Music Blogs

The Demons

  • By david
  • 23 December 2013

By Ian Palmer

Tis’ the season to be jolly! Yes it’s that time of year again, and wow, Christmas seems to come around quicker and quicker each year. This time of year for working musicians can be a particularly lucrative time of year. I remember my early days as a drummer, getting my first New Year’s Eve engagement meant I was well and truly in the money – or so I thought.

This time of year can be particularly expensive too and not only financially. Obviously more alcohol and drugs are consumed this time of year than at any other time of year and partly down to the environments that us musicians find ourselves in means that the lure of ‘mood altering’ substances can be particularly strong.

It has been well documented throughout history the number of showbiz types that have succumbed to drugs and alcohol. We artistic ones would perhaps appear to be some of the most susceptible. Whilst writing this blog I am conscious that I do not want to come across as self righteous or preaching. I do speak the following from the standpoint of a fair amount of experience and if the following does help just one person then I will consider my efforts worthy.

At the age of 15 I had my first drink and I must say it was such an amazing discovery. Here was a liquid that took me from being the spotty, puny and gangly teenager into the life and soul of the party with more confidence and wit than anyone I knew. People seemed to be attracted to my magnetic charisma, or so I thought! The truth was that I was transformed from the puny, gangly teenager to the puny, gangly, annoying, dribbling and drooling, teenager, and a precocious one at that. The truth was that I was not a particularly likeable person or respectable person and another thing is for sure, my behaviour did nothing for my gig prospects.

Throughout my early career I had met many musicians who drank to excess.  Things however did naturally progress musically in my career and things moved to the next level. Cocaine had become the drug of choice for my peers. Some wanted escapism, some wanted to be like their musical heroes. Whatever the motive here I came to realise that all of these people were basically unhappy to a small or large degree. These people became addicted. They became labelled “addicts” or “coke heads”, “wreck heads” or whatever the latest term was. These people started off enjoying drink and drugs and assumed they were in control when all of a sudden the Niagara syndrome kicked in. These people were happily paddling their canoe when all a sudden… “S***!” The big waterfall was ahead of them and they could not do a thing about it, they couldn’t stop. They were sent over the edge… in many different ways. These people found that life crashed all around them. Not only were they the last people at the party but in everyday life people distanced themselves.

The insanity of this obsession became such that these people were repeating the act of chemically changing their state BUT the “insanity” of it was that each time they repeated this, they expected a different result. Thus one of my favourite sayings succinctly suggests that one definition of insanity is “repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”

The truth is that no one woke up and thought to him or herself “I want to become a drug addict” or “I want to become an alcoholic”. No one ever said that, but ultimately that is what he or she became.

I have seen the devastating effect of excessive and addictive drink and drugs on may different people and I can say that it always ends in one of three ways. Jails, institutions or death. This is a serious business… A very serious business and I am sorry to say without wanting to appear condescending that everything your parents told you about the demons, drink and drugs was correct. This stuff kills and it will get you alone and take everything in the process. Ask yourself one good thing that these demons will ever do for you?

Now, I am not suggesting that everyone who has taken drugs or drank excessive amounts of alcohol is an addict or an alcoholic. An addict is a different kind of animal. This is a person who is basically allergic to mood altering substances. This person has no brakes. This person is obsessed! Nobody wants to be left lacking in the area of integrity but these people become the untrustworthiest of individuals who will stop at nothing to protect and disclose their predicament. I have come to believe that once addicted to one substance, you can quite safely say that you are or will become addicted to all ‘mood altering’ substances. Why? Well tell me a brain that can tell the difference between the chemical make up of any substance and I include alcohol in the term substance. It all alters your mood and personality.

If you do think at this very moment in time that you are in the midst of a problem, you are probably very afraid, feeling as though your life is spiralling and you are truly out of control. This is fairly normal for the addict. If so I do hope that you have found some identification from the above? Please can I offer you the best Christmas present you could ever receive and say that people from all walks of life do actually become addicts and alcoholics and these people are suffering from an illness, a very cunning and baffling one at that and left untreated as I alluded earlier you will end up in one of three places: jails, institutions or death. Ask yourself have I lost enough? For some rock bottom and losing enough is in fact death – think about it. I heard a statistic that only 6% of people who need help in this area actually ever seek it. The good news is that there is help out there for everyone and if you care to research you may find the number VERY close to the front of your phone book. 

Life for me is all about balance and although we are in the midst of the festive season this is no excuse to hurt those around us. Of course not everyone who drinks becomes an alcoholic and there are a few (a very small minority) who dabble in drugs who do not become addicts. Alcoholics and addicts are usually the last people in their circle to realise their problem and by this stage the problem is usually well developed.

I didn’t want to over dramatise this blog but this issue is something I feel strongly about and if this helps one person then as I said I feel this is a worthy blog.

Have a great Christmas and New Year and most of all keep yourself safe.

NB: If you do need someone to talk to this Christmas and you live in the UK The Samaritans are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can call them on 08457 90 90 90