Substance Abuse Amongst Musicians

Posted: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 by •»¶hê ƒRëq»•-)•–––– in

Substance abuse has always been a huge problem amongst musicians and yes, the problem plagues some of our local musicians too.   It's a growing problem that not only ruins the lives of these musicians but it really doesn't help the music they create.   Some say chemicals help stimulate the creative side of the brain when writing material but if that is in fact true, what is the cost?   I personally see no gains at all but I do see a lot of personal destruction.

My own life was surrounded by some that were alcoholics and drug addicts.   My own father fell to alcohol and finally took his own life.  My stepfather too had his problems with alcohol but won the battle in the end.   I've also lost a few friends to drug abuse.  I'm not going to sit here and preach the rights and wrongs of what this stuff does to you because simply put, I'm not a scientist or researcher.  I don't have the ultimate facts.   All I can do is let you know what I've experienced in my own life.

Throughout my own music career in the Sault,  I've watched some fabulous musicians  be eaten up by the drug culture that seems to always go hand in hand with the music scene.   It's actually so much broader than music but at some point, the music scene got blamed as being the worst for it.    I've always had an extreme hatred for drugs and alcohol.   Anyone who knows me personally or has played in any of the bands I've had over the years knows that to be true.    Nowhere in my personal life will you find alcohol or drugs.   When you see a family member self destruct and while doing so, ruin the lives of others, it's a strong signal that none of this stuff is good.    I'm a quick learner ;-)   Growing up I was amazed at how much alcohol took over my dad.   You could see it taking over him and as it did, you saw the chain reaction envelop  the people around him.   For me,  I had the will to never fall into the dark hole of alcohol.   The label "social drinker" just puzzled me and upset me.   Even to this day people come up to me and say,  "oh, you don't drink? "  Like I'm the abnormal one.   I also here the "I just drink to be social" line a lot.   You don't need to fill your body full of chemicals to be "social".    Sadly, a lot of my close friends are falling into the alcohol and chemical trap and the cost is so great that only when you're on the outside of the picture looking in, do you see it.   Some of these close friends are musicians.

I've never understood why so many people just don't say "NO" to all this stuff.  You're taught that it hurts you.  You're taught it can ruin your life.  You're taught that recovery is very slim in most cases, yet, people still fill their bodies with it.   Is it that there is an abundance of simple minded people that just can't understand that or are there just that many people set on killing themselves?   Is there nothing else in this vast world that you could fill your life with that doesn't involve alcohol and drugs? Honestly, is there nothing???  I've never had a problem with saying no to it but as I've gone through life, this seems rare amongst so many others.   I'm also not into the excuses blaming one's childhood as a reason for taking this stuff.   You're taught to not use it and you're taught the consequences, so why even try it?  Once you've crossed the line of "trying it", you're no longer following logic.

Over the years in bands I've had to play on stage with musicians that just have to have alcohol and chemicals in their life.   They feel it makes them a better player.  It really doesn't but they seem to believe it.  If there is a gain,  the loses are always far greater.   There is no balance with this crap because in most cases, it causes a negative that harms health and judgment  and or other people (family, friends, work). There is also the "craving" factor where it becomes apparent you "need" to have this in your system.   People have always asked me why I'm so serious when I play on stage.  It's simple.  I am extremely focused and while I'm on stage I listen to my own playing and making sure I play the best I can but I also focus on the playing of my fellow bandmates.   I enjoy giving 100 percent during my performance.  This is my love and this is my natural high.  I enjoy the strive to become a better player and performing the best I can.   I rarely achieve a perfect performance but that's always my goal.   When bandmates are under the influence, it affects my own playing.   Having a good time playing live is me trying to achieve a solid performance out of myself but also the band.   Some bands I've been with (not my own personal bands) have been on the floor drunk while playing and I've not stayed long in that environment.    These particular bands never understand why I would leave just because of that.   That's how lost I think these people are.  They don't realize they're making a mess out of themselves and that I want no part of their self destruction.    This has happened recently with a band I was playing with.   It's not funny and it's not enjoyable to watch a bandmate falling down drunk in a bar or get so wired on chemicals, he forgets he's playing an instrument.   How can this possibly be enjoyable for an audience to watch?  The fact is, it's not.   It's a false illusion.  What you are doing is killing yourself for an audience.  Slowly but surely, you are ruining your life in public view.   That's the way I see it.   True, it may not be in a single nights performance, but over a month, a year, 2 years, etc... it's self destruction and you're letting an audience witness it.  For me, I would rather my epitaph say I was a good musician rather than "he died of self destruction".

In my opinion, creativity is in all of us and it's up to the individual to find it and bring it out if that's what they desire.   Creativity is a "natural" part of being human and it should be brought out in a way that doesn't require chemicals.  Alcohol and chemical consumption is not part of human existence.   It is ironic though that a human created alcohol and the chemicals that destroy 1000's of lives each year.  It makes me wonder if these creators died by their own invention.

At this moment in time, 2 of my friends are being overtaken by chemical and alcohol abuse.  It's a dangerous step as their personal lives have hit rock bottom.  My point will always be that these abuses will never lift you above rock bottom at these times in your lives but the alcohol and drugs will bury you in the floor of the bottom you have hit.  Yes, I am blunt in my hatred for booze and drugs.   I don't have to have tried them to know the damage they've caused.   I have lived around it and believe me, that's the clearer picture.

Eventually the human body burns out from such abuse and it usually leaves a wake of destruction around the individual that abused his or her life OR in some instances, they die alone.   The ones with will power sometimes find a way out of the hole but lots of people give over their freedom to addiction.   They simply give up, saying they can't fight it anymore OR they give in thinking this lifestyle is fun and chant the death line, " I can handle it". The plain fact is  you can't handle something that overtakes your mind and your body.  That's the logic.

I am worried about these people in my life as they seem to be on a course of self destruction.   A few of us are concerned and will intervene soon.  We have to.  These people are our friends but most of all, have so much yet to give in their lives.

glen "the freq"


  1. Anonymous says:

    Does your bandmate know you publish stuff about him like this?

  1. This topic is about abuse in general which includes those close to me and my bandmates, not just one person, and yes, these people know I post and that we're all concerned. This is about awareness and everyone needs to know it's a growing concern.