Real Deal Recovery


Strategies for the Touring Musician in Recovery, by Stephen Girard

TourbusGoing out on the road as a clean and sober musician can be quite daunting. Depending on how well your tour is funded; you may find yourself traveling in some very tight quarters with using collaborators not sympathetic to your commitment to recovery.

After 32 years clean and sober, many tours of the United States, Europe, and Japan, I will lay out some strategies that have helped me deal with the pressures of touring while striving to stay emotionally centered under sometimes very difficult circumstances.

First off, it’s important to point out that as musicians we can’t hide from drugs and alcohol. If you are a serious musician you have a job to do. End of story! However, it’s imperative you recognize that no gig, no matter how high profile or high paying is worth the price of your clean time/sobriety. My bottom line: if I think I am going to use, I bail. This has never happened to me, but I believe it’s important to keep upfront in your mind for your own clarity. Furthermore, if you are in very early recovery, it is usually best to take a period of time off from touring, if possible, while you develop a solid foundation for your recovery.

Prior to any tour it’s very helpful to do some footwork establishing contacts in the cities or countries you will be playing. Before to my first tour of Japan in 2003, I researched and reached out to English-speaking contacts in three different cities. This proved to be a real asset, as the tour was quite grueling: the accommodations were sometimes a bit rough and time spent in hard-drinking clubs was significant. Furthermore, there are not many English-speaking meetings in Japan, especially when you get outside of the major cities, so having these contacts was invaluable.

In many countries 12-step programs are still quite underground, and much of the online information is frequently out of date, so my go to method for finding meetings in certain countries is to call the U.S Embassy. Drug addicts and alcoholics are always getting into legal trouble, so usually an official at the Embassy can give you current meeting information, especially if it is not available online or the local phone book.

Bring phone rechargers: can’t count the number of times I have had to reach out to supportive friends in the program to have a meeting over the phone. A meeting is described as anytime two addicts or alcoholics are meeting for the purpose of recovery. Having backup phone chargers and voltage adapters is a must.

Set clear boundaries: establish solid boundaries with those you’re be working before the tour, even if you don’t think it’s necessary. It is possible to let others know that you don’t drink or drug without having to disclose your anonymity. You don’t own anyone an explanation as to why you don’t drink or drug, and it’s none of his or her business. Your job is to play your ass off and be professional. If you’re working with people who don’t respect your desire to be clean and sober, you are probably better off working with someone else. Keep in mind being a musician is a marathon and not a sprint.

In closing, touring can be quite challenging, whether you’re a newcomer or old-timer. The most important thing to remember is to ask for help when you need it, and if you don’t get it keep trying until you do. Now, get out there and tear it up!

 June 27th, 2016  
 0 Comment

7 Awesome Relapse Prevention Strategies by Stephen Girard

 June 21st, 2016  
 1 Comment

Asking for Help, by Stephen Girard


I can sum up my recovery in two words: giving and asking. This blog is about asking. You see, the reason I haven’t relapsed — even after experiencing serious adversity and loss a few times over in the last thirty-two years — is that I have always had the willingness to ask for help.


When I got out of treatment in my early twenties, I had the gift of desperation, and was motivated to follow the common suggestions: daily meetings, sponsorship, commitments, literature, and helping others. By following the common suggestions it became aware to me that I didn’t know much about life as a clean and sober person, and if I was going to make it I was going to need some serious help.


Humility is often described as the willingness to ask for help when you need it. Luckily, I intuitively figured out that if I was to make it, I would have to go to any length and dig deep, which included following ALL of the suggestions. Prior to getting clean and sober, asking for help was not a part of my vocabulary, but I was able to find and ask members with strong programs to help me. I had three criteria: if the person was genuinely happy, serious about the program, and walked the walk.


A few days after

9/11, I went to a literature study in New York City, and the literature for the day’s meeting was about relapse. The literature made reference to a study of alcoholics who had relapsed who were questioned if on the day of the relapse they had asked a higher power to keep them sober that day. None of the participants in the study had asked a higher power to help them stay sober on the day of their relapse. This hit me like a ton of bricks, because I had been thinking about drinking that week. From that day forward, during my daily prayer and meditation, I ask a higher power to help me stay away from the first drink or drug.


Learning to ask for help has had a positive spillover into every area of my life. For example, I have been able to apply the concept to other areas: financial, spiritual, physical, and musical. I have found that most people who perform at a high level in their profession, regardless of their background, have the innate ability to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.


How to Write a Simple and Rocking 1ST Step, by Stephen Girard

There are many ways to do a 1st step, and this is just one of them. The one I am presenting here is based on my spiritual experience with the step, and is by no means the best or most effective. However, I have found that the people I work with love its simple and focused approach.

If you have seen the David Letterman talk show, which is filmed right down the street from my pad in New York, you have probably seen one of David’s Top 10 lists. This is the same concept for this 1st step suggestion.

The first step: “We admitted we were powerless over X and that our lives had become unmanageable.” For most of us this means if we put X into our bodies, we are completely powerless over the outcome and our ability to stop.
So, for the purposes of this 1st step list, we’ll focus on “unmanageability.”

Make a list 1 though 10, and write down in one sentence or phrase of an example of unmanageability brought about by your alcoholism and/or drug addiction. Below is my sample Top 10 list.

For example:

1. Lighting my apartment on fire three times
2. Not knowing if it would be the last time, and not caring
3. Getting stabbed in a blackout, and having no idea who did it
4. Falling off a fire escape in Seattle
5. Spending the rent money on booze and drugs
6. Being asked to leave schools as a teenager
7. Almost getting shot in my own apartment
8. Passing out in doorways, even when I had a place to stay
9. 3 day blackout in Paris
10.Failed romantic relationships and weak interpersonal relationships

I Highly recommend you create a Top 10 list, laminate it, and put it in a binder for future reference. My experience has been that putting your 1st step down on paper is an excellent denial buster, and helps when you take the 2nd step and want to look at the insanity.