Musical Recovery! – An Interview With Ted Brown

Music guitar

Music guitar (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Hi Ted, thanks for agreeing to do an interview with me. First off, I want to congratulate you on your clean time. It is a rough road I know personally, but very rewarding.  It is people like you that inspire addicts and alcoholics in recovery to keep that glimmer of hope alive, no matter how dark it may get.

1. I read your press release and you said, “After I got clean, I thought ‘What am I going to
do with my life?” I can relate to trying to transition into a life without drugs and alcohol. Was
it difficult for you to find something to do immediately?

I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to be creative without drugs or alcohol and I’d almost made the
decision not to play music anymore! My thinking was that my creativity was too closely linked to my
drug use. Fortunately, the Universe had a different plan and opportunities in music presented
themselves more abundantly than they ever had before!
2. What brought you to the United States from New Zealand?

I moved to the United States when I had around 18 months clean as guitarist, co-writer and
backing vocalist with popular NZ artist Greg Johnson. I had started playing in his band and he
asked me to accompany him for some showcases for Record Companies. He ended up getting
signed, and we moved to L.A. to make an album..

3. What was your darkest moment while out there (using)? Was that enough to get you to wake
up and realize you could die?

I had a few brushes with death while I was out there. I think one of my darkest moments was getting
the news that my friend and fellow musician Matt had died from this disease. I was devastated and
although I had OD’d several times myself, it still took me over a year more to go back into detox and
try treatment again. He was so talented and it was such a waste, but I knew it could be me or any
one of those ‘smart, talented’ addicts I was using with.

4. What has been the most amazing part of your journey through sobriety so far?

There have been so many wonderful moments. I feel like all the great things that have happened in
my life have been since I got sober- getting married, traveling the world playing music, seeing all the
art I’d only ever seen in books, making albums.. Using provided me with a very limited view of the
world but recovery has expanded that view by putting me back in contact with human beings! Every
day can be an adventure if I can keep an open mind and remember to be grateful.

5. Now that you are clean and sober, do you look at people differently? Like, do you have more
tolerance?

I really had to learn how to deal with people again because I was just so used to being loaded all the
time and that had been my point of reference for so long! I think I’m more tolerant these days simply
because I feel more a ‘part of’, but it’s still a challenge (especially on the freeway!)
6. I actually love driving on little country roads, it helps me reconnect with my Higher Power and
regroup when life keeps being life. How do you relax these days?

I meditate, I read (for entertainment as well as for inspiration). I have 2 cats and a dog and I find
them to be a great source of relaxation! ( I never had pets growing up so it’s still a novelty for me). As
I said, I love art so going to museums and galleries is something I love to do.

7. Tell me about the song, “Bringing my Past Back (But Not To Haunt Me).

This is really a song about the ‘steps’ and the work that’s asked of me if I really want to get the most
that recovery has to offer. Sometimes that work is tough- messy and painful but if I’m prepared to do
it (and I never have to do it alone) I’ve discovered that the benefits are incredible. The trick is, that I
have to keep doing it if I want to experience growth..
8. Did you ever think that you’d be living the dream today? Getting to do what you love?

I don’t know what I thought when I was in active addiction! Mostly “getting, using and finding ways to
get more”. I always thought that I had the wrong life, that it, “wasn’t supposed to be like this”…my
fear was that I would die from my using. Every day surprises me!

9. Do you have any words of advice or wisdom for addicts and alcoholics still struggling with
addiction?

Anyone can get clean, lose the obsession and find a new way of life. But you need to have had
enough and of course that ‘rock bottom’ is different for everyone. One thing I know is that we can’t
do it alone, I tried many, many times. The disease of addiction is cunning, it will give you many
reasons why you’re different, why recovery won’t work for you, but it’s working for millions of people
all around the world every day! It’s important to just jump in feet first! It’s scary, but so is using..

10.I did not get to hear the song, “Looking for Home Down Hallways.” But it immediately gave
me a chill as I thought back to the days when I was so alone and just wanted to be loved.
Can you elaborate on this song?

This song is about looking for salvation. From a person, a drink, a drug, money, a location.. Anything
outside myself that I think might be the thing that’s finally going to make everything ‘O.K.’ The pursuit
of that ‘fix’ is what nearly killed me and it can manifest in recovery as well, even without the drugs
and alcohol.

11.When it came time to make amends to people, were you excited to get it out or nervous to
reach out to people you had wronged?

When I was new, the first step I noticed on the wall was #9 and I thought, “Oh no, I’m never going to
be able to do that!”. Fortunately the steps are in order so I didn’t have to make amends until I got to
that step. I did however try to make some amends before I got there and without my Sponsors
blessing- needless to say it didn’t go so well. The steps are a gentle slope, so even when I’m
apprehensive I’ve been able to move forward..

12.What is in the future for you and your music?

We just completed a beautiful clip for the song “Love Is..” which is due to drop on
10/15. I’m working on songs for another album as well as promoting “An Unwide
Road” The future looks musical!

Relapse – When Does It Begin?

I was forwarded an interesting article about relapse today and it got me thinking… When does relapse begin?  The article is here if you want to check it out: 7 Habits of an Addict About to Relapse.   If you’re interested, read the article.

In my opinion, the first sign of someone in recovery about to relapse is Withdrawal or Isolation.  I notice it is at the top of the list in this piece, and rightfully so.  Withdrawing from meetings, friends, family and/or activities is a sign of bad things to come.  Often, the addict may not realize he or she just turned down a dark part of their journey.

Reaching out at this point is not on the addict’s mind.  What is on the addict’s mind is getting rid of whatever demons were left unchecked while doing step-work or trying to suffocate a new demon.   If we are not working our 12 Step Program, we tread on dangerous ground each day.

The other sign I want to touch on is being secretive.  Maybe the addict got in touch with some old friends they once partied with. Maybe they are not being honest with themselves or others about things. They start telling little while lies.  They start making excuses to go to the store… a lot. They start hiding their cellphone or running into ‘long hours at work.’  Whatever the case, deception is classic.  As someone in recovery, I still remember my deceptive ways when I tried to use people for anything I could before I got sober.

These are the three ways to keep in check:

  1. Clean House
  2. Trust God
  3. Help Others

Each day I work my program, get honest and help others, is a day I won’t pick up a drink or a drug.

R – Resentment – The Road to Misery

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post was originally called “Righteousness – The Road to Misery” but I changed it last-minute.  Resentment and righteousness go hand in hand, really. After all, I can’t feel resentful if I am not feeling righteous.  Not to mention, resentment is the number one thing that sends alcoholics and addicts back to a drink or drug no matter how long they have been sober.

I stated in an earlier post how angry I was as a child.  This anger brewed inside me as the decades of my life passed. Realistically, anger for me was always resentment.  I resented:

  • my parents
  • my looks
  • being poor
  • perceived wrongs
  • other people

The list went on for pages.  Then, when I got sober, I was still resentful at everyone and everything.  Sure, I was floating on the pink cloud of newfound freedom from drugs and alcohol.  It was great waking up feeling good – not hung over or dope sick.  But I still had all that resentment and it was eating away at my soul like cancer.

After my pink cloud dissipated into the sun of real life, I was still left with all that resentment!  What to do… how about a Fourth Step?  The Fourth Step works and continues to work today.  See, in all my resentment, anger, jealousy.. etc, I played a part!  I couldn’t believe that.  I mean, how the hell could I play a part in the way my ex-husband treated me years ago or any of the other “injustices” dumped on me?

It was simple and with the help of my sponsor I figured it out.  These days, if I feel resentful I kind of sit in it for a little while (I’m a good alcoholic) but then I really have to do a quick inventory, give it to God and let it go.  This makes for happier days.

How do you handle your resentments?

D – Decisions: How To Make One

Questions...

Decisions, decisions… we make hundreds a day.  Some are made with much thought and others are automatic.  Like, this morning, I had to decide what to wear (that took a little time since I hadn’t done laundry in a week!) and then I had to decide which way to drive to work (automatic – I go the same way every morning).

But there are other decisions we must make through our busy days. Bigger decisions we don’t even realize we are making!  Decisions like: which bill to pay first (for those with struggling finances), public school or home school (for our kids) and whether or not to work from home.

For those tough decisions, I like to do a “pro & con” list.  I actually did one of these when I was in outpatient therapy in 2006 for alcohol/drug addiction.  Being new in sobriety, I needed all the help I could get and kept that list with me for the first year of my new-found freedom.  In group, I had to list the pros and cons of using my favorite narcotic.  Honesty was important!  This list helped me much in the beginning, because abstinence from alcohol and drugs for someone like me is not just stopping.  To never use or drink again required a change in thinking and I was prepared to make that change no matter what.

The most important thing about making a decision is deciding what is the most important (a little Cheshire cat action there for ya).

So the next time there is a big decision to make, get out that piece of paper and make a ‘pro’ column and a ‘con’ column.  It sounds silly and childish, but the best decision is an informed decision.

How do you make big decisions?

C – Character – Defects Can Be Assets

Love/Hate

Love/Hate (Photo credit: guevo)

I never knew what a character defect was until I stepped into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I know, I am breaking my anonymity, but it is no secret I am a sober woman of almost seven years and I didn’t get sober alone.  No one gets sober alone.  We might stop drinking alone, but sobriety is deeper.

I found an interesting list of character defects in my research of things I’ve not committed to memory.  Check out the list and see which ones might be screaming at you on any given day.  Go ahead, this can be a kind of liberating fun (okay, I’m reaching).

When I did my fourth and fifth step with my al-anon sponsor, she said something really poignant. “Character defects are assets unchecked.” She gave me examples like the opposite of happy is sad and so on.

The opposite of humility is arrogance.  These are both character defects.  Yeah, I never thought humility would be a defect either, but too much of anything is a bad thing.

We turn our defects into assets by getting somewhere in between the two.  This sounds like a challenge, and it is a challenge.  However, challenges and that “I feel uncomfortable” help us grow and blossom into the human being we were always meant to be.  Ya dig?

One of my chief character defects is laziness…  interpreted through the Seven Deadly Sins: SLOTH.  But my laziness is an asset in moderation.  For example:  It’s Sunday (as I write this it really is Sunday) and I am feeling sleepy, unmotivated and well, lazy.  I can turn my laziness into an asset by assessing why I am feeling lazy.  Am I just being a tree-climbing sloth or am I legitimately tired and need some rest?  Once I do an honest inventory of my sloth-like ways, I can make an honest judgement (honesty is crucial when doing a self-imposed defect check!).

Each day I humbly ask God to remove my character defects that will not serve me that day.  I take my will back.. frequently. As I work my program I am learning when I do this and then ask him throughout the day to take away the defects I don’t need.  Sometimes my defects serve me… most times they don’t.

Check out the list of character defects/assets… are any familiar to you?

One Day at a Time

Image: givecourage.net

Image: givecourage.net

One day at a time.  Isn’t that really the only way we can live?  When we were in our addiction, we were caught up in our past aches, resentments and fears.  But that wasn’t enough.  We had to worry about the future!  What will tomorrow bring? Will I still have my job?  What about a place to live?

Since I am inherently skeptical, this whole one day at a time thing puzzled me.  After all, I was a being who only thought about what would become of me along with all the crap of yesterday.  Well, I couldn’t change yesterday and had no control over tomorrow.  Still don’t.  Never will.

Before I got sober, I remember thinking about never being able to drink (or drug) again.  That thought overwhelmed me to the point of anxiety.  How would I function?  Where would I hang out? What about my friends?  All of these are serious questions to the still sick and suffering alcoholic.

The first couple weeks of my sobriety were a rough lot.  I lived one minute at a time rather than one day at a time.  I could not think about the future.  Again, it was entirely too overwhelming.  And holding onto the past was what got me in such a shit storm.  So I focused on keeping my brain occupied.  I should have kept a journal, but I didn’t.  Instead I consumed mass quantities of Pop Tarts and watched the Military Channel.  I only left my apartment to get cigarettes.

But it worked for me.

Of course these days, I do think about the future and there are times when the past creeps in or I see something that brings back a fond (or not so fond) memory. But when it comes to not picking up, one day at a time, one minute at a time, even one second at a time is the best way to live.

How do we live one day at a time in recovery?

We go to meetings.  We get a sponsor.  We read approved literature. We talk to people in recovery (this is so important). We share at meetings (this is something I need to do more). We keep our minds occupied with things besides drinking (or drugging).

I have met so many creative people in the rooms of AA.  I have met many artists, writers and generally people who are doing what they want to do with their lives.  How cool is that?  Maybe they were always creative or maybe they found their creativity while living one day at a time.

Out With the Old – A Time to Reflect

Reflect

Reflect (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As 2012 comes to a close… I have looked through my Penzu journal, gone through old notebooks and basically stepped back and looked at the canvas of my life.  It hasn’t exactly been a spectacular year… but then it has been a spectacular year.  I fell down a cliff on a quad, I celebrated six years of sobriety in May, I started going to Al-Anon (which changed my life!) and I ended a six year, toxic relationship never dreaming that I’d enter into a new relationship with a man who I am pretty sure was made just for me.

I read somewhere that when we order up the life we want to exact specifications, we just might get it.  Well, I seem to be on my way.

The Old:

Procrastination – Insecurity – Self-loathing – Laziness – Self-doubt – feeling unworthy in most situations.  Ahhh.. those old ugly beliefs and bad thoughts that I wish I could beat with a hammer.  However, thoughts are not tangible so I have to beat them with positive thinking!

The New:

Get it done! I am beautiful! I can and will prevail! Successful author!  I have to fake it ’til I make it – and my advice to all of you is to do the same.  Faking it ’til we make it is like a mental affirmation of determination that only we know about.  It kinda goes along with that whole “The Secret” thing.  Trust me – it freaking works.

How about you? What is your out with the old, in with the new for the coming year?

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