Walsh: We were on top of the world with the Eagles, and we were wild and crazy. And in , we just ran out of steam. If I got sober, the Eagles would be back together. Anastasio: When I got arrested, I was very sick and I was in the process of losing everything that was dear to me.
I had not played a show for two years and was out of communication with the guys in Phish. I was very sick and skinny and crazy and mean. Harper: It was starting to extract a greater toll, energetically. I could tell it was preventing me from reaching as far as I could, creatively and physically. Baker: I wish I could attribute it to a single rock-bottom moment. I know a lot of people who struggled with addiction had that.
But for me things sort of came in waves of what I needed to eliminate from my life until I started to see a pattern. And I remained nihilistic and unconcerned because it felt like there was no alternative. And they were all very kind to me for no reason—like, they would make me dinner, come pick me up when I got stranded, never asked any uncomfortable questions or made me feel judged or condescended to me.
Anastasio: It all seemed to happen so fast. I had done work a few years back with the Vermont Youth Orchestra, which was something I was so proud of.
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And when I got arrested, my mug shot was on the cover of this local paper for something like six days in a row. All I could think about was all of these parents and all of these kids having to look at this, and it just filled me with so much shame.
Like: What happened? Tyler: I thought they were trying to brainwash me. I thought I would lose my creativity. Smith: Just the unknown. The absolute unknown. My whole life and identity and my daily cycle of being alive for five years, or whatever, was just wrapped up in drugs. Harper: Well, the emotional edge that it does take off is real.
So living with that, with life in its most raw form, is a bit daunting. Just taking life full on, without that influence, was one. Walsh: Everything. I thought sober people were like a cult who sold books at the airport. And I thought I would never be funny again. Baker: Alienation from my peers. Substances are often a social lubricant, and without that social lubricant, I have to deal with my social anxiety. Or I have to deal with any of my feelings at all, you know? Isbell: Now I know what was really scaring me was just the thought of getting sober.
Are people going to be attracted to me anymore?
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Am I going to be interesting? But all those things were bullshit.
That was the addiction wanting to continue and wanting to feed itself and keep itself alive. I look back on it and I realize that I was never interesting because I was drunk. That was not why people were hanging out with me. Walsh: I would not be able to write music, I would not be able to play live in front of people—that was the big one. Smith: I spent a while talking to friends and family friends who were linked in to recovery, then went to a detox facility, and then lived in a sober-living facility for six months.
Tyler: I went away. Isbell: First I went into the hospital to detox.
It was pretty painful. Harper: I was going in for surgery—I have a new disc between my L4 and L5.
And after the surgery, I just felt I would be doing my body, my age, and my future a great disservice. I just forced myself. It was a battle of will. Probably more difficult than losing a job, but not as difficult as losing a parent. Harder than moving, but not harder than your house burning down. Soko: It was very easy for me to stop.
On top of being addicted to alcohol, I was also bulimic. I stopped food addiction and alcohol all at once—vegan, gluten-free, no processed food, no sugar, no alcohol, no caffeine, overnight. And I want my life to have meaning. Walsh: I had to start all over, from the basics—I had to learn to get up and make my bed and not drink. Smith: It was ego-shattering, for sure. It was wild, I would say. It was tough, man. There were really dark moments, and counting literal seconds. Tyler: You know, it took us down. Walsh: I was that scared little kid again.
So I stuck around. Anastasio: I had a sort of different situation than most people, in that I was facing felony charges, based on what was in my car when I was pulled over. I had to move within half an hour of the jail, which was in Fort Edward, New York, because they call you in for random urine tests and stuff.
So I basically had to stop my life for 14 months. I did or something hours of community service—cleaning the bathrooms and toilets at the Washington County fairgrounds, putting up fences, parking cars, breaking rocks—and court-ordered outpatient [treatment], and drug-court meetings.
I just had to move up there and spent 14 months just getting sober and complying with the rules.
If you miss a meeting, they put you in jail for 48 hours. Which happened to me—I had to go to jail a couple of times. This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. Which I think is something that has to happen. Anastasio: It was horrifying and scary at the time, the concept of life without this stuff. My entire perspective shifted degrees. Everything I thought was bad was good, basically. I think I was so disgusted with myself, so disgusted with what I had become, that I was willing to give up, and that was kind of the key. Even when the guy arrested me, I remember thanking him.
While my head was on the cop car. It was so much shame involved. So what I did was I just did whatever everybody told me. Now I have to sit there and be with myself, and that is most terrifying of all. Anastasio: When I first got sober, they had me do all this writing. You have to start journaling like crazy. I was asked to sit down and write this list of everything that I lost to drugs and alcohol.
Because I laughed with the three guys from Phish from the day we met. And as soon as those drugs came into it, that was what went away. Isbell: I wrote my way through it. You are. And I was almost like an alien in my own landscape. Tyler: The confusion goes away. Your friends come back. You can keep a little money in the bank.
You can plan things and make them work. You get physically healthy.