Drinking & Drumming
The rock and roll business is hard enough without being drunk enough to make it even harder on every starry-eyed kid with big ideas and even bigger dreams.
Playing in rock bands for over twenty-five years has been the best of times, and the bane of my existence at times.
Like many, my rock and roll journey started as something young, sober, and fun.
Learning how to play, enjoying the camaraderie of “being in a band,” and then eventually enjoying the “benefits” of being in the band. I indulged.
It then aged into something dark, drunken, and artificial.
Drinking and drumming, in that order, was the order of things. Delusions and illusions were ever-present. I over-indulged.
I mainly remember scattered moments, brief interludes, and only versions of the likely reality I weaved through.
About four months into sobriety, a trusted friend from the program asked: “You still playing in the band?” After I confirmed the answer he already knew he said: “Good luck with that.” First, I was pissed. Then, I was scared. Finally, I knew what I had to do because I knew what he was trying to tell me.
I made the choice to walk away at the height of it all before I crashed and burned beyond return.
After several years of continuous recovery, I was able to return to the pastime that I’ve devoted so much of my time to over the years. I’ve come full-circle, but I indulge differently.
Today I’m older, sober, and it’s mostly fun again.
It feels familiar, yet foreign at the same time. It’s better, yet bittersweet.
It’s like an old car you’ve had for years. You appreciate it. It’s comfortable. It serves a purpose and adds value to your life. But, you’re not as excited about it as you once were. The paint is a little faded and it has a few dents. It’s worn, but not worn out. You hold on to it because you’ve invested a lot time and energy into it. It’s a part of your story.
Nostalgia fuels this vehicle.
And although I don’t fully enjoy “the band” the same as I once did, I also don’t resent it as I once did either. The pay-off is less, but so is the pressure. The camaraderie has diminished, and the conversations seem trite at times. The euphoric recall of the old days is ever-present, but out of reach. Sometimes I question why I still do it, but the love of playing still remains. My favorite part is when I’m perched behind the kit, three or four songs in. I feel confident there and in my element. I know this space. I know this feeling. It feels good. And I can finally truly feel it today. That is a gift.
Although the highs aren’t as high as they once were, the lows aren’t low enough to qualify as “lows” anymore. It’s more balanced. I guess everything is… And maybe that’s sobriety’s greatest gift of all.
So tonight will be another late night hauling gear, tweaking sound, and finding the groove. There will be smiles and sweat, and there will be just a bit of regret.
It’s just another night. Another snapshot in the scrapbook. But today, I’m not stuck in a rut. I’ve driven out of that ditch, and I’ll drive home sober. I’ll remember the gig. Just like I’ll always remember the lessons learned from drinking and drumming…
Tom Leu, MS is a sober rock-n-roller writing, speaking, and coaching about communications and recovery strategies. The RockStarWay™ delivers Lifestyle Initiative Training™ resources to rock your business, brand, or band!