired, out of control and ready to make a change for the better in your life: You have to realize that you do have the power, right now, to give yourself and your loved ones an awesome, precious gift – the real you. Put down and let go of that which controls you, even if at first, it’s only for a day, or a week, or a month. Do it long enough to generate more true self love, long enough to grant yourself forgiveness, long enough to heal some of the pain and alleviate the shame you more than likely feel surrounding all of it. It will give you pride, strength and most importantly, self-worth. And it will all grow over time. You are a precious soul and you deserve it. Soon, treating yourself and the people around you the way you used to will be unacceptable and beneath you. Lastly, know that there are people in your life and in your community wanting and waiting to help you succeed, today. Find them. Rely on them. Cling to them.”