'Send Me A Friend' Provides Support For Recovering Musicians

By David Konow 04/25/17

The program offers help to those in the music world who are looking for a sober pal when they are out on the road. 

A band playing live music at a club.

For musicians in recovery from addiction, it can be hard to escape temptation, especially for those who make their living playing in bars and clubs where alcohol is plentiful.

Now there’s Send Me a Friend, a support system for recovering musicians started by Anders Osborne, a New Orleans musician and recovering alcoholic, with help from a non-profit called the CAN'd Aid Foundation.

As NPR reports, when Osborne got sober, his counselors told him to try and find another line of work for a year or two, but he was nearing financial ruin. “I’m in a bad situation,” Osborne recalled. “I’m going to take a minimum wage job at McDonald's? What am I supposed to do? So that frustration led me to thinking there should be a support system…specifically for this.”

Osborne came up with Send Me a Friend, where people come to gigs and watch over you to make sure you don’t use. Osborne took the title from a song he wrote, and he got his support system together when he had to play on a dangerous night for an alcoholic, New Year’s Eve. His friends stayed by the stage, didn’t say a word, and watched him perform, but just their presence was powerful to Osborne. “It was such tremendous help and I can’t explain it. It just was accountability. I knew people that knew I was trying to be sober and work, [who] sat there.”

Watchdogs who volunteer for Send Me a Friend are also available to help musicians on the road. It’s a network of people organized by Osborne who have been continuously sober for over a year. They’re also ready to help anyone else who needs a sober guardian, including sound people and roadies.

One musician who used the service told NPR, “You’re right next to a big bar of alcohol. And you’re in the music scene where drugs are just flowing like a waterfall. So having somebody right there with you who knows the temptation, it’s an unbelievable gift.” The anonymous musician also said that with the help of Send Me a Friend, she hasn’t relapsed on the road. (The program guarantees anonymity.)

“It’s all about going back to work,” Osborne says. “It’s not about getting anybody sober. That’s not my job. If you have chosen to not drink or do drugs anymore but you want to stay in the music industry…Well, we’re going to provide one small little service, which is, we’re going to send somebody out to sit there with you.” 

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.