Sunday, September 26, 2010

Slash and What it Means to be Sober



I’m going to pick up one of those cliché “two types of people” lenses to describe my thoughts right now, but I think the cliché works here: Those who are sober and those who aren’t.  When I talk about sobriety, I’m not necessarily referring to the absence of chemical substances as we know them, (although those certainly are included), but to anything which one might use to “escape”.  One’s “substance” might be consumerism, religion, over-work or anything which focuses the mind outward instead of inward.  It’s the escape from self that is the issue, not the way it is done.  I personally didn’t realize how foggy my thoughts were until I got “sober” in all areas of my life.  The clarity I’ve now found is astounding. 

I read Slash’s autobiography because I’ve always been a GN’R fan, but also because I knew that he’d recently gotten “clean” from chemical dependency (I think it’s been 3 years now).  I was curious about his path, and wanted to know many things, not least of which was whether he was “sober” or simply “clean”.  But also, having lived in Las Vegas and having been on the opposite side of the music industry in the form of radio, I thought I might relate to him in some way.  I was right.  The fame element for me obviously wasn’t there, but many other issues clearly were; e.g. similar personality traits, a lack of accountability in our lives, career decisions which made it easy to pursue substance abuse, and an apparent element of fate that has kept us both alive.

Chemical substances haven’t been a part of my life for a while now.  However, detaching the perceived need for the substances was a lot more difficult than the substances themselves.  The need can quite easily be filled with something non-chemical, and often is.  The personal work required to get rid of that “need” is something that everyone must go through to be truly sober.  It’s a discovery of the internal and an ability to go there.  Slash talks about his inherent restlessness in the book.  “Restlessness is a fickle catalyst; it can drive you to achieve, or it can coax your demise.” That’s a trait that I’ve always had too.  I believe people are restless who have a greater than normal sense that things are out of balance.  It involves a certain degree of intuition. It can also be a realization that the “ideal” has not yet been reached.  It is a driving force, and is constantly on the move.  It heads very clearly in one direction and doesn’t take many detours.  Most of these types are “all or nothing” people.  When I pursue something, it’s with intensity and passion. 

It appears that Slash has at least discovered the key to sobriety, if not sobriety itself.  Only he knows whether he’s truly sober, but the right language is there.  “First I kicked the drugs, then I cleared my head and did some work on figuring out why I liked to put myself in the same position over and over again.”  “I’ve found that just *being*, day to day, just waiting to see what comes, and going from there is the only way to grow.”  Whether or not someone has a drink or even does a line is not the real issue, although I don’t believe any kind of good is ever achieved by either.  So in that sense I’m completely anti-substance at this point…not just for myself, but in general.  The legality makes no difference to me.  What “good” has ever been achieved by taking a drink?  However, to each their own, and I’m not on some kind of a crusade, it’s just my opinion derived from experience.  The most important thing is not the object used to escape, but the elimination of the need to escape in the first place.  There are many intoxicated people who don’t drink or do drugs.  If more would find a degree of awareness, we would all be that much better off. 

1 comment:

Donnie Benson said...

The mindset of a person is definitely critical to his journey to sobriety. Without total commitment and dedication, it's not unlikely for one to fall short of one's goals. It is important to remind them of the sole purpose of their journey towards a sober life. The whole process isn't a walk in the park, but the results at the finish line make it worth it! I hope your readers will consider reading Slash too.

Donnie Benson @ Midwest Institute for Addiction