Mac Miller, Tom Petty, Lil Peep, Prince, Scott Weiland, Chris Kelly, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, and Michael Jackson.
Fentanyl, Oxycodone, Xanax, Fentanyl, Cocaine, Heroin, Cocaine, Alcohol, and Fentanyl.
I was sitting on the porch of my rehab facility, listening to an eerily fitting rainfall when I learned that Mac Miller was dead at age 26 of an apparent overdose. My initial shock turned to sadness, then quickly settled on anger. Far too often over the last several years I have scrolled through my social media and stumbled across countless “RIP to fill in the blank” posts. Always begging the question, “When will enough be enough?”
Angrily, I raced to my computer and proceeded to compose the list mentioned above, followed by six pages of an emotion-filled rant on drugs and alcohol in the entertainment industry. An hour of “rage blogging” and one massive headache later, I called it quits and collapsed onto my bed. Upon waking, I proudly returned to my laptop to review my work of art. The opinion piece that would change the industry! As I read the transcript of my tantrum, my pride slowly fizzled out into plain ole discouragement.
These were simply the gripes of a bitter addict trying to solve the problem from the top down. What change will this actually bring? I challenged myself. I only focused on those in the public eye, scolding them for their substance abuse like a disappointed parent.
What about the thousands of humans who overdose daily? Did you forget about them? These thoughts took the wind out of my sails. I considered giving up on the issue altogether, yet I still knew how passionate I was about it. This energy could not be wasted on a mindless rant. Fighting my hopelessness, I ventured deeper into the subject.
With further examination, it dawned on me I was going about it all wrong. My anger might’ve been justified, but it was pointed in a useless direction. A direction of blame rather than a solution. It hit me that they are all human too. Their addiction might seem different than mine, but it is the exact same. Michael Jackson is revered as one of the greatest artists of all time, yet he was broken just like I was. Whitney Houston, Tom Petty, and Prince were all looking for the same result as me; to feel comfortable in their own skin. How dare I judge them? For it was I who put them on the pedestal that is celebrity.
They were simply living what they knew. What we societally trained them to know. Although my frustration became guilt, I was still deliberating on what I wanted to address. I had no clear-cut idea or agenda for what I knew had to be said. Still, I was focusing on being the problem solver to an issue far bigger than myself, as if I had a magical solution. My primal male instincts to fix everything were working against me. I gave up the idea that I was the answer, and instead became aware that through my own experience I am able to properly shed light on the actual problem.
I began to ponder the millions of other addicts in the world, and if it is true that these stars are just like us, than we must share a commonality of cause; a reason why. There is an old recovery saying stating we need to change people, places and things in order to stay sober. Well in the scope of the entertainment industry, people, places and things are drugs, drugs and more drugs! This comes as no surprise to the everyday average Joe. We’ve collectively said for decades that “Those crazies out in Hollywood love them some drugs!” while we silently judge them, sipping the beer they just appeared in a commercial for.
The fact of it is, they were once everyday civilians too. Influenced and brainwashed by the same things we all are. Caught up in the cycle, only to become the conductors of it. When and where drugs became a mainstay in entertainment is not important. I am by no means saying the drug epidemic is on the hands of Hollywood. No blame is dished out. Responsibility, however, is placed on societies shoulders. We are a broken people. We crave to feel better, to fit in and be comfortable in our own skin, leading us ultimately to medicate. My issue with the industry does come, however, with this newer generation of younger entertainers. Who deal with all the same brokenness, and are following suit to numb in the same way their predecessors did. Until they end up on the same autopsy table, reduced to an RIP hashtag.
And with that we arrive at the meat and potatoes. Entertainers are merely repeating what they’ve been taught, and whether you know it or not, you are being taught right now. Subconscious mind tricks are being played on us with every song we play or video we watch.
I take full ownership of my relapse which landed me here. However, I credit a hefty majority to my unwillingness to change what I watched and listened to. I thought I could still maintain a good program of recovery whilst singing along to Top 40 hits glorifying Percocet, Molly and endless amounts of alcohol. I justified driving listening to songs about being “wasted” or “f***ed up” as long as my destination was a twelve-step meeting. I gave up the drugs, but I’ll be damned if you take my music!
In retrospect, I laugh at how shocked I was that I relapsed. I attempted giving recovery my best shot, attending meetings almost every day and following all suggestions given. In the blink of an eye, I had picked up pills again. I acted like I had no idea where the thoughts or actions to use came from. Little did I know that I was grooming the overwhelming majority of my brain to make this decision for me. The music I played and the content I viewed erased any ounce of recovery I had in me.
Neuroscientists, over years of studies, have concluded that only 5% of the brain can process cognitive thought. Leaving the remaining 95% to soak up whatever we decide to feed it. What little we do control of our brain is dictated by the massive percentage we cannot. This is why we instinctually, or sometimes impulsively, produce action without active thought. In other words, just because I wasn’t thinking about drugs does not mean I wasn’t thinking about drugs. When we are giving our brain these toxic mediums for input, they do not go in one ear and out of the other. They store themselves nice and cozily into the 95%, waiting to rear their ugly head when it matters most.
I have witnessed myself and other addicts choose multimedia as their “hill to die on” so to speak. Sadly sometimes in a literal sense. However, a wise counselor once told me “Nothing changes if nothing changes” and the same is true here. If we do what we’ve always done, we will get what we’ve always got. It hurts to let go of old ideas, especially certain songs, movies or shows. Yet we took radical steps to get into said circumstance so logically speaking, it will take radical changes to get out. The entertainers cited above just repeated the cycle, and somehow achieved notoriety for it. They are no better or worse than you or I.
Surprisingly enough, I have found that life does indeed go on if I do not inundate myself with drugs and negativity! There is still plenty of amazing music and movies with a positive message for me to feed my subconscious mind. This is not to say that every aspect of your life needs to be recovery. Even the most zealous sobriety guru would grow tired of it in massive doses. My intentions are to make you question and consider. To challenge your perception and honestly take a look at what you give your mind. Outside of drugs, take inventory of what you are serving your brain; it might just save your life.
Written By Jared Schappert
Edited by Crystal Champ