Detroit Musicians Provide Artists On Tour With Sober Support

By Victoria Kim 01/30/17

Passenger Recovery offers traveling musicians a place to recharge and interact with other sober people while on the road. 

Lo & Behold Records & Books
Lo & Behold Records & Books, home to Passenger's weekly meetings

Recovery support can be hard to come by when you’re a musician on tour. But now, artists passing through Detroit don’t have to stress about finding a sober space to recharge and connect with other people in recovery.

Passenger Recovery is the non-profit dedicated to providing sober support for traveling musicians. It's the brainchild of Christopher Tait and Laura Rock, two artists based in Hamtramck—a small city just north of Detroit—who know firsthand what it’s like to struggle with sobriety on the road.

“I am in a band and know that playing in bars takes its toll,” said Rock, a singer for the band Old Empire. “You need to be able to talk to other alcoholics who understand the pressure.” The pressure of playing in bars and other such venues, on top of the stress of being on the road, can be a lot to deal with.

Recovery meetings are held every Wednesday evening at a record store in Hamtramck. And artists have the option of hanging out in the “Clean Green Room”—a house in Hamtramck—where they can relax, drink coffee, and interact with other sober people before performances. And if they need a ride, Passenger is there for them.

Their goal is to take away some of the stress of touring and give artists a safe space to recharge and stay balanced. 

Tait, a synth and keyboard player, recalled the feeling of being on tour before he quit booze. It was "actually really sad," he told The Fix. "Being able to travel and do what you're passionate about should be fun—but after years of abuse I'd turned it into a private purgatory. An obligation, rather than an opportunity."

Tait knew he hit "rock bottom" when he woke up in a Nashville hotel room alone, after a two-day bender, "feeling like I'd had a heart attack." He said, "I felt like I couldn't live with alcohol, and I couldn't live without it. I'd lost all passion for music. Each day was spent trying to crawl out of my own skin, and dumping booze on all my fears and anxieties."

At this point, he knew Rock was already in recovery; so after being dismissed from tour with his band Electric Six, he reached out. "That was the start. Accountability, communication with others, and a genuine desire to stop eventually led to hope and happiness," said Tait.

Now, they're both seasoned pros when it comes to touring sober. For artists who get "the inevitable gig where the local coffee house is closed, no meetings are walkable, and the green room is filled with people and booze," Tait suggests planning ahead. 

"Check your window of free time between load-in and soundcheck, look for local meetings within that window, and call the hotline if the meetings aren't within walking distance," he told The Fix. "Sometimes the hotline will hook you up with someone locally that's willing to give you a ride." 

"Use free time wisely," Tait continued. "Go for a walk, and call a sponsor or someone in the program at home. Sometimes it's just that simple."

The AA Speakers To Go app is another recovery tool that's been a "lifesaver" on long drives or in areas where Tait couldn't find a meeting. The "endless hours of great testimonies" keep him grounded: "Whether you align yourself with a certain recovery program or not, these talks are filled with structure and hope!"

As a musician in recovery, being on tour is a chance to see and enjoy as much as possible, says Tait. "Gratitude is key."

Passenger Recovery meets every Wednesday at 7pm at Lo & Behold Records & Books in Hamtramck, Michigan. On February 8-9, Lol Tolhurst of The Cure will be in Hamtramck to promote his new book about the band and his own recovery journey.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr