Moby on Sobriety: "We Can't Hold On to Crazy, Magical Thinking"

By Paul Gaita 04/30/19

A new memoir by music producer and artist Moby looks back on the highs and lows of his substance use.

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moby on sobriety
"My belief, before I got sober, was that fame was going to fix my feelings of inadequacy." Andrey Bayda | Dreamstime.com

In his new book, Then It Fell Apart, producer/DJ and music artist Moby reflects on his rise to stardom in the early 2000s while struggling with destructive dependencies on alcohol and drugs.

Moby (born Richard Melville Hall) has been sober for the past 11 years, during which he's continued to create new music—most recently Long Ambients 2 (2019), his follow-up to 2016's Long Ambients 1: Calm Sleep—and oversee several ventures outside recording, including a nonprofit vegan restaurant.

The new book—which picks up where his previous memoir Porcelain (2016) left off—details his attempts "to fix childhood trauma with egregiously bad and clueless adult decisions. Not surprisingly, it didn't work."

That early trauma—which included sexual abuse and his father's suicide—was only exacerbated by his ascent to fame with albums like 1999's Play and 2002's 18. Though his music had made him globally famous, Moby reports in Apart that he was plagued by loneliness and panic attacks, which he began experiencing after using LSD as a teenager.

"My belief, before I got sober, was that fame was going to fix my feelings of inadequacy," he told San Francisco's KQED. When that didn't work, he turned to drugs, alcohol and sex. "I longed for things to work in that way," he recalled. "I wanted to be fixed by these unhealthy external things." But as he discovered, the combination only added to his internal misery.

In 2002, Moby sought to gain sobriety and insight into the reasons for his personal struggles. He finally stopped using in 2008, and has remained clean since then. Of his journey, Moby said, "Part of sobriety—and a degree of spiritual fitness—is that we can't in adulthood, hold onto crazy, magical thinking."

Then It Fell Apart ends just before Moby became sober; he told KQED that he's saving that part of his story for a third volume, which will focus less on recovery and more on his pursuit of spiritual integrity. "I'm not a Christian, but my life is geared towards God, understanding God, trying to do God's will," he said. "Keeping in mind, I have no idea who or what God is."

He's also learned to enjoy his time just outside the glare of the celebrity spotlight. "It's really nice to just accept age, accept hair loss, accept diminishing commercial viability," he explains. "Accepting these things and trying to learn from them is a lot more enjoyable and a lot healthier than angrily fighting entropy."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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