I have almost started writing this so many times recently. Every time I haven’t gotten very far. One, I can’t shake the feeling that my story isn’t serious or important enough — I was never a hard drug user, I didn’t go to jail, I never almost died, etc. Two, I suspect that it’ll be hard to stay anonymous to at least a few people who happen to read to the end. If that’s the case, maybe it’s okay. I guess we’ll see.
Music has always been a lifeline for me. In a childhood/teen period full of ongoing “little-t” trauma and a good few “Big-T” Traumatic events, music and art became the only thing to turn to when I couldn’t trust anything around me. I always had something plugged into my ears, and after a particularly traumatic and life-altering situation as a young teen, Coheed & Cambria became THE THING. The music and story (or as much as we had of it in 2005) had a power nothing else did/ It was able to occupy my brain in a way that was somehow louder than how badly I wanted to not be alive anymore. I was OBSESSED, in a way that wasn’t so destructive, but helped me learn how to actually like things again. I dove into it desperately, like someone clinging to a lifesaver in deep water.
Even though music was the only place I felt at home, I was also always “different” or “weird” and struggled with the fear of rejection or humiliation. By the time I got to the age where I was able to drive and go out more, I had intense social anxiety and felt like I didn’t fit in during “real life” social settings like shows or parties. Somehow that didn’t stop me, and I got my butt to as many live shows as I could, even though I could taste panic in the back of my throat at all times.
Anyone who goes to shows or frequents the music scene will be exposed to alcohol use as somewhat of a cool rock n’ roll thing, or at least something that’s normal and accepted. I also come from a long line of problem drinkers on both sides of my family, so at the time I understood alcohol as something adults used to deal with bad feelings or blow off stress. By age 17, I had started drinking socially (in small amounts) to make me feel more “normal” in groups of people.
A couple years later, my love/fixation for Coheed had continued to grow immensely, to the point where I had developed extremely wonderful online friendships based on mutual love of this band. I had also, surprisingly, found myself with a strong, but entirely unintentional, presence in the online forum and social media spaces dedicated to Coheed. This was mainly underpinned by my nearly identic recall of obscure Coheed facts, as well as the fact that I was way cooler in writing than I was in person.
When I started traveling to see Coheed shows with my internet pals, inevitably I’d get approached by friendly strangers at concerts saying, “Hey, you’re [my internet handle], wow, I’m [their internet handle] on [fan site], nice to meet you!” Instant panic, every time, but I was still determined not to let it stop me, and I kept on traveling and rocking out and making friends until the Coheed universe and community had consumed my entire life. And in almost every social situation, I would drink – just a little – to feel normal in hopes of fitting in.
[Many years and travels later…]
In 2017, my parents began a lengthy, ugly, and very painful divorce. In the process, my entire childhood and everything bad that our family ever experienced was dragged to the surface and dissected in great detail. Things that were half a lifetime away and all but forgotten were suddenly as if they had happened yesterday, including the traumatic situation that had begun my deep dive into the Coheed realm. And in an instant, it wasn’t the same anymore. All of the trauma of both that specific time and of my childhood had never been healed or addressed. Everything good that had come afterwards, every friendship, memory, and experience in the Coheed community, suddenly felt extremely re-traumatizing as they sat upon a foundation of pain and desperate escapism.
That absolutely broke me. I felt like I had lost my chosen family and my metaphorical home, in addition to the destruction of my parents’ marriage and the loss of my actual childhood home. I plunged into a deep depression where everything was a shitty sludge of numbness, sadness, anger, and resentment. I didn’t know what to do or where to go from there. So… I drank.
I have never once in my life had a normal relationship with alcohol. My earliest experiences with alcohol revolved around one or both of my parents acting a little mean or stupid when they had a “few” drinks after work. My first experiences with actually using alcohol were an attempt to cope with fear and social anxiety. So, feeling adrift and untethered and deeply depressed, I drank to cope because it was the only thing I could come up with.
First, it was drinking on Saturday and maybe Friday. Then, it was drinking A LOT on Friday and Saturday, and a few drinks on the weekdays too. By 2019, it had escalated to the point where I was drinking heavily almost every day and blacking out at least once a week. My capacity for consuming alcohol became absolutely shocking. I was disgusted with myself, hated my job, and lost the ability to enjoy literally anything. I was a shell of myself. I didn’t even listen to music. I would drive alone in silence, numb and hung over.
It took until Covid hit in March 2020 to finally hit a point when that scared me enough. There was no work, no gym, no place to go, nothing to do, except drink. And for the first month, that is what I did. I woke up on a mid-weekday morning with a crushing hangover, the shakes, and an absolute certainty that I was going to die if I didn’t stop. I feared that I would pass out and hit my head, drown in vomit, drive drunk and crash, kill myself, whatever… but it was going to happen… and soon. Even though my literal final drink wouldn’t be until months later, that was the point that I was done DRINKING.
Obviously, the work didn’t end with just stopping. It took me over a month to feel even close to dried out. I got back on some brain meds that finally had a chance to actually take effect. I started exercising again, and took time – a lot of time – to sit with all the ugly and painful feelings. I spent whole days curled up in the fetal position in the dark. I thought about things that I hadn’t thought about for 20+ years. I processed a lot of anger and grief.
Today I’m right around three years completely free from alcohol (I still smoke weed and take the occasional mushroom, so I’m hesitant about the word “sober”). It took over a year from my final drink to feel like I could recognize myself, but I’m proud and pleasantly surprised at what I have been able to do in that time. I have a loving partner who is also on an alcohol-free journey. I am in a much more fulfilling and supportive job, and I have found some very gratifying success as an amateur competitive athlete (currently undefeated). I am still working to repair some of the relationships that I broke or abandoned while in depression and alcoholism, and a lot of the time I’m too afraid to reach out or start a conversation, but I’m still optimistic that some healing can happen in time.
I appreciate everyone sharing their stories; you are important and worthwhile. Mad love and respect to Josh for being the genuine and caring individual that he always is, and for all the hard work he has done through his own journey. Sorry this story got so long, but the backstory is important to the addiction part, and I don’t know how to make it shorter. I guess I’m writing this as much for me as for anyone else. Thanks for reading. Peace.