After COVID-19, musicians battle another epidemic: addiction

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One of many final songs the 30-year-old nation singer Cady Groves ever recorded was about being alone and undecided the place to search for hope.

“Acquired one million scars, don’t know the place to begin / Can anyone hear me now?,” she sings on the wounded however resilient single “Bless My Coronary heart.” “The loopy nights, the silly fights and the givin’ up …. Each time I performed the sport and I acquired cheated / Each time I heard a lie and I believed it.”

Groves had a troublesome upbringing, shedding two older brothers to overdoses in her teenagers and 20s. She’d discovered pop-country success within the 2010s (Blake Shelton appeared in her video for “This Little Girl”), and after she misplaced her cope with RCA, she received an impartial fanbase for her tender, forthright songwriting about loss and longing.

“Cady was this free spirit who wore her coronary heart on her sleeve. She was a type of individuals who would do something for you inside quarter-hour of assembly you,” mentioned Camus Celli, head of her label, Vel Information. “I feel with all artists, that’s one of many hardest issues to keep up with out a buffer. You’re inclined to so many issues.”

COVID-19 shutdowns have been brutal for a lot of musicians, with excursions canceled, earnings dwindling and their households and communities adrift. Celli mentioned Groves, driving out the pandemic in her suburban Nashville residence, took it particularly laborious. She’d struggled with consuming issues and had obtained assist from MusiCares. Because the stress and isolation of the pandemic took maintain, they resurfaced.

“I’ve needed to REALLY simply be alone with myself and my ideas and fears and nervousness in my bed room with out anyone right here in Nashville. Some days my psychological well being is AWFUL. I really feel fully alone and scared and much from everybody I like and all I can do is maintain myself busy and push by way of,” she wrote on Instagram in April.

Groves died Might 2, and whereas the coroner’s report attributed her dying to power ethanol abuse, Celli mentioned current circumstances performed a task as nicely.

“She weighed 81 kilos when she died,” Celli mentioned. “Her physique simply gave up. In the course of COVID-19, nobody had seen her for months. She was at all times like ‘All the things’s nice,’ however COVID-19 actually stripped away a number of the construction artists rely upon.

“As an artist, the very last thing that you really want for folks to see is that it’s not going nicely and issues are falling aside.”

For musicians, the collapse of the dwell {industry} for probably two years because of the pandemic has left many feeling directionless, broke and scared. Unsurprisingly, some have turned to substances or addictions to really feel higher — or simply to really feel much less.

“Sobriety has positively been tougher,” mentioned Jodi Milstein, a Sherman Oaks therapist who makes a speciality of dependancy therapy in music and the leisure {industry}. “Stress, monetary worries, relationship troubles: There are such a lot of totally different stressors with COVID-19. The entire dwell music {industry} has been at a halt for eight months, and a few artists are involved that their window for fulfillment received’t keep open.”

One of many many penalties of COVID-19 is a spike in substance abuse nationwide. The Nationwide Institutes of Well being mentioned that in the course of the pandemic, “among the many hardest hit are people fighting substance use issues.”

In a brand new Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention report launched this month, there have been 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the USA over the 12 months ending in Might 2020 — the best ever recorded in a 12-month interval. Opioid deaths have been up 38%, and cocaine deaths have been up 27%. As tens of millions of Individuals misplaced jobs in the course of the pandemic-related recession, many misplaced medical insurance or, for musicians with out full-time employment, the means to pay for rehab or remedy as nicely (although the COVID-19 stimulus package deal handed this week contains $4.25 billion for psychological well being providers).

“The disruption to every day life because of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit these with substance use dysfunction laborious,” mentioned CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield in the study. “As we proceed the combat to finish this pandemic, it’s necessary to not lose sight of various teams being affected in different methods. We have to care for folks affected by unintended penalties.”

The Irish singer Sinead O’Connor said that she’s taking all of 2021 off from music to “go right into a one-year trauma and dependancy therapy program as a result of I had a really traumatic six years and this 12 months was the top of it however now restoration begins.”

Others couldn’t discover assist in time. The 25-year-old Philadelphia rapper Chynna, a collaborator with ASAP Mob, died in April of an opioid overdose. Nashville singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle, 38, died in August of a “possible drug overdose,” in line with native police. Each have been candid in interviews about their struggles with addictions (and plans for sobriety) earlier than the pandemic. (Earle’s father, Steve Earle, will launch an album, “J.T.,” overlaying his son’s songs, subsequent month.)

 Jodi Milstein is a therapist who specializes in treating addiction in musicians.

Jodi Milstein is a therapist who makes a speciality of treating dependancy in musicians.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Instances)

Geoff Rickly, the singer for the rock band Thursday, hosts a podcast, “Darkish Blue,” about psychological well being within the music enterprise. Rickly, 41, struggled with heroin dependancy for years. He’s three years sober now and attends common support-group conferences on-line. In the course of the pandemic, when many musicians lack work or an in-person sober group, he’s fearful about associates isolating and backsliding.

“The impediment of COVID-19 is all this unstructured time,” he mentioned. “This a lot isolation might be actually powerful for many musicians. I’ve associates who have been very productive originally of lockdown, however now they’re questioning why they need to maintain being productive. Golf equipment are closed, there’s no Spotify cash and these ripple results are displaying. There’s a number of concern,” he mentioned.

When Keith signed to a serious label within the first weeks of 2020, he couldn’t wait to get writing. The Silver Lake singer-songwriter (who requested to make use of a Rolling Stones-related pseudonym to guard his privateness) is in his early 30s, and simply earlier than the pandemic, he’d inked a cope with a major-label imprint for near a six-figure advance, after years in golf equipment refining his R&B-influenced rock.

He’d booked studio periods with A-list producers, had a gradual girlfriend thrilled at his success and a part-time service-industry job that might tide him over till the tour. He’d additionally simply kicked a lingering cocaine behavior.

However as soon as COVID-19 struck, these recording periods and tour plans evaporated. His day job went underneath, and whereas he might dwell off his advance for some time, he was bored, lonely and fearful in regards to the future.

Keith moved into his girlfriend’s home in March to journey out the pandemic, however “I didn’t have something to do all day however play guitar,” he mentioned. “I began cracking the primary beer of the day at 5 p.m., then 4, then 3, then 2. Quickly I used to be spiking my espresso with Hennessy within the morning.”

After a stressed, remoted summer time, the itch returned. An outdated occasion pal mentioned she was having associates over one night time within the fall. Keith hadn’t seen anybody for months. He’d meant to carry the road at a yard kickback. However somebody pulled out a bag of coke.

“The explanation I’d stopped hanging out with them was due to medicine, however I used to be actually depressed,” Keith mentioned. “Cocaine is just like the lover who texts ‘U up?’ and any time, day or night time, you understand you’re going to reply. Ultimately we have been chopping up traces, and I ordered two extra eight balls, and we did all of it.”

Keith went residence at 11 a.m. the subsequent day. His livid girlfriend promptly dumped him. “I’d put her and her household in danger for COVID. I get it,” he mentioned. He frantically wrote to family and friends to seek out some other place to isolate.

Music felt ineffective with no prospects for gigs. 9 months after COVID-19 arrived, his major-label advance now felt much less like a present to additional his artwork and extra like a mortgage that he’d by no means be capable to repay.

“I do know I might get dropped from the label, and I’ve no different ability set aside from being a musician,” he mentioned. “How am I going to have the ability to pay this again now?”

Justin Townes Earle in 2010.

Justin Townes Earle in 2010. He died of a “possible drug overdose” in August, in line with police.

(Related Press)

Even for artists and {industry} execs who hadn’t beforehand wrestled with substance abuse, the monetary devastation of the pandemic has launched recent panic. The problems the {industry} faces — closed venues, excursions postponed, meager aid for gig employees — play into anxieties that may kickstart substance abuse.

“There’s a way of feeling uncontrolled, which contributes to nervousness,” Milstein mentioned. “All of us thought [the pandemic] would possibly clear up by summer time, and now we don’t know if summer time 2021 will occur for excursions. Solely a small share of artists can survive what’s occurring. There’s no person searching for them.”

That’s been disorienting for a lot of musicians and DJs, mentioned Mikey Lion, the cofounder of the favored SoCal home and techno DJ crew Desert Hearts.

After the pandemic hit, he moved from L.A. again to his hometown of San Diego, and he says lots of his DJ friends have struggled in isolation with few paying gigs.

“A few of us are doing higher than others,” he mentioned. “That is positively one thing artists are speaking about. You possibly can really feel optimistic and disciplined about psychological well being and sobriety sooner or later after which the wheels will fall off.”

Some saved chasing the feeling of hedonistic nights at residence.

“Lots of people find yourself partying in their very own residence and getting misplaced in medicine or ingesting,” Lion mentioned. “Everybody’s fully fearful about their funds. It’s straightforward to get misplaced in despair.”

Zack Borer is an L.A.-based psychotherapist who makes a speciality of treating musicians. He cofounded Backline, a bunch connecting struggling musicians with psychological well being providers.

He’s definitely seen shoppers wrestling with new substance abuse points, he mentioned. However different sufferers have benefited from the change of surroundings, with time to replicate and entry to a world on-line assist community.

“I’ve shoppers who’ve taken laborious steps that they’d averted for years with their life on the street,” Borer mentioned. “For positive, individuals are fighting the lack of an in-person restoration group. However on the identical time, Zoom has allowed folks to enter into this house with much less vulnerability. You possibly can go to a gathering wherever on the planet, shut your digicam off and have anonymity. When you’re skeptical or ashamed or fearful, strolling right into a room and elevating your hand is troublesome. Digital areas might be much less stress.”

Rickly mentioned that in the course of the pandemic, he goes to these sorts of conferences each week, they usually’ve helped him by way of any latent pangs of dependancy. “The best factor I’ve seen is to reassure those that in the event that they discover themselves prepared for assist, there’s somebody there to reply them,” Rickly mentioned.

A number of months after his relapse, Keith sat on the again porch of his Silver Lake house and, whereas nonetheless fearful about his profession in the course of the pandemic, felt higher about staying clear. He’s been writing new music at residence and desperately desires to be in fine condition for his first headline tour — every time that comes subsequent 12 months.

“Partying by no means helped me cope with all of the trauma in my previous,” he mentioned. “However music did.”



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