Vicarious High: How Pink Floyd helps me stay Sober

Jul 27 2017

Vicarious High: How Pink Floyd helps me stay Sober

Last night I went to the Roger Waters concert, (the former lead singer of the rock band, Pink Floyd) and it was an awesome experience. As much as I loved the music, I had never been to one of their concerts before, but my husband had lovingly given me tickets as a Christmas present. The song, “Time” with its clickety clacking clocks and electric drum beats, painted a visual to a theme I had listened to hundreds of times. “Pigs”, from the Animals album, poignantly depicted images of Trump and an inflatable pig with his face on it paraded around the auditorium, while famous Trump quotes described how he truly is a political pig.

The light show was amazing; a giant prism, with laser beams shooting above people’s heads, appeared near the end with a rainbow of light streaming through it. At one point in the encore, during the song “Comfortably Numb”, I even thought, “Now… my life is complete.” Why, you ask, do I have such strong feelings towards a musical group? Why have I been so huge a fan for over 30 years?  It’s because, in countless ways, Pink Floyd has saved me and kept me sober even through the roughest of times.

I first started listening to Floyd back in 1985, during my college days, when I was smoking an incredible amount of weed and drinking on a daily basis. I will never forget getting an artist friend high and him acting out every word of “The Trial”, from the album, The Wall.  Being a musician myself, I felt exhilarated when I played my synthesizer along with the album, Wish You Were Here. But the music also had a calming effect. I would fall asleep many nights listening to Dark Side of the Moon and when I was going through hard things, Floyd was like a best friend comforting me and lifting me up.

Sometime later, when the pain of using drugs and alcohol was greater than the pleasure, I got sober. At first, well-meaning sponsors wanted me to steer clear of anything, including music or rum-raisin flavored ice cream, that might lead me to question my abstinence. While I appreciated their motives, I knew that long-term sobriety for me meant something different.

Like many addicts, I have a rebellious streak. For years, in the midst of addiction, I expressed this part of myself through outlandish and risky behavior, sometimes to my detriment. Subtracting mood-altering substances does not, however, change the core of one’s constitution. One thing I have learned in sobriety is that it is still okay to be me, and a portion of who I am is rebellious. When I feel this way, I have found that it helps to drink a non-alcoholic beer and listen to Pink Floyd. The musical memory taps me in to my true identity and it releases me from the uptight angst of sober living. I like to walk the line and stare into the abyss of addiction without crossing the line and jumping into the darkness. It makes me feel like me, while still keeping me safe in the cocoon of sobriety.

I think it is hard, sometimes even embarrassing, for addicts to admit they still think about and yearn for inebriation. I do, and I don’t. I want the release of inhibition, but I don’t want the torrents of shame and humiliation that I experienced as an addict. Who would? But when I feel angry or down or rebellious, Pink Floyd quells the rebellious urge and helps me deal with the darker emotions I still continue to have 21 plus years sober. Maybe compared to some, you would say that I am a “dry drunk”. Maybe I am not “working my program” correctly, but hey, it works for me, so please don’t judge.

My husband expected the concert hall to be filled with marijuana smoke and I was half hoping that myself. To enjoy a second-hand vicarious high would bring back a lot of pleasant memories for me. But, alas, between the metal detectors, the checked bags and the fact that most of the concert goers were over the age of 50, the pot-infused air was not to be. Despite that, the music itself made me high, high on life, and love, and inspiration. Don’t let anyone tell you the “right” way to stay sober. What works for some, may not work for others. Have the courage to be you and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”