I, like probably many others, started drinking and smoking at an early age. I lived in Bristol where drugs seemed to be part of growing up.
When I got into touring, I thought I was in heaven. I was working in music, tick, I was touring the World, tick, and drink and drugs were as acceptable as breathing, BIG tick!!
The bigger the tours became the more the pampering continued, and it became the norm to get wasted after a show, to celebrate the excitement and euphoria with your mates for another job done. The back lounge of the bus became a mobile after-hours club that was open 24/7. If you had a problem, you went to the back lounge, racked out a line and opened the Jack, and your fellow ‘therapists” gave you their wisdom and advice until you all passed out.
In the 90’s it is hard to describe the level of abuse. We had a dealer on the road with us, and it was just a case of getting the job done. I believe “Q” Magazine called the Depeche Mode 1993/94 World tour, “the most debauched rock’n’roll tour ever” in a multi-page splash.
As my journey continued, so did my drinking. I put it down to social drinking and didn’t notice that it was happening all the time. The drugs had fallen by the wayside, from boredom and lack of quality, but the drinking was so easy and so accepted. And as the pressure got more and more intense, so the relief of the bottle became the perfect crutch.
I was a master at hiding the drinking and loved it when the band was onstage. Everyone was busy for once, and the dressing room was empty, and full of alcohol, perfect to sneak in for a top-up. Then the show was over, and we could all have a legitimate drink, for the rest of the night, or until the last Band member was at the bar.
I was in luxurious 5-star hotels, and private planes and limos all the way. It was getting to me, and drinking was the hiding place I created.
As the pressure got greater, so my reaction to it got worse. Many times I was walking around in a stupor, but “holding it together” sometimes getting away with it, but when I was getting caught, talking my way out of it.
In the end, I was fired from a tour! I had been told to deal with my drinking but thought that meant don’t get caught. I thought I was invincible, but I wasn’t. And instead of taking that as the wake-up call I needed, I just drank more from the self-pity, self-loathing and anger. I was waking in the night and drinking, and drinking first thing in the morning, I was even sneaking gin and refilling the bottles as my wife knew I hated gin so would not check if I had drunk it. I would have a few early hours “snifters” and then go back to bed, as I was “tired”. I was moody, aggressive and unreliable, but it was just the way things were, how could it be the drink……drink was my friend!!
I went to the occasional AA meeting (my brain was asking for help), but when I listened to the stories I thought, wow, those people had terrible experiences, and I’m not like that so I can’t possibly have a problem.
I started seeing a therapist, to get over the trauma of losing my job, and he was amazing at getting me to focus again on what was important to me. I think he (and my wonderful wife) saved my life.
Finally after a really bad weekend, and another blackout (that was obviously not the drink), I realised I had had enough. I wanted to do something that would drastically change the way I was and the way I behaved, so I thought why not try not drinking!!! And it worked.
23rd Oct 2013 I stopped drinking, and have never looked back. Gone was that “shall I shan’t I have one”, gone was all the indecision, gone was the lying and the deception. I was able to fool everyone, but I realised that once I was lying to myself there was nowhere else to go.
I went to AA meetings, I carried on with my sessions with my therapist, and slowly I got my life back. I can honestly say I have never felt better. I still hang with friends and socialise as I did before, but now the pressure is off. I don’t care if they drink, that’s their choice. All I care about is that I don’t. That’s my choice.
When I was touring and also at my lowest ebb, I didn’t know where to turn. But that’s why I wanted to get something like MUSIC SUPPORT going. It is somewhere that people who do what we do can talk to their peers who have been there, done that, and know the pressures intimately. We are not here to judge, we are here to say, we understand and we want to help. And if I am able to help one person to climb out of the bottom bunk of despair, then I will feel that life really is about giving.
One of my dear friends who is a World famous entertainer said to me one day” I’m off to see my therapist, we are going inside my head, and that is not a place I would ever go unaccompanied!!”
Thanks for reading, and well done for getting this far.