I really hate to perpetuate a negative stereotype, but drugs and rock & roll have always been comfortable bedfellows. And not all of us have been fortunate to survive that cocktail. Throughout rock/metal’s storied past — whether we’re looking at all-time legends like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, or more recent greats like Layne Staley and Mitch Lucker — too many artists have seen their careers (and, more importantly, their lives) cut short by drugs or alcohol abuse.
And last week, we saw another with the passing of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman.
Just to be clear: This is not intended to be some preachy rant espousing the virtues of the “straight edge” lifestyle. We’re not trying to run D.A.R.E. here. Nevertheless, since our only goal with the Metalluminati is to help musicians advance their careers, we can’t help but notice the setbacks that drugs or alcohol can bring upon your musical endeavors.
So, what to do?
One aspect of our scene that exacerbates substance abuse problems is the “code of silence” kept by other musicians. Getting past that is relatively simple — if you care at all for your fellow bandmates, you should not be shy in taking the initiative to recommend help for them. But even if you overcome the perceived taboo of criticizing another artist’s lifestyle, bandmates’ insistence can only go so far.
At the end of the day, if you have a problem, only you can act on getting it fixed.
Fortunately, more musicians are beginning to see the ramifications of chronic drug or alcohol abuse. Moderation is key — but if you’re not too good at calling it a night, abstinence is the next best thing. There certainly is no shame in this; did you notice Zakk Wylde didn’t take a shot with Slayer’s Kerry King at last week’s Golden God Awards in remembrance of Jeff?
Rehab on a Budget
Back in 2000, voters in the state of California passed Proposition 36, which turned drug users into patients rather than inmates. Folks can now be sent to treatment programs and get suspended sentences based on their completion of said programs. Sixteen other states have since enacted similar “drug court” approaches to drug arrests because rehabilitative treatment is preferred over sending nonviolent drug offenders to prison with hardened criminals.
But while more successful artists with shitloads of money can go to pricey treatment clinics like Betty Ford or a rehab resort in Malibu, the rest of us working stiffs have to find other ways to get help.
Luckily, money doesn’t have to be an obstacle — there are plenty of free or sliding-scale rehab centers in California. Along with free clinics, you also can walk into any Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting right now and start getting help. Not only are they free, but they also are worldwide, so you can find them virtually anywhere. I personally know artists that go on tour and sneak in an AA meeting at the most random locations just because they happen to be there.
Of course, I can speak from first-hand experience only in the state of California. If you have information on effective and free (or low-cost) rehab clinics in your part of the country/world, feel free to leave some info in the comments section below!
- Drug and alcohol clinics in California (sorted by county)
- Narcotic treatment programs in California (look for “nonprofit” in right-hand margin)
If you need help, there’s no shame in getting it.
It’s the best way to ensure that you’ll keep making great music for many years to come!
Hopefully, you’ll be one of the last.