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Being introduced to music at a young age has given me some of the greatest gifts in my life. At first, just having music played in the house to later playing drums with my first band in high school, music gave me an outlet and built relationships that would last a lifetime. Relationships that included drugs and alcohol.

In high school, I had no aspirations to be in a rock n roll band like my band mates. I just wanted to do the normal “thing”- which was go to school, get a job, a wife, and a house and live, well, you know the rest. So I “retired” from playing music. Not until I moved away at 21 to attend school did I find a long lost love- playing drums. Imagine—21 year old drummer, away from home for the first time with every opportunity to do anything. What a recipe!!!

Playing music meant alcohol and drugs would continue to be in the equation. I mean, who ever heard of a sober drummer? Isn’t that why I played? Sex, drugs and rock n roll? I played for the love of music, but the fringe benefits were great- free beer, readily available drugs, and girls clamoring for attention.

So as I continued to play with bands and the intake of alcohol increased. Weekly practices were alcohol fueled and shows became a complete blur. I was in my mid -twenties and felt I was living a dream life. I got just drunk enough to play well, or so I thought. I listen back today to some live recordings and wonder what in the world I was doing.

As I got older, weekly practices were now a reason to drink (like I needed another reason), to get away from my family and the hardships of life. Rehearsals ended up being mostly drinking with a little playing sprinkled in. After forgetting parts of songs or what I played the last week to a new song, the rehearsal would move to the local pub. There were no drums there to create music, but I was creating something different-the broken, off beat drummer that was suffering.

The music had stopped. I wasn’t inspired by music. Alcohol clouded my life, leading to so many losses in my life. The loss of a marriage, friendships, important relationships, and the love of playing music. In my active alcoholism, I thought I was enjoying the music, but the disease lied to me, or what’s more, I was lying to myself.

After all the pain and disappointment, I was able to combat my alcoholism. My love of music returned. Playing became a way of treating my disease, not lending to it. Being able to focus on playing and connecting with your mates is such a gift. And actually to be able to remember it-WOW! What a concept!!! My playing is better sober, my focus is sharper and my love of playing has grown. I have even been able to pick up a guitar again and learn more on it in two weeks than 2 years when I was drinking and owned a guitar. To actually be able to write some music is something that I could have never done while drinking. Music is again one of the greatest gifts in my life, and one I intend on not taking for granted.

Tom Chaffin does strategy and entertainment for SOBERBARS. Father. Drummer. Sober Animal.

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