AllBetter

Exploring the Intersection of Music, Addiction, and Recovery with Mike Miz

December 18, 2023 Joe Van Wie Season 3 Episode 76
AllBetter
Exploring the Intersection of Music, Addiction, and Recovery with Mike Miz
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Experience the magic of music and its profound role in the addiction recovery process, as we embrace a heartfelt conversation with gifted musician and songwriter Mike Miz Mizwinski. His soul-stirring melodies have not only mesmerized fans but have played a pivotal role in his own recovery journey. Tune in to hear how Miz's sensitivity, shaped by his journey of recovery, is reflected in his music, and how a song he wrote in response to the political climate in 2018 brought people together. 

This episode also delves deeply into the significant correlation between music and addiction. Our guest shares how his musical family background and early experiences with music, including unforgettable moments like playing on stage at a young age and attending a Grateful Dead concert, played a role in his addiction and later became a positive outlet for his recovery. We also explore the darker side of addiction, its roots in unresolved emotional pain, and its connection to childhood trauma.

Finally, we venture into the vibrant music culture of Nashville, and how it has proven to be both a challenge and a blessing for Mike and many musicians alike in their recovery journey. Hear how this city full of opportunities impacted their lives, their music, and their path to sobriety. From the Granola Opera to major label records, we navigate the thrilling and daunting world of Music City. So, let's hit play and immerse ourselves in this exploration of music, addiction, and recovery.

Check Out More about Mike and his work at;
https://www.mikemizmusic.com/


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Speaker 1:

Hello and thanks again for listening to another episode of All Better. I'm your host, joe Van Lee. Today's guest is my friend, mike Mizwinski, better known simply as Mike Miz Miz is a singer, songwriter, guitarist from Northeast Pennsylvania Known for soulful and energetic live performances. Surged by his mother and father to pursue a passion for music, mike began playing guitar at the age of seven and started writing songs as early as the age of ten, often performing over 200 shows a year. He's had the privilege to open up for Jason Isbell, jacob Dillon, lucas Nelson, luz Traveller, derek Trucks, america, kenny Wayne, shepherd, feliz Brothers, sean Colvin, leon Russell, chris Isaac, peter Wolf, southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, jackie Green, railroad Earth and many more. Rolling Stone magazine called Mike's 2021 single Virginia a monster of a rock jammer. His latest album, only Human, came out on Blackbird Record label on 414-23 this year. Mike currently resides in Nashville, tennessee. He defined his music on MikeMizMusiccom. Mike's an old friend and Mike's a person in long term recovery. Today we get to catch up on all things and talk about therapy, early recovery, the origins of addiction in one's life and how that plays to one's creativity, the condition of the sober mind and an addict in recovery and how sensitive it is to interpret the world. We discuss and explore a lot of these ideas, so let's be Miz.

Speaker 2:

I remember that.

Speaker 1:

Miz, when was the last time you heard this lick?

Speaker 2:

I like the month we did it, you know. So, that was a fun day.

Speaker 1:

That was a recording from 2018. You called on the fly. You had the idea for the song. You said you just started writing it. Within 24 hours, there was 11 people who brought to my house, my living room, and you played a New Year's Eve song. It was in 2018. Things were getting really stressful politically the political climate in our area in the nation. This pre-COVID you shared that in a week it had 400 shares. I'm looking at now it's just at 20,000 views. That was in 2018. The title of that song was called Learn to Love. Was that the last time I saw you?

Speaker 2:

I think so man yeah In a minute.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Did you ever revisit or play that again? That was just kind of I got to know you prior to that. I saw how you took what was just bugging you out in the public and you made it a song within hours and expressed it with 11 people. Would that be accurate to say that?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no, it's funny. You're absolutely right too. It was getting stressful. The Facebook feed was the political climate and the angst was building. For me personally, too, I feel like people in my inner circle were bickering and not getting along. I think I got the idea for that song in the shower, which is a thing that often happens. I feel like, which is funny, because I forgot that song existed, but I guess that was a cool way to bring all those people together. I had just had maybe about a year at that point of doing pretty good and wanted to get on a good page with everybody too. I don't know.

Speaker 1:

A year prior to that and I like that you mentioned the shower. That seems to be the think tank for all creatives, or it's like this. Well of shame, in my diction, the shower would be where I'd be groaning, thinking what did I do or say last night? I thought the shower was a great place for that, but a year prior to that, we were in treatment together.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, 2016, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Man, I was all locked up. I probably would have left early if we didn't spend time together. I had a lot of great connection with you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you helped me too. Honestly, man, you might have been the deciding factor of me going to aftercare. You were talking to me. I still remember a clear as day I was. You know how it is right you go in and I'd done my three weeks or whatever it was. Four weeks were coming up. I was like, man, I got stuff to do. I can't Now. It just seems so absurd the things that we think we need to go take care of. You were like dude, I still remember your exact wording. You're like hey, ms man, maybe you just need to go on a little sabbatical, maybe you'll write some music. I think you might have just been trying to sell it to me. You knew what you were doing. Well, I was like, yeah, you're probably right, man. It's funny, man, to think the self-importance and the ego and whatever mind frame I was in at that point, thinking whatever I had going on was so important. It just seems so just crazy now to think that. You know.

Speaker 1:

But Wow, that's a lot to consider, because it took me a little longer after that. I mean, I just kept making manifesting crisis, experiencing someone's somewhat of real crisis, and I didn't get sober for a little while afterwards. But you make a key note there in the sense that when you realize you have substance use disorder or that addiction, you're not treating it like it's this little small problem and it's in the way of the rest of the things I have to do. Some people really have to realize this is the only problem I need to solve. The rest kind of is okay. If I solve, all my attention goes to solving this.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I wanted to start linear for anyone maybe who's listening that doesn't know you, and catch up where you are currently in Nashville, correct?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

And your career brought you there and your career has always been music, great music, and I've always felt flattered and kind of lucky to crash into you over a decade ago with week-end or shoots and always getting along, loving your music and the message that and how you carry yourself. What you're always trying to convey is pretty much, you know, love, connection, friendship, loss, pain. It's all wrapped up in your music. How did that begin? How would you describe, maybe, your childhood and growing up? And was there something that occurred that by the time you met alcohol or opioids, that you found relief to something that already existed? Would that be a way, or is it a different kind of story?

Speaker 2:

No man, it's funny. I've been thinking a lot about that recently and if you had asked me that question like two or three years ago, I probably would have just said oh man, you know, I just had the gene and it just that's it. I just got bit by the bug. But I've kind of been doing a lot of inner work and have been working with the therapist, like last year particularly, and now it's sort of making sense. You know what I mean. Some of it's sort of like oh, I think there was some stuff going on inside me. I will say that both my parents definitely love me and I was lucky to have that going on and there were things that were difficult, that I'm sure affected the rest of my life or affected how I process the world. You know what I mean that now I'm starting to be able to dig into and see and it's sort of not a mystery the way that I turned out, because I think a lot of the time I was you know, when you're like me or you, I know you had some sober time and I had some sober time at a point, I had like four years sober at one point and when you lose that and you're just kind of kicking yourself in the ass and just like dwelling on it, that kind of jumping all over. But now everything's kind of making sense to me. Now you know what I mean. But I will say that from the first time I drank alcohol or did drugs which was like drink and smoke weed very close to each other it was I immediately. From the first time ever. It completely changed. My whole course of my life completely shifted. It was like nothing that became paramount to everything else. You know, like there was no like gray area whatsoever. It was like on or off.

Speaker 1:

That's it. So when I hear that story, when it comes to my personal recovery not my clinical kind of approach at our aftercare but that rings my bell Because addiction for me is an attempt to solve a problem that already existed Then I learned that addiction is an accident or a mental ability. Not unlike you, if I was asked in early recovery or different periods of my recovery, I would answer this question differently. The same way you said that was that okay. I would say these person's life was harder. I don't have that kind of trauma. And then I started, you know, the last five years. You see distinctions. Let's give this word a broader description to big traumas, small traumas, the way things are processed, like you said, or the way emotional pain is processed. But what's really keen is anyone who's artistic, which is a lot of people with addiction and artistry is almost. It's ingrained. It's not mystery like a mystery to me. It's ingrained to perception and the way you relate and see and interact with reality and that there is severe conflict with the way culture's telling you reality is and the way you're reacting to it can be expressed artistically. Well, for a lot of us that came from pain, like before. Artistry isn't cocaine. It's not heroin. There's an immediate button being pushed. When I found alcohol, nicotine, I'm like oh, something's missing. It's not missing anymore. It wasn't like I was messed up, it was like something was missing and this was it 100%, yeah, man. So you said your therapy did that help flush out maybe some ideas of that nature that maybe you didn't reflect on before. Is that what you're saying?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, kinda. You know, what's funny too is therapy and some outside stuff also made me realize that, like dude, as you know, I'm sure, but like, getting sober is just the first layer and there's so many other layers in there, with behavior, patterns and, once again, the way I perceive the world, the way I interact with the world, the self-destructive things that I do, self-destructive thinking actions. You know what precipitated the going to a therapist too is like I'd gotten sober and then, you know, gotten to this insane relationship which any normal person would have just been like, you know, two or three months in would have just been like, okay, this isn't healthy and I'm gonna leave. Wow, dig it For me, I've been in there for like a year and a half longer than I could.

Speaker 1:

Don't quit.

Speaker 2:

You know what I mean and it's like so yeah, man, it's just trying to, you know, peel all those layers or whatever Is there a sadistic side to this.

Speaker 1:

Like you know, I used to flirt with this that I'm gonna run out of creative ideas if my life isn't chaotic Like, almost like this Johnny Cash approach to music. Do you have any of that going on in the realm? That the well run dry if I'm not writing and expressing music from not only pain but chaos. Do you carry any of that?

Speaker 2:

I think I do and I think it's so. I think maybe it's so deeply rooted that it's almost like a subconscious thing that is so second nature to me that I'm not even aware at times that I'm doing it. You know what I mean. Like it's just such in my nature to just like to just make it and make life really hard for myself. You know what I mean Like. And then when I see other people that don't have that problem, I'm baffled and amazed by their ability to just sail through, you know, navigate these things like no big deal and it's like and I just kind of hang out there. Yeah, I think, I mean. I think like here's the thing, dude, by the way, I don't know if you know this, but so I also relapsed. When we got out of treatment I had about a year in change, maybe.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

And so I'm just coming up on four years again now.

Speaker 1:

Congrats, you know like, so Me too.

Speaker 2:

It's crazy, like, like, how many times. What's that?

Speaker 1:

I'm right, behind you four years. Yeah, it was October.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, yeah, february, man, that's awesome and it's amazing how many times and how much pain it takes for me to really be able to look at myself honestly and stuff, and like I think there's people that get this thing the first time around and there's, I think there's a lot of reasons for that. But then there's guys like me who and now the great thing is I'm able to help the next guy that does this, because I'm not going to be the last guy that relapses or, you know, goes back on it, but anyway, yeah, I just yeah, and we could do whatever we want.

Speaker 1:

It's a podcast. I want to make a note there and return to it. The idea of being in the music industry making a living off of your art, but being available as a person in recovery music what that would look like. But I figured it might be best to start. We both know what addiction feels like when it starts. It feels like real connection, like even though, and when did you feel the connection to music? And what did that look like? Like did someone else notice your artistry? Did you know you had a different way to perceive the world? Or like we were talking about earlier, or did someone pick this trade up in you and kind of help you nurture it?

Speaker 2:

That's a great question, man. And just to jump back to the thing you just said about connection real quick is like dude. One of my least favorite sayings is that horrible saying that my best day sober or my worst day sober is better than my best day like drunk or whatever. Dude, that's saying I'm baffled in people's heads. I'm like did you ever take a hit of acid and drink like a 12-pack? No, that's in the early stages. That's a pretty good day.

Speaker 1:

That's a World War II vets quote. You didn't take MDMA and sit on a mountain with 10,000 people, Right?

Speaker 2:

But anyway, and you know this, the question you just asked is it's all interconnected right, because I come from a family which, I think you know, we're a lot of musicians on both sides. You know, my dad is an amazing guitar player and my aunt and uncle play in the band Old Friends, which, if you're from Scranton and you're in our age or older, you know all about Old Friends and you've probably seen them play. You know they're amazing and the thing about it is my family is full of like just nothing but like loving great people who, most of whom, didn't do what I did. The thing is that if it was Christmas, thanksgiving, new Year's, whatever it was, you know, the guitars come out around Nana's Kitchen Table and they drink and they have a good time and it looked awesome and I just wanted to be part of that so bad. When I was a little kid and I would see them sing in and having a good time and all you know, half the neighborhood is over there, it was like I can't wait to do this, you know and you know. So I started practicing and soon enough they were letting me jam. But I think one of the biggest moments for me is my uncle Paul, old Friends has this reunion every year, right, and when we were kids, I mean they still have it. I guess they have it at Mountain Sky now, but when we were kids, this was the greatest day of the year period. Like, we looked forward to the Old Friends reunion all year and it used to be at Hurricane Hills up in Clifford or something, and there was I'll never forget it, man. There was 1400 people that showed up to this thing and when Old Friends took a set break, my uncle let me and my cousin Leah go on stage and play the set break. And we get on stage and I was, I think, 11 years old maybe, and we start playing. You know, and I already knew, you know Jimi Hendrix albums and stuff, and dude, the people just came off the hill and stood in front. There's a video of it somewhere. I, you know, I gotta find that.

Speaker 1:

Oh man, you gotta find that.

Speaker 2:

It was just that was. There, was that moment for me, and then also cause that was life changing. I mean, there was no question after that experience, like what I was gonna do with my life, you know, Like you know, when you're like that age and you guys playing you know, you're just like.

Speaker 1:

You're gonna sell insurance now. You're gonna sell it?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no, but also, man, you know, my dad took me and this is actually a really, really cool story. My dad took me to see the Grateful Dead like the Grateful Dead with Jerry Garcia, twice when I was a little kid. I was nine and 11 when I saw the dead. And I gotta give it to my dad, man, he was very responsible and wasn't, you know, partaking in any drug activity. Like you know, he had his Jean jacket on and we got up in there and he, like you know he was, he took care of me. You know what I mean. It wasn't like this loose, you know, rainbow festival parents type of thing. You know, and I greatly appreciate that to this day that he was able to let me see that, but still in like a supervised and very, you know, parental way. Like here's the Grateful Dead and, dude, when you're nine years old and you're down on the floor at Giant Stadium and you're watching, this guy just hit one note and the whole. You know, dude, it was amazing, it was like it was the coolest thing I've ever seen in my entire life.

Speaker 1:

Was that the eighties Was? Would touch a gray like 92 and 95. 92 and 95. And your dad. Just you know my, my Remembrance of him and meeting him a couple times is a. He has the presence of an action hero. He looks like an 80s action star. He's got that.

Speaker 2:

He looks like Chuck Norris, doesn't he? Yeah, yeah, he gets.

Speaker 1:

he gets mistaken for Chuck Norris, yeah and just being around you, I just felt his presence. Man, he's just such a warm and Guy, so it seemed like that was always a really great influence on your story Of your life. Yeah, seeing that at an early age, and specifically the Grateful Dead, that's, that's unlike any other bands audience in in regards to say, like the Stones, or you know the emergence of the Beatles, but they dissipate. For those long traveling jam bands, they're the first, they're it, they're, they're the band. That was the first jam band. And then, I think fish kind of just Emerges out of what was left over, an audience that was waiting to go somewhere else, or a younger audience. Why is that specifically different, I think, for musicians who are attracted to the you know, bluegrass, grateful Dead, how would that, how would that you describe the difference? For someone who didn't understand that, I Think I lost your brother. I'm coming right back. It just went down, but we're recording, we're back up. It was like cutting it out. My picture, my picture, is not there.

Speaker 2:

All good, it could be my internet. I don't know. Man, I'm upstairs here, I Can still hear you yeah, and it's still recording.

Speaker 1:

I think the camera just went down, so I guess that's a unique way to embrace music bluegrass and jam.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, definitely, you know. I mean it was also like a lot of all my brothers and air clapped in and the Beatles, of course that was like that's like my all-time favorite band. But yeah, I mean, I think there was something special about see. There's also something special about, you know, being like nine years old and I didn't really know what drugs were at that point yet. Maybe it heard in clings of what they might be about or whatever, but man did people seem really happy at that concert. You know that's a very unique type of situation. You know, seen a band like that rather than like your, you know, average, like rock and roll band or something. You know it's like a Just a unique situation. Yeah, I don't know, it was awesome.

Speaker 1:

When did you first get drawn to write and compose your own music? Like when did that first begin I?

Speaker 2:

Think that began here. You know, man, here's another part of that question that you asked a minute ago. Which I often think about recently is that I started writing really early on, like I Remember like making up little melodies and guitar things like almost as soon as I started playing, and it's weird, it was just like it just was part of me. Like I never thought like, oh, I want to be a songwriter or or maybe I should try that. It just happened so naturally, man, you know, I just would come up with little ideas. And I remember like being like maybe yes, we're not same age eight and eight, nine, ten years old, and like getting going upstairs with my like boombox, you know, back then, with my like couple CDs or whatever, and just like laying a blanket out of my room and sitting like Indian style with my guitar and Just being like, alright, I'm gonna write a song now. And like being super inspired by like I think I'd like a Steppenwolf album, a Led Zeppelin album, a Queen album I definitely had a CDC back in black, but um it was mailed to every American. Yeah, yeah, dude those milling things over those things 10 CDs for a buck.

Speaker 1:

You start nice that raking you yeah.

Speaker 2:

That was it. That was totally it. That's how I got those CDs. But my cousin, bubba Brendan Quinn, who's also a local musician from Scranton, one time we were at like a party, like an outdoor little picnic. My mom's friends were having like a picnic or something and somebody started passing guitar around and, dude, I came up with this riff that I still remember to this day. It's really cool, like I would honestly still put it in a song, like right now. And I was like I don't know how it came about, but I started playing it for my cousin. I'm like, yeah, check this out. And, dude, like his reaction was, like he was like it was like priceless, like I guess I didn't realize, kind of like you know, like it would, kind of how you know, like it just seems so like such second nature for me to like write something like that. He was so blown away by it that his reaction almost like weirded me out. I was like why is he reacting like this? And then I guess I started thinking, well, damn, I guess I'm a songwriter, like I guess, like I'm good at this, you know, I don't know, it's funny.

Speaker 1:

So, with the story of addiction, the other story of expression and knowing With some kind of certainty, at least a path forward, that you want to be a musician, you're going to be a musician, but addiction is kind of in tow to this wagon. When did it, when did you first first start seeing signs that this can interrupt the life you may want? Yeah, you know, man, this is like a.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean the whole thing. It's crazy now, like that. I'm getting older and all this stuff is starting to actually make not only make sense, but I'm also starting to completely accept, like, my path and what it it, what it was and what it is now and where it's heading. There was a long time ago I was beating myself up because I really I mean, for lack of a better term I really showed my ass. I mean addiction, like on whatever type of public you know stage I was on man, like there wasn't one person who didn't know that I had a drug problem, but um, but me, I may, we can even get into that, but man, I will say that. Well, my cousin Leah, you know, I was like I'm not gonna be a musician. Well, my cousin Leah, you know the one I just said that I played the old friends union with you know he died of a drug overdose when she was 19 and I was 15 and that really, you know, did a number on on our family and and, and I know, for me personally, I was like man, I'm not doing any hard drugs anymore, you know, because I sniffed heroin with her twice when I was like 13, 14 years old, which is completely insane, and but I didn't like get addicted at that point or anything like that. So I just sort of, you know, would smoke some weed and drink my beers in high school. But, man, when I moved to Florida I went to the school called full sale down in Florida and man, it was weird I did I was just thinking about this the other day like my first like month or two there. It was like totally normal, obviously, you know, I figured out real quick that when you go grow up in Pitston or or you know, scranton, wilkes-barre area, for lack, you know, for that matter, I mean, dude, we were like professional partiers by like 10th grade. Yeah, like really, and like when I got down there I just assumed that like the other kids did that kind of stuff and I quickly realized that like my roommates had never done like a keg stand or a beer, bong or any of these like things that I was fully, you know, capable of doing in like nice, you know, like we. And so we just started partying like so hard and I and I sort of like Kind of I probably got like a kick out of the fact that I was like showing these, you know, these kids had to like party properly. Yeah, I don't know, but, um, but dude, yeah, I, we started doing a lot of cocaine and then my one roommate brought heroin home and, dude, I, I don't know what happened inside my head, but I was drunk, I was so dead against doing heroin like so dead against it, and but I was already drunk and my thought process I'll never forget there was there's a party going on my house. There was a line of people going into the bathroom which I assume was to do coke, which you know, in Florida, at a College party, I'm sure it's gonna be pretty readily available and I like went to like, hey, you know, let me in on that, my one buddy was like dude, dude, dude, wait, they're, they're not doing coke, it's heroin. And in my drunken state I was like well, I did it before what's, what's one more time, you know and man. I sniffed that bump a heroine and dude. I woke up the next morning. It was like where did it come from? How much is it? Who do I have to call? How can I? Like it was like Another switch went off in my head and like man, within three months this is crazy. Actually, within three months of that day, those kids so I was living with, imparting with, had kicked me out of that apartment. I moved in with a stripper and I blew through every last saved dollar that I had you know to live off of at college and I was already doing like all types of illegal activity to get money. It was, you know. It just got absolutely insane, like real fast.

Speaker 1:

That's fast, I Guess if you would, just so I understand. Let me summarize it full sale. First off is it's a school of art, right Five film and you have some audio, audio engineering like a video game stuff marketing. Yeah, yeah really high creative environment In Florida with a bunch of you know squares or the nerds. In comes to the elder statesmen, who's already in midlife if you're from Scranton that your midlife crisis starts when you're 18 and this scenario rises up where you snort heroin and in drunken state you know little more adverse to risk. Let me try it. I've already done it. That was years ago. It must not be as addictive. It could be something social for me. When I hear that, I hear someone who's now getting dopamine from, say, alcohol, cocaine, let you feel alert. Makes connection or at least conscious life Not feel separate from rumination. And when you're not using rumination, is this this, this unsaddled brain of thinking of the life that should? What are other people thinking? Not being able to be present in a room because it's uncomfortable, and then in comes that snort a heroin. You know both of those systems are two little little difference Distincts systems in the brain to receive those two different tracks of drugs dopamine and then the opioid reward system. And when you get addicted to heroin the bonding happens not from so much physical pain, it's the emotional pain. The opioid reward system is just waiting there, your soothing pain, and it might have been pain you can't even articulate and that that bonding is Extremely like it's. That is addiction, like when you want to talk about it, maybe just as the physical, the neurological play. But Resolving that physically doesn't solve the problem of addiction.

Speaker 2:

Dude, everything you just said man is so hit the nail on that. You know, like, dude, I still am like unveiling, like the, you know, like going through the process of realizing, like how uncomfortable I did feel in my own skin and like how, being in a room full of people, I could still feel completely out of place, All those isms that we talk about, man. You know, dude, that bump of heroin on a belly full of beer, just, dude, it did something. It fixed me. It literally stopped my brain, it completely. It was like, oh my God, I didn't know that I could feel I could be okay, like, really, dude, and like this might sound crazy too, but I think it's relevant. You know, I was never one to like dig too much into like childhood or blaming or, you know, like trying to figure out who's fault. Who's fault is it that I'm not but dude one?

Speaker 1:

time. Sorry, but I always tell newcomers to blame the sun. If we didn't have a ball of gas as our neighbor, none of this excitement would have started. So you got someone to blame. Blame a fucking star.

Speaker 2:

Right, but so check this out. So, dude, I don't know why, I was like through therapy, like this became forefront of my mind, but, like when I was in first grade, right, one time I got in trouble for doing something. I didn't really even realize like I was doing anything wrong, like it's a silly story, but like the teacher like yelled at me and I really did, I had no idea, like why I was being in trouble, like and it terrified me. But there was that situation. But another time, I think, my cousin shaved his head and I wanted to shave my head too, because I thought he was super cool and he was older than me and I wanted to do everything he did and I shaved my head and I think, like maybe I have a funny looking like head. I don't know. This is the last time I shaved my head and I was six years old and I went to school with, you know, like kids, you know, right, like kids shave their head. You know like just cut your hair like real short, you know, and, dude, the kids made fun of me. The kids in second grade called me alien. They were like in, you know, in the like the lunch line, like alien, you know, and like dude, I think that like was part of like you know, the me starting to feel like uncomfortable in my skin, or like the world wasn't a safe place for me, or the. You know, maybe this will unravel a different way and maybe it wasn't as big of a deal, but I remember, like putting a guard up. After that, I remember being like like you know, like just sort of like I don't know man, I don't know, no, I when you do the bump of heroin, it fixes all of that it does.

Speaker 1:

And I think that's where families who have someone that is in severe addiction, or seeing all these irrational consequences from an addiction, especially when it comes to heroin or opioids, like how did this happen? What they're not understanding is they're only seeing, you know, the tip of the iceberg, like I see this actual problem of drug use, but you're not seeing not everyone's a drug addict and there's a very specific reason why this has happened. It's an attempt to solve that problem of not feeling like a fucking alien. Now, that's a distinct hazing and accusation. It's almost dehumanizing because not only are you different, you're not our species. Sure, yeah, there's, there's, there's texture to that. And that could two people could have the same event happen and one walks away with trauma and one doesn't. And the one who doesn't already had connection. Now, it takes about eight years for, you know, any mammal in the last 10,000 years to develop a personality, and personalities are developed by our role with others. Like it's, it's, it's, it's a man. You manifest it, you manufacture it by your position with other people, because you're only offering a personality to others. So when that feels rejected, you only create your true personality. I would venture to say is is this inner life that's, you know the intimacy is it's too painful or scary or risky to share with other people and a lot of that could be driven by an ego instead of an authentic self. That's where I myself I feel like I've experienced that was my kind of interruption and what, what, what. What we can only assume would be a balanced life, homeostasis and my addiction made that right Like, and it was worth the consequences for a long time to take. Okay, I'm just a drunk. I know what it's like not to have alcohol. Fuck that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, dude, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Um, your music kind of took off regionally and you, you had a, a following and people loved it. When when was these first kind of attempts at recovery or a failed attempt happening? How would you summarize that and how it related to what you were playing at the time your own music, yeah?

Speaker 2:

I mean, dude, it's a great, it's a. You know it's a cool story. Like man, I ended up at Clear Brook like probably for like the third time I really had burned it to the ground. You know like really bad, like it was. It was like you know, nowhere to nowhere to live. Um, you know already been passed from family member to family member, robbed them, did horrible, unspeakable things to my family that I'm still, you know, not quite, you know still processing. But, um, I became willing to go to aftercare. Um, they sent me to a a halfway house down in Littitz, pa. Ended up down there. All the isms of um, of what we do when we're untreated. You know when, when you take away my alcohol and drugs, I am left feeling like a raw nerve, and especially when you're living in a house with like 20 some guys and I was grateful that. You know I got introduced to like a 12 step program and um ended up moving to York, pennsylvania, and ended up, um, there was this golden age in York, pa, man and the people that were living there know what it was like. That was like unlike anything I'd ever seen. Man, the, the meetings were, were massive. The recovery community was massive. There was really really really good recovery there and I got linked up with some people that really greatly altered the course of my life and I was able to start living a productive like. I got a, um, tuesday night gig Um, this is actually funny. No, funny side note I got a Tuesday night gig at this place in York where I played there every Tuesday night and it was the first time I ever had like a solo gig, like a residency, and I sort of you know like cut my teeth and and learn how to play and learn how to entertain a crowd at that place. But funny thing is, when you're, you know, in recovery and all your friends are in recovery, like the bartenders in some of these places that I used to play would be like they would be baffled after the night. They'd be like you brought. There was 35 people here to see you play last night and every single one of them ordered a sprite. Who are these people, you know? Like they couldn't understand it. It was so funny, man, but um, but man, I was able to start actually like getting on track and like pursuing some of my dreams and like started writing a lot and um, and man, I wrote some really really cool songs in that first couple of years there, when I was sober, and I remember I got my own, my own apartment on a market street in York and I'd sit at my kitchen table and write songs and those songs later became um the East Hope Avenue album, which I still love. I mean, my voice sounds super young and and, uh, you know, obviously there's stuff that I would change, but there's some really really creative cool ideas on that album. I think for you know, for like a you know whatever, just uh, you know a songwriter to, there's some pretty. I think there's some pretty neat stuff on that album.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, um, upwards and onwards. Uh, do you remember our first shoot was in the marquee building, marquee art and frame building before the coffee shop at Deso was there, it was empty, yeah dude. Yeah, we set up, uh, we were going to do green screen, then we just shot it regular, uh, with snowflake, was it?

Speaker 2:

uh, snowflakes, uh yeah, yeah, you know another funny side note. So like I knew who you were before then because I'd been like hanging at the open mic, like at the bog and and I knew, like you know, pat, and um, dude, this is actually kind of funny too. Like you, you were like, uh, you're just a funny, funny, uh, you know, like outward dude, and when I first met you and Pat, you were singing um the uh, chris Isaac song at the bog.

Speaker 1:

That's my. I'm a one trick pony man. That's what I got.

Speaker 2:

I so thought you were. You were like smashed drunk, like I had no idea that you were sober, which makes it so much better, like so much funnier.

Speaker 1:

Oh yeah, we that that open mic will never return. That was like 10 years of just like six variations of classes a freshman to a senior year class, of all kinds of people just going down there from standup poetry, music, jams like people. There was no set, people just sat on the stage and pick something up and that place was all that. That was awesome. That crew that was going down there, I mean they could jam. They'd be playing till four in the morning. Just rip it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, I was fun.

Speaker 1:

So I want to kind of almost come quickly to current events without a slow draw. How long have you been in Nashville now?

Speaker 2:

It's crazy. It's been about 10, maybe five, in a couple weeks actually. I moved here January, like fourth or fifth, I think, right after New Year's in 2019.

Speaker 1:

So you move down. We you've had periods of sobriety, we've both experienced that and treatments, and you're going down there out of opportunity. You're a musician. What was the initial draw down there and where was your head With recovery when you arrived in Nashville?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so amazing story man. So I could I say the name of a treatment center, or is that?

Speaker 1:

yeah, no, I know we this is this an open book here. He could say whatever you want.

Speaker 2:

Well, dude, I mean, you know, there was a guy named Andy Pace who and he doesn't run anymore, but was running this place called Little Creek and, dude, he, like, he likes that he saved my life, like literally, man, when at the start of this podcast, when you're not, you and I were talking about you know like you were like talking me into going to long-term treatment. I end up at Little Creek for three months and the the kids that do so. Funny, because it's a young men's Facility and I was 33 and my first night there, the friggin kids nicknamed me middle-aged Mike.

Speaker 1:

Well, like if it comforts you, I just left a provider's meeting. Gets who. The presenter was Little Creek and the average stay there is now guys in their 30s.

Speaker 2:

So oh, wow. Well, dude, yeah, it was one of those things where I like it was a really like you know, like hit you between the eyes type of situation where I was like holy crap, I'm not the young guy treatment anymore. So anyway, I'm keep giving you these long answers. But um, andy was the one that was like, hey, mike, you should think about going to Nashville. And dude, it's so funny, I was like, wow, I was like Nashville, I don't want to move to Nashville, like and and then like, so I end up, like you know, stay in there and complete in the treatment. I was like working on this album and and, um, dude, he was like you should go down there for a week. He's like I'm gonna help you out, like I'm gonna Like he sent me down here for a week. Man, like wow.

Speaker 1:

He's a special guy. He really is.

Speaker 2:

He's a very special like yeah, I mean, it's like he's he could see, you know, you know he could like see it better than I could, or whatever. And I came down and there's this other guy, bob Lewis, that Is from our area, that's, you know, not in recovery, things like kind of regular. Actually he did, you know, out of just the choice. You know he's sober now too, but like obviously didn't have, you know, problems like you're I did. But um, he was living down here and so I linked up with him and, dude, it just quickly became apparent that, um, that I wasn't getting any younger and that if I wanted to kind of Like move forward, you know, like, listen, man, there's no judgment like I had a really good life in Pennsylvania, right, and I was playing some cool places and I could have done really well for myself up there. But I knew it was one of those crossroads where I was also dating like a really wonderful, wonderful person at the time who I'd broken up with when I met you in treatment, and then we got back together and I think we're probably back together about a year or so and I just realized that that, um, I think we were kind of wanting to go two different paths in life and we had like a very Mature, mutual cool breakup. That was like very, not dramatic. It was just like hey, you're going this way and I'm going this way and I wish you the best. And it was totally cool and and she's, you know, like all her dreams are, you know, coming true. Now she's a doctor now, right.

Speaker 1:

Or something. This nerve no nothing like that.

Speaker 2:

I mean she's you might be thinking of somebody else, but Family and it got married and and seems to have like just wonderful people around her and and I'm really happy for. But I, in turn, once that relationship ended, I knew that it was my window. I was like this is it like if I don't go right now, I'm never gonna go again? And dude, other than getting sober. Moving down here was the greatest decision I've ever made in my entire life. I am so happy that I did it. You know, like man, I couldn't even begin to tell you. Do you have a sense of home now?

Speaker 1:

It's five years. Like you feel you ever? You know the magnetism just from being a mammal that you're. You're kind of home? Yeah, because I've been to places and I lived in places for certain periods of times where I've never I've still felt upside down. Yeah, would you say. Nashville feels like home now, yeah, dude, it's, it's.

Speaker 2:

It's definitely man. I'm live here in East Nashville again. I was on the other side of town for a year and a half and move back and and dude, it's definitely home. Yeah, it's, you know. I don't know if I'm gonna grow old here. You know like I'll be wanting to live here. I'm in my 70s or whatever you know, I probably want to maybe live somewhere a little more scenic and beautiful or in the mountains or something, but for right now, yeah man, this is definitely home. I feel so good. Yeah man, this is definitely home. I feel super at home here the granola opera.

Speaker 1:

Tell me about it. What is this place?

Speaker 2:

Grandola opera.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Oh man, it's funny. Yeah, I mean, you know it's Well here, dude, let me just be really honest with you right? I never listened to country music Like dude, like.

Speaker 1:

I know, no cash or like Hank Jr.

Speaker 2:

Well, dude, of course I liked Merle Haggard, johnny Cash and Wayland, of course you know very like listen to, like you know, just the popular songs by the Sure, and I love Marty Robbins too. But as far as like modern country music, I mean, dude, when froggy one-on-one would come on, I mean I couldn't change the channel fast. I mean I mean I'm just, I'm just being honest, like now, you know, now it's weird because I know a lot of the people that are playing on those songs and stuff. You know, I mean that's weird. Yeah, like I, my one buddy, I can always tell it's him. I'm like, oh, that's you know, that's that's all you know. Like he plays on all that stuff and I could, I could hear it a lot of the time. I just heard him the other night. I was at this ice skating thing, weirdly enough at the opera. There you go and a prelin, but I'm, granola opera is awesome, man, I saw it. So I live with this guy. Well, I don't, I live above this guy, bruce Bouton, I've known place, who is, um, you know, look him up. He's one of the most legendary pedal steel players of all time and he played last night At the bluebird with this guy who has one of the craziest repertoire of songs I've ever heard, like you know, like 25 number one hits and has just duty just wrote a song for Ringo and the. The band director and the piano player from the granola opera was there and they were talking about they just recorded this track for like Ringo to sing on and it was man. It was so cool just sitting there listening to these guys talk about that stuff, you know.

Speaker 1:

But and miss. Would these guys be considered like the studio players of Nashville, like that, that, that the the labor force of the music scene of Nashville? How would you describe that to just a conventional listener? Oh, what is going on in this city when it comes to studio, studio players, gigs, what? Why is it uniquely different than the rest of the country?

Speaker 2:

Oh Dude, there's nothing like it, man, there's absolutely nothing like it. Here's the thing. It takes a while and for me obviously there was a pandemic in the middle, so it probably equals about three and a half years rather than five. You know, we're all luck, luck, kind of stuff, but, um, man, right now it is the land of opportunity. Man, it's unbelievable. Like there's the whole scene of songwriters right and like publishers and people getting publishing deals and people that their goal is to write songs for other people, to cut Not the whole world, which I've kind of dipped my toes, and I actually have two songs Coming out on a major label here and the next couple months on big loud that I, that I co-wrote, and you know Joey Moy, who's one of the biggest producers in the world is, is like loves these two songs I wrote. So I kind of dip my toes in that world. That's kind of starting to pay off. And then there's the people who want to be artists, who are Often playing like songwriter rounds and doing all that stuff, but more trying to get record deals or, you know, trying to. You know, do the whole artist thing right. Like you know, build a team, get a, get a good manager, all those things, booking agent. And then there's the studio musicians who Are like wizards man. These guys that play a lot of pop, country and a lot of other stuff, man, are some of the greatest Musicians in the world that you've probably never heard of. But they're literally like wizards man. Like the guy. You know who I'm. I stay up above here. I got a really sweet spot here in Inglewood. He's played on the biggest record, like dude. He played on all the Garth Brooks, all those massive Shania Twain records. It's funny for me because, like you know, northeast PA, like like used to hang out at Jins. You know, like up there in Factoryville and all the songs that would come on the radio, like like boot, scootin, boogie and all these. Like Dude he played on all the. I know the parts. You know what I mean. It's so funny.

Speaker 1:

Oh it's. It's gonna feel like you're living in history, like in the sense that even when I was out in LA or going to film festivals to feel like holy shit, like my favorite part of history is entertainment, or well, you know, at those times, to be in Nashville, I'm music and starting to hear someone's riff that you were just with. That's a fun life, that's an interesting life. Not everyone's afforded that opportunity, or at least given the clarity. Just to go after it Like this is what I want to do. Is that a source of gratitude for you all the time that you got to pursue this?

Speaker 2:

Dude, this morning I woke up I will have a porch, a nice little porch here where the sun comes up in the morning, and I sat out there and I do these the Wim Hof breathing. I don't know if you know about Wim Hof sure do. I love that guy loved doing that. And, dude, I was flooded by such a sense of gratitude that my life is where it is, like I wouldn't want to be in any other place. I don't want to be any other person. I'm so grateful to be where I'm at right now, man, and like it's a huge source of gratitude and like, real quick to sorry the dogs gonna start parking here I might have to let him out, but um the um. The one thing that's crazy for me in it ties in with Andy Payson. It ties in with get sober is that, dude, when you start following that feeling in your gut, like when you you know when, when getting sober allows you to like be aware of, like your intuition and what your guts on you to do, like amazing things happen because, like when I first moved here, man, my living situation got turned upside down at the last minute. I moved in with this guy I didn't know named Bure, who's like an outlaw country singer, and and then I end up writing a record with him and I moved into the old bedroom of a guy named Saul Littlefield, who's now one of the biggest session guitar players in town. He was had just played on all the Luke comb stuff and was blowing up and so he moved out and, you know, got his own place and then I quickly linked up with him and the chain of events, man, that followed, like Leading up to this very day and leading up to the record that I just put out. It's incredible, man, like it's absolutely incredible, like you know, and I don't really talk about this too much and I wanted to like explain it in a better way. But, like, man, that record I did, you know that I released earlier this year, like just to get to do that and get to play with those Musicians, I mean just the cast of characters, like on that album, like these guys are like my heroes, you know, like, sorry, the dogs make it.

Speaker 1:

He wants to go out Lay down for one minute, but Well it's, we're getting almost to the hour and I want to, and I'd love to talk to you again. So you, you're living, breathing, working musician in a mecca of Some of the world's greatest history of music, studio recordings and American sounds. Let's rewind one second your four-year sober. You pursue to dream, you're working In the city that's making that happen, and and and your talent carried you. There was a time where you did not feel that way, that you were in a treatment center, be it with me or someone else, where you feel Totally defeated and you had a lot to express. Even in the midst of an act of addiction or early recovery, what would you say to a young musician that's 22, 33 and feels completely fucking crushed and defeated? Why would you tell them not to quit you the idea of music or recovery? If they were, they were a creative type, what do you have to offer them?

Speaker 2:

I love that question, joe. I think for me, a lot, of, a lot of times, you know, people that meant well, would and just by I think they meant well. But a lot of times when I would get sober in my early 20s and I would tell people I wanted to be a musician, they would be like, oh you better pick a different career, you better, you better go pull out, that you better go learn how to be a roofer. And it would crush me inside because, dude, I never wanted to do anything else. I'm one of the lucky people. I knew what I wanted to do, you know, since I was a little kid, there was no question, and so now that I feel like a tide has turned in the recovery community, I feel like it's better understood that one of the biggest things that I Learned that I am grateful that I was taught was that when you're spiritually fit and when you take care of the problems that need to be taken care of, and when you you know if it's a 12-step program or whatever your path is, you can go anywhere in the world. You know we don't. I didn't get sober to hide under a rock and I certainly didn't get sober To not pursue my one true passion in life and man. When I had met you, joe, dude this is crazy, I know I'm I talk a lot, but when I'd met you, I was on the road, not when I met you, but when we were in treatment together. I was on the run from the state of New Jersey. I had warrants for my arrest. I literally had left the state. I'd been arrested four times in a row. I was arrested with 16 bags of heroin standing in front of a school. That was one of my charges and I you know, like, dude, that the, the things that were like the, the level of hopelessness that I felt. My girlfriend broke up with me, the law was after me, I was definitely going to jail. The way that I felt inside that day. Man, if there's someone else that, like, feels like that right now, oh my god, if I could just like Give them just a fraction of what I like, the hope and and and peace and, and, you know, fulfillment that I feel in my life right now, man, to just stick it out and just put one foot in front the other man. It's so worth it to get sober man. No man, and and dude, I've been to rehab 13 times, so like if it you know, dude, sometimes it takes 13 times. You just can't give up.

Speaker 1:

You cannot give up dude, I Thank you for that and you know as we. As we're closing this, I just want to give you insight, or a theory of mind, of how I've always viewed you and how I viewed you in rehab, when I would see you Struggling outside where you saw me struggling. I was sober 14 years. I've always viewed you as a winner. No, it was a winner. What do I mean by that? A person who cares about people. You get as lost as me, but you always had a heart. If you could see the Way you look to other people, even in your worst moments, I always thought you're a really warm, gentle and kind person Even what you described from that, and I think that comes through in your music. I was really happy to catch up with you today and I hope we could do this again. I was looking forward to it, and if anyone wants to see you down in Nashville, you can find Ms On Facebook, his Instagram all his gigs are up there. Some beautiful pictures. Unbelievable shows have been happening now in the last three years that just make me smile.

Speaker 2:

Well, thanks, man, and right back at you, joe.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so I'll be in touch. I'll grab you if anything's coming up the the pike or anything exciting that we could talk about, let's. Let's jump back on.

Speaker 2:

Man, I would love to anytime. I'm really happy, you know, it's awesome to see what you're doing, man, and it's so cool to both be on the other side of this thing now you know, and be able to, to share and give somebody else some hope.

Speaker 1:

So no doubt I'll talk to you soon, miss. Love you, man.

Speaker 2:

Okay, love you, buddy.

Speaker 1:

I I'd like to thank you for listening to another episode of all better, to find us on all better, dot FM, or listen to us on Apple Podcasts, spotify, google Podcasts, stitcher, I heart radio and Alexa. Special thanks to our producer, john Edwards, an engineering company, 570 drone. Please like or subscribe to us on YouTube, facebook, instagram or Twitter and, if you're not, on social media You're awesome. Looking forward to seeing you again. And remember, just because you're sober doesn't mean you're right.

Exploring Addiction, Recovery, and Creativity
Music Industry and Addiction Recovery
Reflecting on Addiction and Musical Talent
Exploring Addiction and Childhood Trauma
Recovery, Addiction, and Life in Nashville
Finding Home in Nashville