The Messiness of Addiction

This is definitely one of those hard-to -write blog posts. I debating saying anything at all, but that’s not really like me either. It’s hard to be really real on a big scale, hard to face those “not so pretty” things in life, to be open and honest and vulnerable to the world. But there is strength in it as well. There is power in owning your story and being real. Plus you never know who you can help by just saying ‘hey, you aren’t alone, we all have messy stuff.’

Addiction is a terrible disease that affects more of us than we like to admit. Some of us it affects firsthand, and others of us secondhand as we watch those we care about struggle with something that doesn’t make any real sense to us.

The music world is abuzz today with the news that yes, Bryon White of the Damn Quails has released a statement about checking into rehab, something many of us knew was a long time coming. So many wonderful comments of support and encouragement have been left on the Damn Quails FB post about it, of which I plan to print up and take with me when I go see him soon. I can only imagine that those words of support and love will mean the world to him as he faces his demons and tackles his addictions.

Bryon also happens to have been my boyfriend for the last couple of years, which has given me an up close and personal experience with addiction that I can’t say I ever really signed up for, or wanted.



If you missed Bryon’s statement, here it is:

Folks and folkettes,

In previous years, sitting down at this keyboard to type out the words in my head was a ritual in which I took a great deal of comfort.  I used to have a lot to say, and more often than not I used a few hundred more words to say it than were actually required to get whatever point I was trying to make across.  In spite of my verbosity, a great many of you read my words anyway, and for your patience with my lack of brevity, I remain immensely grateful.  I’ve spent the last few hours digging through my old blog entries and social media postings, trying to pinpoint a date or particular entry in which my tone and demeanor began to darken.  Like most changes, the shift in my personality happened gradually.  Little by little, somewhere along the way, I began to lose the hope and cautious optimism that had once been deeply engrained within my personality.  Some of this loss could be chalked up to the inevitability of the passage of time and the hard realization that life rarely (if ever) gets any easier the longer it goes on.  The rest can be laid squarely at the feet of the increasingly consuming addictions that I have become more and more a slave to.

When I was first arrested in Goodland, Kansas back in 2008, I was almost certain that my life as I knew it had come to a swift and definitive end.  Things looked pretty grim during the weeks that followed that incident, but thanks to luck and one exceptionally good attorney, I came out of that experience more or less unscathed.  Moreover, the song I wrote about the experience was one of my best to date, and It eventually made its way onto Down The Hatch in 2011.  “Fool’s Gold” climbed the various Texas music charts and helped the record break into the top ten of the National Americana Charts.  It seemed I had made the most of my first experience with being on the wrong side of the law, and myself and the rest of the Quails were well on our way to becoming a mainstay of the Red Dirt/Texas Country/Folk Americana music scenes.  Unfortunately, a rather messy lawsuit was just over the horizon that put a hitch in our step and stole a good deal of the momentum we had been gathering.  It wasn’t a fatal blow to our band, but it did muster up a great deal of stress in both our personal and professional lives.  I dealt with my stress the way a lot of songwriters and musicians and poets and novelists and other creative types down through the centuries dealt with their own…by steadily indulging habits to the point that they became addictions.  

My addictions followed me down the road just as closely as the trailer that followed our big black van across tens of thousands of miles of open road.  Things would get better, but then they got worse, and eventually the various substances and self destructive behaviors I had been using to deal with my problems eventually became the cause of them.  I began to lose sight of those that had once meant the most to me, and once those things are out of sight, it doesn’t take long for them to disappear completely.  More loss begat more pain, which required more drugs with which to bury it, which unavoidably begat more pain.  Rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat, until life became little more than a viciously repeating cycle from which there was no escape. 

At least that’s what I thought.  I spent nine days of the last month staring at the cinderblock walls of the Love County jail, a hellish place from which I was certain I would never be released.  Eventually, I was released, but not before taking a good hard look at the hollow wreck of a man I had become.  When I was finally out from behind the cold iron bars, I decided that enough was finally enough. 

This morning, I’ll be checking into a rehab facility in Purcell, Oklahoma.  I’m going to learn how to face my problems instead of just sweeping them underneath the proverbial rug.  I’ll be taking three months off of performing while I try and exercise my demons, and I very much hope that you’ll all still be around once my feet make their way onto a stage again.  I’m sorry for the cancellations and postponements of the Damn Quails shows that we had scheduled.  They are my fault and my fault alone.  I hope you can all understand and won’t hold it against us when we head back out on the road and re-commence rocking the hell out of all of your respective dance halls and honky tonks.  It won’t be long. Thank you all for your continued patience for my follies and the undying support you have always shows for our music and our songs.  It means more than we can ever truly express.  Until next time, folks and folkettes, I’ll see you on down the road.  I promise.

Bryon White/TDQ

Photo credit : Clay Billman, Oklamerica

Photo credit : Clay Billman, Oklamerica

It's a statement that was typed up at my house mere hours before his mom and I took him and checked him into rehab on Monday morning and drove away, with hope in our hearts that this will be the place where he turns his life around.

It’s hard to watch someone struggling with something so deep and complex, something that destroys who you are and everything you care about in your life. What you want to say to this drowning person is, “just stand up”, as you watch them flailing around and drowning in what looks like only a few feet of water, in our minds anyway. But of course it’s not that easy. We want it to be that easy, we wish it were that easy, but it’s just not.

So many people look at those of us standing by an addicted person, watching us struggle and deal with all the heartbreak and betrayals and lies and all the toxic things surrounding addiction, and say the same things. “Just walk away, you don’t have to deal with that.” It looks that easy. We want it to be that easy, we wish it were that easy. But it’s just not.

Addiction is heartbreaking, to everyone that it touches, from the person with the addiction, to their families and friends that are destroyed in the process. I’ve gotten to see it all up close and personal these last couple of years and it’s not been pretty at all. It’s hard to see this side of life that has nothing to do with me, and try to separate it and keep it away from my own life. Away from my professional life, and my family and kids, and all the things I hold near and dear and have worked hard for that I would never want it to touch. It seems like it would be easy to just remove it completely from my life then eh?

But it’s not. Because I was born with rose colored glasses that can look beyond the layers of toxic and unhealthy things and see only the good in people. I am really thankful for this ability, even though it feels like a curse sometimes. I can look at this man who is addicted, who has terrible and awful coping mechanisms that cause heartache and pain, who is trapped in dysfunction and in the wake of it all does terrible things that I can’t understand in the least bit, and I can still see his heart. I can still see the good in him buried beneath the toxic things.

I can also see all the people in his life that can’t handle dealing with it all, who do love and care about him, who have given up and turned away. This of course is nothing that I blame or fault them for in the least bit, but it leaves so very few people left willing to step up and do the hard things to try to get him the help that he needs. I myself have wanted to walk away, and have several times, only to come back when he asks for my help.

I see the people that gossip about him and talk poorly behind his back, and treat him like he’s a rock star to his face. I see the people who snub him completely. There’s a stigma attached to addiction, like these people aren’t worth the same as someone who isn’t addicted. It’s like because they struggle with something bigger than them that they are dirty, and not intelligent, like they are subpar human beings. But that’s just not true.

I can see how brilliant and talented and amazing this man is, and how his addictions and subsequent self sabotaging tendencies that he uses to distract himself from the pain and to numb it all, is taking it all away from him, and how tragic that is. My heart breaks for him, and everyone who cares about him, including myself. I feel like my heart has just been repeatedly broken over and over again. But in spite of that, these last few years I have stayed and I have fought, to try to get him to see what a better life he could choose, and how he deserves so much more than the life that he is leading. I know the only person that can make that choice is him, and that until he chooses it nothing anyone else says or does will matter in the long run. But I’m an eternal optimist, and I am ridiculously stubborn, and I believe in fairy tales and magic and happily ever after, damn it. I have a hard time walking away from someone who needs help, regardless if I probably should have walked away a long time ago and never looked back.  

Helping Bryon check into rehab was a finish line hard won. I’ve been trying to get this to happen for well over a year, and knowing he has the opportunity to take his life back and stop being a slave to a drug that is ruining everything good in his life, is a huge weight that has been lifted from my shoulders. But this of course is only the beginning. Bryon still has a huge fight in front of him, a ton of work to do, emotions to process and demons to deal with. But seeing the outpouring of love and support and encouragement from his friends and fans fills me with hope, and gratitude. There are so many people out there in this world that suffer from the same things who don’t have people who love and care for them, who have washed their hands of them, who have given up. What a terrible thing that would be to not have people that care enough to step up and do something, to say the hard things, to do the hard things. Bryon is very lucky that he is surrounded by people who care.

Recently, in a heated discussion we were having about him going to rehab, he said how it was all bullshit, that he had everyone on his back about rehab and how I couldn’t possibly understand. My response was that the reason these people were “on his back” about rehab was because they cared about him, and how terrible it would be to be someone who didn’t have that. I hope as the fog clears for him and he gets his head straight and can see things without the glaze that the drugs put on everything, that he truly can see what an amazing thing he has here.

Thank you to everyone who is sending all of the warm wishes and love and support to him, thank you for standing by him, for sticking with him. Thank you for understanding that we all have messy stuff, but that it doesn’t make us bad people.


Tonya Little2 Comments