When interviewing the lead singer of a popular band the main topic most likely to be covered is music- right? But everyone knows the name of the game here at The Discovering Alcoholic, we talk about addiction and recovery… so what was I doing interviewing Art Alexakis of Everclear?
It all started with a story by one of our contributors who wrote a blog about Art and Everclear with the ulterior motive of trying to get me out to the Schaeffer Crawfish Boil where they will be playing this Saturday. I tend to avoid concert crowds, it has less to do with the drinking that usually accompanies such venues than the fact that my idea of a good time usually involves more intimate settings and close friends. So when Art’s most pleasant agent contacted me about setting up an interview, I felt sort of out of my element.
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There was a time when I would have jumped at the chance, maybe just for a moment to share the limelight. But a funny thing had happened on the road to recovery to that boisterous, loud guy that went to see everyone from the Rolling Stones to the Violent Femmes (just don’t ask for details)- still a man’s man, but these days a hot cup of java, good book, and the lazy loll of a purring cat are my guilty pleasures.
So I prepared for the interview, did my research on Art. I found out many things, that he has struggled and lost much to substance abuse and addiction… and has been in recovery for the better part of the last two decades. He is an advocate. Not only for those in recovery and still struggling with addictions, but also for children that no longer have the support they need because of abandonment or through casualty of war. I’m old to get giddy over a celebrity, but I was quickly becoming impressed with Art’s efforts to make the world a better place whether it’s testifying before Congress or by sharing what he does best, his music.
Then I made my list of questions up and surprise, surprise- they were all about recovery. So hoping it wouldn’t be obvious that it was an afterthought, I threw in a couple of music questions, after all- the guy is a singer, lead guitarist, and a song writer. When the time rolled around for my 15 minute phone interview I clicked the record button, introduced myself, and went to item number one on the list.
There is no doubt something special that occurs between alcoholics and addicts in recovery, and that is the open and honest sharing of our inner thoughts and past struggles. In doing so we heal, learn, and begin to help others do the same- these things we share serve a higher purpose. That is what happened to us, some indeterminate time later I looked down at my old fashioned 30 minute microcassette that had long stopped turning and realized that what had just happened was by no means an interview with Art Alexakis… instead it had been a recovery meeting.
Reviewing my notes later on that evening I planned to pull out a few quotes from the recording but couldn’t get over the feeling that I was somehow breaking confidence. This is by no means the case, Art knew he was being recorded, but I decided to stay away from many direct quotes because it seemed wrong… one doesn’t tape record a meeting!
I will tell you this though, we both shared aspects of our personal recovery programs and the things we do to stay safe and sober while traveling. This obviously is something of paramount importance for Art who not only stays on the road, but in environments that could be considered at best sobriety challenged. “I work in bars” said Art, “not so much these days as in the past, but it is a big part of my job.”
There are several ways he stays grounded in his recovery while touring including working out and a no drug policy for the band members, but one of the most important things to Art is staying in contact with his family. He is a big fan of instant messaging and sending pictures back and forth on the phone maintaining a bond, “being on the road is temporary, transient- the reality is that I live at home with my family; that keeps me from getting lost.”
One thing I had always been curious about with celebrities in recovery is how challenging it must be trying to find a meeting in which they could feel comfortable. I certainly imagine it would be hard to speak openly in a meeting, especially in early recovery, if you expected to see it repeated the next day as a gossip page headline. Art impressed me once again though, by stating that he was just as much worried about becoming a distraction and disrupting the progress of others at the meeting.
Not to leave out one of the questions that was the catalyst of this meeting, I asked about the origin of the band’s name, Everclear. It was indeed named after the pure grain alcohol that we called rocket fuel back in the day. He said the name came about because of the misleading nature of the clear liquid that looked harmless like water but was actually “pure, white evil”, a good analogy for these three nondescript guys that once uncorked would score three platinum albums.
I’ll be honest; the conversation began to dwindle as I failed miserably trying to turn the topic to music. I felt if I needed to reciprocate by highlighting an upcoming project or specific play dates, but Art was more interested in recovery… and that my friends, is so very cool. So this evening I would like to issue a very special TDA salute, something I like to do for people who deserve special recognition in the recovery world. Art is aces in my book because he is going the extra mile and speaking out when it might be better for his career, no doubt easier, to remain silent and enjoy his fame. Instead he is out there not only telling the world, but serving as a living example that recovery can be cool, artistic, and even something to brag about.