At first glance, many people may only see the seemingly all glamorous lifestyle of the rich and famous without realizing the consequences that can arise with it. Popular culture can also tend to glorify those in the spotlight without addressing the real struggles that take place behind the velvet curtains—until it’s too late.
Throughout history, famous musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse have tragically made headlines for joining the “27 club.” The “27 club” is a cultural phenomenon—ultimately disproved by research—consisting of a list of popular musicians who all died at age 27 from unnatural causes.
While the previous research indicates that the age of 27 is no riskier than other ages as a musician, some studies suggest that popular musicians have a shortened life expectancy than comparable general populations. Because of the nature of the profession, it is essential to address those in the industry who may be struggling with a substance use disorder that they do not have to buy into the dangerous and risky lifestyle of drug and alcohol abuse. Instead, it is critical to express that they can live a long, healthy life exploring their passions.
Reasons Why Sobriety May be Uniquely Difficult for Musicians
Performing in front of crowds requires a level of vulnerability that can be hard to manage. Some musicians may look for ways to take the edge off and find that drugs and alcohol are quick to lower inhibitions in the moment. However, in the end, using this method night after night fosters long-term health concerns such as addiction. Therefore, when professional musicians enter into recovery and find sobriety to be their bedrock, yet performing is their means of financial security, it can be particularly challenging to avoid relapse.
Here are a few reasons clients who are musicians may find sobriety to be complex in their profession:
- This job requires individuals to play in places such as clubs and bars. Being in substance-fueled environments can pose a challenge for those in recovery.
- Additionally, having the spotlight on them can induce performance anxieties, such as pre-show jitters, post-show adrenaline rushes, and worrying about people’s opinions that can be hard to manage.
- Musicians may have started their careers with the impression that substance use enhances their creativity. In recovery, switching from this mindset can be difficult, especially when feeling creatively blocked proves frustrating.
Other reasons why sobriety may be challenging in unique ways to musicians may include:
- Preconditions such as genetics, childhood trauma, and mental health
- Social, cultural and workplace pressures
- Identity issues; public versus private self
- Fame and celebrity
- Imposter Syndrome
Addressing These Concerns in Treatment
While not every musician decides to use drugs or alcohol in excess to manage the emotional turbulence created by all of these pressures, many find the constant exposure to substances an added pressure to use and fit in. It is essential for addiction professionals who may be working with clients in the music industry to consider addressing these unique concerns in treatment to be best prepared in recovery.
It is also critical to remember that addiction is a disease and not a character flaw. Integrating programs into their lives and focusing on recovery skills that will help the specifics of their circumstance after treatment is key.
Some of the skills that can be helpful to a musician in recovery may include:
- Diversifying their social environments to include places and people outside of the musician lifestyle and outside of places that revolve around drugs and alcohol. Professional musicians may have normalized the bar/club environment as it is part of their workplace. However, not diversifying their social settings can introduce problems and create an unbalanced schedule.
- Finding healthy techniques that work to ease anxieties before and after shows. This may include finding a quiet place to meditate, watching other performances beforehand to distract oneself, or doing a quick few jumping jacks or running in place. For a sober musician, having a non-alcoholic drink in hand can also decrease social pressure to drink if the rest of the band has a beer in hand.
- Continuing to write and play music regardless of what mood they are in. If you’re an artist, then you should make your art regardless of how you’re feeling or what state you’re in; you do not need a substance to do so. Happy, sad, excited, in love, depressed, angry, sexy, anxious, melancholy, silly, joyous, peaceful, content, etc.—It all should be expressed and shared.
- Having a strong support system before, during, and after performances can be tremendously helpful. If you have another sober friend that wouldn’t mind coming to shows, this may help you feel less alone and remind you why you decided to get sober in the first place.
Being a professional musician takes hard work, dedication, and focus. While substance use may feel like it eases this pressure at first, in the end, it can make things worse. Some artists may feel worried about maintaining sobriety after treatment since the environment shows are played at can make it uniquely challenging for those in recovery. However, it is critical to express to clients the benefits sobriety can have on their life, career, and creativity. Whether you are a musician, artist, or business person, each person has a unique background that can affect their journey to sobriety. Nestled in the beautiful Hollywood Hills, at Alta Centers, our treatment providers will tailor a treatment plan designed around your specific needs and goals. At our premier substance abuse treatment center in Los Angeles, you can unblock and focus on recovery while staying close to the city lights. For more information on how we can help, call us now at (888) 202-2583.