RU Texas The Beat

Causey and Effect: Talking with Songwriter Buddy Causey

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 9, 2017 10:33:52 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Music Therapy, Addiction, Treatment, Music Treatment

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If you’ve never heard of Tuscaloosa singer/songwriter Buddy Causey, take a closer look at the canon of southern rock music over the past few decades. If that doesn’t work, check this year’s Grammys. A veteran of the music business, Causey started recording at Alabama’s legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio when he was just 19 years old. He parlayed his passion and talent into a career that saw record deals on such labels as United Artists, Capitol, Roulette and Warner Bros. He also wrote thousands of jingles for companies like McDonald’s, Miller Beer and Betty Crocker. Along the way, however, the reflective and deeply spiritual Causey fought a decades-long battle with substance abuse and addiction: “I got involved with everything you shouldn’t be involved with, hand over fist.” His primary drugs of choice were pills and marijuana.

Fate intervened in 2007 when Causey suffered an “extremely unusual” stroke that left him reliant on a walker, temporary visually impaired and with nerve damage to one of his vocal cords: “That changed my life. I promised God that if he ever let me sing again, I wouldn’t be selfish and sing to sell a bunch of records; I’d sing for him.” For the past five years, and after making a full recovery, Causey has been better than his word, traveling his self-designated route, spreading his version of the gospel. Since his recovery, all accept for one song (which just happens to be a Grammy-nominated collaboration with fellow Muscle Shoals alumni Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham), has been about his newly reinvigorated relationship with God.

The stroke also prevented Causey from any further drug use. After struggling to sing for four years, he was contacted by members of Celebrate Recovery. After initial reluctance to embrace recovery, it was only a matter of time before Causey started listening to the message: “I thought ‘Hey I’m a miracle, man. I could sing. I don’t need any of this mess.’ I was a fool. I needed it more than anybody. After I went through the step-study, I realized I kept making the same mistakes over and over.” Causey counts letting his temper get the better of him and taking the easy way out whenever possible among these dominant, lifelong mistakes.

These days the 70-year-old Causey is more interested in spreading his musical message to those who he feels truly need to hear it: “All I do now is go to churches, Celebrate Recovery [events], halfway houses, jails and prisons.” While the compensation may not be what he was used to from his days of writing and performing full-time, it’s no longer about money for Causey: “I make way more than money by going.” Causey started his current mission in November of 2011, after taking four years to recover from his life-changing stroke, and has been relentless in its pursuit ever since.

Although he might be slowing down his performance schedule, Causey remains active in the studio. He recently recorded a Christian record entitled Well Done My Son, which features collaborations with members of Toto, and Michael McDonald’s band and was co-produced by Blue Miller, a regular collaborator with India Arie. Well Done My Son is a self-funded effort and was put out by Causey himself on his Brother Man Records label. Despite a superlative musical career and his inspiring work helping others, Causey admits to being the occasional prisoner of the past: “I used to say that I wasted so much of my life; but if I hadn’t done what I’d done, I couldn’t talk to these people. They wouldn’t believe me. People that I talk to are people just like me.” Causey might be in error, however, to believe that anyone is truly like him.

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Fentanyl Rapidly Becoming Nation’s Most Urgent Drug Threat

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 5, 2017 3:37:14 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Treatment, opioids, Fentanyl, Fentanyl Addiction

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It’s a drug that many believe will be the dominant substance abuse threat of 2017. It has already contributed to a prodigious rise in the already staggering rates of heroin and opioid overdose in the United States. It’s one of the most powerful opioid narcotics known to clinicians, law enforcement and prevention advocates. It was present in Prince’s highly publicized autopsy. It’s called fentanyl, and it’s claiming the lives of more and more Americans each month. Over the past few years, fentanyl has emerged as an increasingly urgent drug threat and its effects have been reported more and more by local and national media outlets as its bodycount increases.

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid narcotic used in the treatment of severe chronic and post-operative pain. It is reported to be 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and extremely addictive. Common brand names of fentanyl include Duragesic, Abstral, Subsys, Lonsys and Sublimaze. Fentanyl is often used to treat patients with chronic pain who are tolerant of other opioids. In cases of recreational use, users often don’t even realize they’re taking the drug and wind up overdosing as a result. Street names for fentanyl or for fentanyl-laced heroin include Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT, and Tango and Cash. The drug is coming into the United States largely from Mexico and China, and is considerably cheaper and easier to produce than pure heroin.

Fentanyl deaths have spiked all across the country, including New York City and Long Island, where the drug has officially replaced heroin as the dominant opioid amidst record overdose rates; Illinois, where deaths are up 42 percent in certain counties; and Oregon, where deaths have nearly doubled since 2014. New Hampshire has become a sort of incubator for fentanyl, in addition to being plagued by other opioids. Perhaps the most tragic and alarming aspect of the American fentanyl outbreak is that experts see no real end in sight, or even a tipping point at which the epidemic will start to wane.

According to a government report released last August, the number of fatal fentanyl overdoses jumped 79 percent in 27 states from 2013 to 2014, while law enforcement seizures of the drug increased 426 percent in eight of those 27 states. States that were most affected of the 27 included Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland and North Carolina. Fentanyl is resistant to the anti-overdose drug Narcan and should not be handled with bare hands or even breathed in. Law enforcement officers are forced to wear oxygen tanks and protective suits when in a fentanyl manufacturing facility and they can only wear them for 15-20 minutes at a time.

Treatment for fentanyl is the same as that of other drugs; however, detox may even be more difficult. As clinicians, lawmakers, police and prevention advocates brace for an even tougher battle against drug abuse and addiction, they would do well to put fentanyl at the top of their list of priorities. This drug has taken the already pervasive and deadly opioid epidemic to the next level, and shows no signs of slowing down.

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What Does 2017 Hold for Addiction Treatment?

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 2, 2017 5:09:23 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Opioid Addiction, Treatment, Heroin Addiction, Fentanyl, New Year

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Fotolia_123519808_Subscription_Monthly_M.jpgAs we begin to settle into another year, it can be overwhelming to contemplate how quickly time passes, and to think about what we failed to accomplish the year prior. The passage of time can be even more overwhelming when we’re working against the ticking clock of addiction. Whether it is ourselves or a loved one that has come to need help for drugs or alcohol, we are quickly reminded of the urgent and decidedly terminal nature of addiction, and the damage it can cause when left unaddressed. To that end, it is worth turning the arrival of a new year to our advantage by examining what is (or should be) on the horizon for clinical treatment in 2017.

This past year, the United States made great strides and sweeping demonstrations of commitment toward the monetization of addiction treatment, from the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to various states like New York and Ohio pledging additional resources to fighting addiction within their state. We also, however, saw multiple and highly publicized examples of overdose via social media which put a more-human-than-ever face on the American addiction epidemic. Some of these issues resulted in the direct and undeniable endangerment of children. It is also worth noting that Massachusetts is facing a battle to continue opioid treatment funding.

The reality is that, despite all of the new attention and money going toward addiction in the United States, there continues to be new and emerging threats that make us feel as though we’re taking one step forward and two steps back. It is, therefore, worth examining what types of substance abuse pose a particularly dangerous threat in the coming year in order to develop comprehensive strategies to dealing with them. For example, 2016 saw the seemingly rapid proliferation of a drug called fentanyl, a powerful opioid that is approximately 100 times more powerful than morphine. Its increase in accessibility is leading to an increase in overdose deaths all over the country, including New York, New Jersey, Illinois and more. The fentanyl problem is particularly urgent because the drug has proven to be resistant to Narcan, unlike other opioids.

Also big in 2016 was the continued infiltration of synthetic drugs like U-47700 or Pink. This drug, in particular, has sustained a temporary ban from the US Drug Enforcement Agency because of its involvement with at least 46 confirmed deaths—31 in New York and 10 in North Carolina. Law enforcement agencies have seized the drug in powder form and as counterfeit tablets that mimic pharmaceutical opioids. Earlier this year, law enforcement in Ohio seized 500 pills resembling a manufacturer's oxycodone immediate-release tablets. However, laboratory analysis confirmed that they contained Pink. Pink is usually shipped in from China and is typically combined with other drugs like heroin and aforementioned fentanyl.

Synthetic drugs represent a larger problem of overseas labs changing the chemistry of similar drugs that have already been banned here in the United States in an effort escape legal accountability. Lawmakers have been only marginally effective in keeping up with the regulation and prohibition of these drugs; and by the time they are made illegal, a new and unregulated version is waiting just around the corner. In the meantime dozens of people often suffer fatal overdoses because these drugs were allowed to fly under the radar for so long. This is a problem that has been going on for years, but emerges in different forms on a regular basis. All it takes is a slight change in a seemingly inconsequential chemical compound.

In addition to these latent addiction threats, the United States continues to struggle with a rampant and devastating heroin and prescription painkiller epidemic, as well as the enduring threat of cocaine and methamphetamine. Drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, though more difficult and expensive to obtain, continue to be a forceful driver of American overdoses. While 2017 may represent new and old challenges for the addiction care community, it also represents new opportunities to treat those who truly need help, and to, patient by patient, start reversing this tragic and alarming trend. With the right resources, attitude and level of commitment, we can do this.

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San Antonio Docs Using "Kangaroo Care" to Help Addicted Newborn Babies

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 22, 2016 11:38:07 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, NAS, Addiction, Treatment, Withdrawl, Newborns

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Like the rest of the country, Texas is in the midst of a fierce and tragic drug addiction epidemic. It is not news to anyone living in the lone star state who have been affected by addiction that drugs like meth, opioids and cocaine are devastating public health issues with the power to end lives and destroy families. One group of casualties commonly affected by the disease of addiction is newborn babies born to vulnerable mothers. A research project in San Antonio, Texas, is aiming to ease the suffering of these babies and their mothers during this urgent and incredibly difficult time.

Prescription opioid addiction is affecting more and more newborns in San Antonio. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, about 400 drug dependent babies are born in Bexar County each year. That’s one-third of all the cases in Texas. When a baby is born addicted, first early stages of life incredibly difficult and even impede natural development. It also leaves guilt-ridden mothers vulnerable to crippling emotional distress and mental illness as they’re confronted with what addiction has done to them. The withdrawal process can last days, weeks, even a couple of agonizing months. The medical term for the condition is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or NAS.

Physicians at the San Antonio’s U.T. Health Science Center are utilizing a method called kangaroo care to help babies more comfortably overcome their withdrawal periods. Kangaroo care is a method of holding a baby that involves skin-to-skin contact. The baby, who is naked except for a diaper and a piece of cloth covering his or her back (either a receiving blanket or the parent's clothing), is placed in an upright position against a parent's bare chest. Some of the immediate health benefits include:

  • Stabilization of the baby's heart rate
  • Improved (more regular) breathing pattern
  • Improved oxygen saturation levels
  • Increase in sleep time
  • Accelerated weight gain
  • Decreased crying
  • More successful breastfeeding episodes

Kangaroo care was first developed in he 1970s in response to the high mortality rate of premature babies born abroad. Researchers found that babies who were held close to their mothers' bodies for large portions of the day not only survived, but thrived. The method soon made its way to the United States where it is utilized in a variety of cases. In a state in which opioid dependency and other forms of drug addiction are becoming an increasingly common reality, another medical intervention to help affected infants can only help save lives. 

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New Father-Son Book Highlights Treatment Gap and Prison Rates for Addicts

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 20, 2016 10:24:26 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Prison, Depression

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When most people are in the midst of a lengthy prison sentence, they tend to think their life is over, or at least severely disrupted. The last thing they’re thinking about is writing a book with their dad. Rolando Perez, however, has always been a little different and a little more driven. Once bent on being an engineer, he would, as a child, often run around his house with two books saying: “This is my dad's dissertation, and this is my dissertation.” He was even on an academic decathlete in high school. It seemed as though he was able to write his own future.

En route to that limitless future, however, life took an unexpected and ugly turn. In college, while studying on scholarship, Rolando started self-medicating for depression and his life spiraled out of control. He is currently serving seven years for possession with intent to deliver a narcotic. Many would call it a day after that; however, Rolando has decided to turn his experiences into a cautionary tale in the form of a book on which he’s collaborating with this father, Dr. Juan Perez. An Everlasting Bond: The Story of a Father and His Son hit shelves and sites last month.

In addition to the deeply personal material that the weighty title suggests, the book focuses on a variety of issues faced by the United States’ addicted population, including prison culture, treatment accessibility and more. It calls for a "cultural shift" in talking about and treating the issue because 90 percent of those with a substance abuse disorder are not getting any treatment at all. Above all it puts a human face on addiction and highlights the devastating impact it causes individuals and the families that love them. This is something that many need to see as the stigma of moral failure continues to hover around chemical dependency.

At his trial, Rolando had the same attorney that defended Ethan Couch, or as many know him the “affluenza teen” who killed four people while driving drunk in 2013 and receivedprobation. He did not, however, have Couch’s financial resources and wasn’t able to gather the money to attend a quality treatment program…the alternative was jail. Rolando has been sent to prison three times, and has received no level of treatment during the totality of his incarceration. Dr. Juan Perez, a certified school counselor who works with school districts and former parole commissioner for the state of Texas, is hoping this latest collaboration with his son will help guide the addiction conversation in a more substantive and helpful direction.

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A Family Thing: Talking with Unlikely Songwriter Patricia Bronson

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 15, 2016 1:47:31 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Treatment, Alcoholism, Heroin Addiction, Music

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For the entirety of our Artists in Recovery Series, Recovery Unplugged has been focusing on how musicians use music to help cultivate and sustain their recovery. Our latest installment flips the script and discusses how the love of family can be expressed through music to help addicts bounce back and overcome drugs and alcohol. Recovery Unplugged recently had the honor of speaking with one mother who realized just how valuable music can be as a source of healing and empowerment. This is a woman who is determined to take control of her own story, and we were happy to help her tell it.

There are mothers and then there is Patricia Bronson. Patricia is from Pelham, New Hampshire and her daughter is one of thousands of addicts in a state that has been essentially decimated by heroin and prescription opioid abuse. She developed an alcohol problem in college; but like many parents, Patricia didn’t recognize her daughter’s drinking problem until it was too late: “I just kind of wrote it off as a typical teenager going off to college. But it had become more excessive and it came to the point where she was really making bad decisions and hurting herself.” Eventually Patricia guided her daughter into a treatment facility in Florida, where she remained for about nine months.

Unfortunately, however, the story doesn’t end there. After a stint at another rehab in Maine and a subsequent year in a half of sobriety, Patricia’s daughter soon found herself battling heroin addiction: “She called me one Sunday and said ‘I need to check myself into rehab.’ I said ‘You’re drinking again?’ and that’s when she actually told me ‘No, I’m doing heroin.’ We had tried to convince her to go back to Florida, but she didn’t want to go.” It took her daughter three days to find help, a problem that many vulnerable New Hampshire residents face, despite a glaring need for increased treatment resources throughout the state. On the last day, with assistance from her mother, she found a facility in Massachusetts. She completed a day-program and has been sober ever since.

As the mother of an addict, Patricia has done everything she possibly can to make sure her daughter gets the help, love and support she needs, including penning a song for her when she reached an important milestone: “The first one was for her one year of sobriety [from alcohol],” says Bronson. “What we did as a family is we took verses and turned then into a hip-hop song.” After finalizing the lyrics, Patricia collaborated with a production company in Pennsylvania to bring the piece to life. The partnership has continued through three other works. She and the rest of her family presented the song to her daughter at a meeting.

Patricia wrote the first song so that her daughter could have a constant reminder of the support in her life when she felt vulnerable: “It was for her to continuously listen to when the days got tough.” Her writing credits don’t end there. As an active member of the Pelham Community Coalition, an organization dedicated to educating and empowering the Pelham community about substance abuse to prevent overdose, Pat put her frustration with her town’s lack of action toward this crisis to music. “The town, itself, is still in denial that they have a problem. It’s very hard to get people to talk about it because [they think] it’s never going to happen to them.”

For her own part, Patricia has no plans to stop writing songs to chronicle important events in her life: “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and these songs are always going to be there.”

In a subsequent conversation, Patricia informed me that there have been multiple overdoses in Pelham since the interview, leaving two dead.

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Tom Petty to Be Named MusiCares 2017 Person of the Year

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 13, 2016 2:35:00 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Heroin Addiction, Tom Petty

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A cluster of music’s greatest living artists will pay tribute to one of their own in just a few months’ time, as legendary singer/songwriter and Heartbreakers front-man Tom Petty is honored by MusiCares as their Person of the Year. MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for musicians and those in the music business in times of need. Their services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. The organization also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly impact the health and welfare of the music community.

Petty’s struggles with heroin addiction became widely known after the release of his biography last year. He spent more than a decade battling the disease after he split from his wife in the 1990s. What is even better documented is his legendary career and triumphant return to the stage and studio after overcoming his dependency. A career that has spanned 40 years, first with the Heartbreakers then as a solo artist, Petty has solidified himself as one of the most important and influential songwriters of his era. His journey to and from heroin addiction reminds us that we can all get sucked in, but also that we can all recover.

Petty will be honored on February 10 at a Gala in Los Angeles. The proceeds of which will provide essential support for MusiCares, which ensures music people have a place to turn in times of financial, medical, and personal need. Performing artists will include Gary Clark, Jr. Foo Fighters, Don Henley, Norah Jones, Kings Of Leon, Jeff Lynne, Randy Newman, Stevie Nicks, George Strait, and Lucinda Williams, Jackson Browne, Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, Elle King, and Regina Spektor and the Bangles. The celebration culminates with the 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. The telecast will be broadcast live on the CBS Television Network at 8pm.

About MusiCares

The MusiCares Foundation offers programs and services to members of the music community, including emergency financial assistance for basic living expenses such as rent, utilities, and car payments; medical expenses including doctor, dentist, and hospital bills; psychotherapy; and treatment for HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, hepatitis C, and other critical illnesses. MusiCares offers nationwide educational workshops covering a variety of subjects, including financial, legal, medical, and substance abuse issues, and programs in collaboration with health care professionals that provide services such as flu shots, hearing tests, and medical/dental screenings.

The MusiCares MAP Fund® allows access to addiction recovery treatment and sober living resources for members of the music community. Staffed by qualified chemical dependency and intervention specialists, MusiCares offers Safe Harbor Room® support, sponsored in part by the Bohemian Foundation and RBC Capital Markets, to provide a network to those in recovery while they are participating in the production of televised music shows and other major music events. MusiCares holds weekly addiction support groups for people to discuss how to best cope with the issues surrounding the recovery process. The MusiCares Sober Touring Network is a database of individuals across the United States who can take music people to recovery support meetings while on the road.

 

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Obama’s Final Round of Pardons Highlights Prison Rates for Drug Offenders

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 7, 2016 10:11:23 AM / by RU Texas posted in Addiction, Treatment, Obama, Drug Crimes, Pardons

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Last month President Obama reduced the sentences of six federal inmates from Texas during his administration’s most recent and final wave of clemency and commutation. To date, the President has issued more pardons than the last eleven combined. Of particular interest to the outgoing administration has been the collective plight of non-violent drug offenders, nearly a thousand of whom have seen their sentences reduced during Obama’s time in office. In all, the President has granted clemency to 1023 people since taking office, a majority of whom have been sentenced under mandatory minimum drug-laws which many argue are comparatively strict under the current code.

One of the most recent, and admittedly glaring, examples of these laws lies in the case of Texas man recently pardoned by the President after being sentenced to 30 years in prison and 10 years of supervised release for possession and intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. He was sentenced in the Southern District of Texas in the late 1990s. While House Counsel Neil Eggleston described the pardons as a second chance for those who have earned it. Others in the latest round of pardons include those sentenced for meth trafficking and production and crack cocaine distribution.

As the sun sets on the Obama administration, it leaves behind an undeniable legacy of compassion toward non-violent drug offenders; however, they also leave firmly in place the legal climate that ensnared these offenders and removed them from their families in the first place. It’s unclear, and will remain so for at least a year, whether President-elect Trump will wield the power of the pardon in a fashion similar to his predecessor; however, with a prison system that is overwhelmingly packed (some say “bloated”) with these offenders, the wisdom of the incarceration-first approach continues to be questioned on both sides of the aisle.

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Our Thoughts and Prayers Go Out to Those Impacted by the Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 5, 2016 10:01:31 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Treatment, Music, Ghost Ship

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There’s not a lot to say, but we’ll try anyhow. Recovery Unplugged extends our sincere and profound sympathies to those who were impacted by Friday’s terrible fire at Oakland’s Ghost Ship art and performance space, an incident that authorities are now saying is the biggest fire in the city’s history. As the investigation regarding cause and impact progresses, and authorities forecast an increasingly grim final result, we will continue to have all those who were affected, living and deceased, in our thoughts and prayers. We also urge all those who were affected by this immense tragedy to take advantage of their local mental health resources to help them deal with the trauma that many will have undoubtedly sustained.

Music is supposed to be a refuge for all of us, and live music offers a whole different element to this sense of critical escapism. Many, if not most of us, have that special live venue in our community where we can go to hear the best and most interesting artists in our area as well as those who stop in while on tour. These spaces, in whatever form, are a cultural crossroads where many of us find an identity and a sense of community that we simply can’t find anywhere else. They allow us to experience the work of new and emerging artists while celebrating the rich and unique culture of our own distinguished locales. It’s altogether tragic to think that our friends and neighbors could lose their lives by simply going to a show.

The unshakable and unsettling truth is that this could have happened to a lot of us who rely on these kinds of spaces to experience the best and most authentic live music; those of us who live in Brooklyn, Portland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Austin, Miami and many other cities understand this particularly well. Recovery Unplugged grieves heavily for those who have lost their lives in the Ghost Ship fire and for their loved ones who will, forever more, have to face life without them. We wish them all the strength and courage on earth as they endeavor to make it through this unspeakably difficult time.

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Losing and Wynning: A Conversation with Colorado Songwriter Andrew Wynne

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 2, 2016 11:11:37 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Treatment, Music, Andrew Wynne

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Let’s start off by stating what will be come clear the moment you hear his music: if you live in Colorado and miss your chance to see Denver’s Andrew Wynne at any of his upcoming performances, you may need to check your priorities...just saying. The reality is that few songwriters, or human beings for that matter, exemplify the power and opportunity of recovery like he has. Recovery Unplugged had the chance to catch up with Andrew to discuss his journey to recovery, his music, his ambition and the close relationship between all three.

It seems fitting to mention that we caught Andrew a bit off-guard, as he was up late the night before the interview attending a late-night recovery meeting and yoga session. This should give you some idea of how committed he is to the process. Once we got down to business, however, he discussed in great detail the evolution of his substance abuse, including a family history of alcoholism and a strained relationship with this father after his parents’ divorce: “I think some of my struggles stemmed from a lack of relationship with my dad.” After the divorce, Andrew moved to Denver from White Plains, NY with his mother, who he said just wanted to get a fresh start.

While his mother found her fresh start, Andrew found a new passion in music, one that has endured to this day and shows no signs of mellowing. Unfortunately, however, it was only a few years until he also found drugs: “Right around the time I turned 14, I started smoking pot and taking acid and doing what I considered to be some of the normal things for kids to do.” Concerned about the turn his life was taking, his mother put the 15-year-old Andrew in a Denver treatment facility.

Although he first entered treatment in the mid-1980s, a time when the addiction care landscape was admittedly limited in its scope of capabilities compared to today, it was a period of growth and education for the young but precocious Andrew: “I got introduced to the 12 Steps and the principles of recovery through both AA and NA at a young age. A lot of those concepts stuck with me.” Unfortunately, however, Andrew learned that education is not always enough to sustain recovery, and it wasn’t long before he started using again: “I didn’t stay sober. I was 15 and I went through treatment and that was great; but shortly thereafter, I was off and running again and continued to party for about 25 years.”

Though obviously regretful about his prolonged period of active substance abuse, Andrew is also realistic and candid about his past as a whole: “Hindsight is always 20-20. I was making the best decisions I thought I could at the time. I had a lot of amazing experiences and some successes in both music and activism.” Andrew is a lifelong advocate of environmental causes, a passion he expresses through songs like “The Place”.

The rest of Andrew’s songs, which he tends to group in categories of “pre- and post-recovery”, boast honest lyricism, infectious melodies, sophisticated yet accessible guitar work and disciplined and insightful instrumental layering. They comprise a canon that is rich with experience and worth getting lost in for a while, whether or not you’re in recovery or have ever been intoxicated in your life. In other words, it’s music for everyone. He is, however, quick to mention the role that recovery has played in his writing process: “There are definitely themes {within the songs]. ‘The Stream’ was inspired by my first bout with recovery and having a sense that there was something missing. What I was pursuing in using, I wasn’t finding.” Although he wrote and recorded it before getting clean for the last time, Andrew claims the writing was on the wall with “The Stream” and other songs like it: “I already sort of intuitively knew that there was something more and that recovery was going to be critical to me going any further in my life.” Andrew recently parlayed “The Stream” into a full-length record of the same name, which was released on 11-15.

Regarding the evolution of his recovery and where it’s led him, Andrew had the following to say: “They talk about this disease being cunning, baffling and powerful and it’s hard to separate the influence of my addiction on my thinking versus just ordinary ego and fear-based mentality that we all experience and are influenced by. And a lot of this, for me, has just been a process of growing up, which is something that everyone at some point in their lives goes through; where their old ways of thinking don’t work anymore.”

Now, 46 years old and with nearly six years of sobriety under his belt, Andrew seems completely comfortable in his own skin, and with that comfort has come some truly incredible and inspiring music. The man who once received a grant from Musicares for his treatment seems determined to give something back the best way he can: with a guitar and experience.

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