Facing the music- Being an artist in recovery

SoberSober doesn’t Suck! is a safe place for people to share their stories of being an alcoholic, addiction and recovery openly and honestly. There is no requirement of sobriety for posting, if you’re concerned about your using I want to hear from you too.

I recently received the following article from Ted Brown.  I’m honored to share his story, and hope it brings someone a ray of hope.

If you’d like to tell your story, your feelings about your own addiction or that of someone else in your life please head over to the Sober doesn’t Suck! page. Addiction affects the people around us, I’m interested in sharing all sides.


I always wanted to be a musician, to be more specific I always wanted to be a singer. From an early age it came pretty easy and I would sing along to my older siblings albums carefully following the printed lyrics (if they were included) trying to imitate every nuance. Listening to music on headphones was one of my first forms of escapism and I would fantasize about the lives of my rock n roll heroes while trying to decipher the words and their meanings.

By about the age of ten, I’d also tried alcohol for the first time and like every subsequent substance I’d put in my body over the next 20 or so years, I’d quickly decided it was imperative that I replicated that ‘feeling’ as often as possible. Although I can’t say exactly when it happened, I know that I’d started using one substance or another everyday by the time I was sixteen.

I was on a mission to be a professional musician and was fronting my own band, playing guitar and writing songs by my sophomore year. At about the same time my using was really catching hold. At eighteen, I was out of school, had left home and was releasing my first EP. I remember the thrill of hearing it back from the factory for the first time and how it’d really felt like I was living my dreams. Inevitably, every landmark warranted a drug and alcohol fueled celebration and by now I’d discovered there were certain drugs that could help me drink more and party longer. I hadn’t yet discovered the substance that would finally get me to rock bottom, but I was an addict- in my disease and ready to ride it until the wheels came off, and it would effect every decision and subsequent action I would take throughout my twenties.

Despite my addiction, I was able to achieve some goals (more to do with a little raw talent and some dumb luck than careful planning and hard work!) and I sustained a musical life, writing, recording, shooting videos etc up to my mid twenties. I was unreliable, and copping drugs became the priority before anything else could take place including shows, interviews recording sessions and even rehearsals. I’d always felt this nagging fear, that everyone else had some secret ‘key’ to living life that I’d somehow missed out on and the only thing that took that anxiety away was using. At 24 I was introduced to heroin for the first time and it became instantly clear to me that if I could feel that way all the time for the rest of my life, all my problems would be over..

My next seven years were completely dominated by getting, using and finding ways and means to get more drugs. Music moved further on to the back burner and when I did play, it was usually with musicians who used the same way I did. Pretty soon it was all about the using and I began avoiding old friends, family, colleagues- partly out of shame but mostly because I didn’t want anything getting in the way of my drug use. I went on methadone maintenance for three years and became more firmly entrenched in my addiction than ever before (methadone is a drug!).

After several detox programs and a shot at rehab, I finally made it back to treatment in July 2000. I was sick, tired, broke and carrying all my possessions in a large duffle bag. I was beaten down enough to take the first step and admit my powerlessness and unmanageability. I spent 18 weeks in treatment and slowly began a return to physical, emotional and spiritual health. I attended lots of meetings, so by the time I graduated I had created a solid network of recovering people many of whom I still have relationships with today.

I was always afraid that my life would be over if I ever quit using, that I would never be able to have fun again, that maybe I’d missed too many opportunities and hurt too many people. But over the next few years those fears would all be dispelled. I wondered if I’d ever be able to play music again- after all music and getting loaded went hand in hand for me. But the universe was conspiring for good, despite my fears and I was asked to join the band of an old friend. That marked a new beginning for me and I realized that so long as I put my recovery first, everything else would be OK. I ended up touring, co writing and re inventing myself as a guitar player and background vocalist. I’ve been lucky enough to tour to many places in the world I’d never dreamed of going, contributed to a bunch of albums and ended up permanently re locating to the other side of the world. I’ve had the greatest years of my life in recovery and today I’m genuinely excited about what the future holds while still being able to stay in the day and live life on life’s terms.

I recently recorded and released my second studio album- a selection of songs that speak directly of my recovery, it’s struggles and triumphs, and the wonderful, full (sometimes challenging and crazy!) life that I feel so blessed to be living. I just celebrated 13 years and I can safely say that not one day of that time has been as bad as any day I had in active addiction. I feel incredibly lucky that the obsession and compulsion to use was lifted from me and I do my best to help those who are newer on this path than I am.

Recovery is many things, but it’s never boring and I wouldn’t trade it for anything….. just for today!

Ted Brown (@tedbrown5) is an acclaimed New Zealand-born singer, songwriter and guitar player. His promising career fronting his own band was sidelined for 7 years when he became firmly entrenched in drug addiction. Now located in Los Angeles, CA, Ted has been sober for over a decade and his second solo album, An Unwide Road, shares his journey with an elegantly spare and tenderly introspective record.

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2 Responses

  1. Great post. Im also in recovery and use to record mainly rap when I was in active addiction. I have always felt it would be dangerous to record again as it would be a trigger. This has given me a slightly different view on that. To be honest im itching to get back in the studio aswell!. Thanks

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