An Indie Superstar's Slow Road to Sobriety

An Indie Superstar's Slow Road to Sobriety - Page 2

By Mike Doughty 02/06/12

Soul Coughing was one of America's most acclaimed (and drug-addled) indie bands. In a new memoir, The Book of Drugs, its lead singer describes how the 12 Steps saved his life.

Da Capo Press

(page 2)

I woke up on the third of May 2000, looking at a half-full glass of Jack Daniel’s. I had passed out before the task was through. Somehow I managed to pour it out into the sink.

The tour manager drove me home, and I was shaking and stuffing myself with chalupas. The trip took a day and a half; when I got home, there was beer in my fridge but I didn’t touch it. There was dusty weed on my bedside table, glued to a sticky layer of NyQuil. A half bottle was my longtime nightcap of choice.

I sat across from Molly at Kate’s Vegetarian Joint on Avenue B. She was staring at me curiously across my plate of tofu Buffalo wings. She was about to take me to my first meeting.

(The unisex bathroom at Kate’s Joint had two amazing pieces of graffiti: Yaphet Kotto Fucking Crazy. Which meant—Yaphet Kotto is fucking crazy? Or an echelon of crazy, like, “Man, that shit isn’t just crazy, that’s like Yaphet Kotto fucking crazy.” And in silver pen: “Robot” is a Czech word. It means “worker.” Next to it, sardonically: Did you learn that at NYU? Next to that, in shaky script: no Larry told me.)

So, I asked Molly, why should I stay clean if I go to these meetings? Can’t I just go between binges?

She made a wistful face. “That’s what I was going to do,” she said, sincerely.

It disarmed me. I had grey skin, dead eyes, and anybody with half a mind would’ve slapped me. But Molly had loved drugs; she just knew they had stopped working, would never work again, and she didn’t want to die.

I had a bottle of Valium in my pocket; I had hustled a prescription from the Cocaine Papers doc earlier that day.

You see movies and think that a twelve-step meeting involves somebody holding a clipboard. There was no clipboard. A guy who used to be a wasted drug fuckup read something at the beginning, another guy who used to be a wasted drug fuckup told the tale of his addiction, and then a roomful of former wasted drug fuckups spoke, each in turn—nobody interrupting anybody— about where they were at, or what happened to them, or where they wanted to be, about their lives both with and without getting fucked up.

Every variety of person was there. One guy talked about living in a shelter. Another guy talked about owning a business, but feeling trapped by it. A woman I recognized as a goth icon sat in the back row, knitting. She raised her hand and spoke of anguish over a crackhead ex.

There were heroin people, coke people, meth people, weed people, prescription-painkiller people, liquor people, beer people. Most of them, actually, a mixture of the whole list, serially or simultaneously.
The atmosphere was reverent, but not pious; it was both ritual and intimate. Whenever something borderline corny went down— the phrase “we share our experience, strength, and hope,” a reference to god, the room saying, en masse, “Thanks for sharing,” when somebody had finished talking—Molly turned to me and rolled her eyes sympathetically. But actually I felt an incredible warmth.

“Now’s the part where we all hug and pray,” she whispered into my ear, half sarcastically, as the meeting came to a close. “I should’ve mentioned that.”

Everybody stood up in a big circle and put their arms around each other. “Let’s have a moment of silence,” said the guy who’d told his addiction story, “for the addict still sick and suffering, inside and outside of these rooms.” And then everybody said the serenity prayer. I half knew it. And it made sense to me.

I typed the serenity prayer here, but then I deleted it: you’ve read that prayer thousands of times. I beg you to see it like this: you want to get high. You know that it’s going to kill you, or humiliate you, or drive you to desperation, that you’re not really going to get high at all, but every part of yourself wants to. You want to get out from under it, and you’ve tried, but you don’t have it in you to do it alone. You’re willing to take a half step towards something big and weird, something that you don’t even know you believe in, hoping that it, or they, or she, will help.