Underoath's Spencer Chamberlain On Sobriety: "I'm A Million Times Happier"

By Paul Gaita 07/05/18

"People find different ways to fill those voids, and for a lot of artists, it's drugs or alcohol. I just had to reprogram my life and find things that were productive."

Spencer Chamberlain
Photo via YouTube

In a series of videos for Revolver magazine's Lyric Dissector series, Underoath singer Spencer Chamberlain discussed not only the inspiration for the band's current single, "Rapture," but also his long struggle with drugs and alcohol, from which he has been sober for more than a year.

The 2015 reunion of Underoath, which broke up two years early, and the release of their latest album, Erase Me, in 2018, bookended Chamberlain's recovery. "Being back together definitely helped," he said. "It's the first step in pulling yourself out of those places."

Chamberlain said that he began his journey of "not using any more" during the writing process of Erase Me, and found that tackling the problem in the band's music could be cathartic.

"My thought is writing lyrics that are very honest and brutal and sometimes suck to talk about, hopefully that can help," he explained.

In "Rapture," which is credited to the band and Nashville songwriter Johnny Andrews, Chamberlain likened the pull of dependency to "a mistress—like that person you've always been warned about. That, for me, was the other woman. I tried to portray it like sex."

But just as toxic relationships become detrimental to both parties, drugs and alcohol shed their numbing properties and bloom into wholly new problems for dependants like Chamberlain.

"When drugs stop being fun, they start to suck," he said. "You have that self-loathing all the time—you just beat yourself up, or at least, I did. Which was a huge step in not wanting to have that as part of my life anymore."

Chamberlain said that the decision to stop using was anchored to a simple thought—"I'm going to see how far I can go," he explained—but the process of achieving that goal required a concentrated effort in his part. That included a physical move from his home in Florida to New York City, which he said helped him to "learn a lot about myself."

"[New York] is the busiest place in the world, but you're always alone," he said. "You have to go out to try and meet people. So you're always reflecting on yourself."

Chamberlain used his time there as a lesson in "learning how to love myself again" before returning to Florida, where he began to refashion his life in sobriety. He deleted contact information for anyone he associated with "partying or anything like that," including close friends that "probably hate me right now." 

Chamberlain also began a regime of exercise and healthy eating with the help of his girlfriend, a personal trainer. He found that these new pursuits provided an outlet for him that delivered the same results as being on stage.

"When I was on tour, it was way easier to control myself because I got that release all the time," he noted. "People find different ways to fill those voids, and for a lot of artists, it's drugs or alcohol. I just had to reprogram my life and find things that were productive—I like to be up early and exercise, do outdoor things and stay motivated."

These efforts have allowed Chamberlain to remain sober for over a year and a half. He admits that he's not perfect, and that sobriety requires constant vigilance, but he also said that he feels a "million times healthier and happier than [he] was even two or three years ago."

He's also hoping that his struggles can help others, whether they're in another band ("there's at least one guy, or nine times out of ten, [where] it's probably gone too far") or among Underoath's listeners. In helping to write songs like "Rapture," Chamberlain hopes there will be "other people who will say, 'Yeah, me too.'"

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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.