I’ve spent the past week writing my almost-annual Doomsgiving post. I put a lot of work into it, had a bunch of media and cool references. It was 1500 words of a lot of chest-beating and celebration of how Cleanandsoberstoner has done this year. It has been amazing, and I’m so, so fucking grateful for each and every person who’s taken to time and read and follow me as I figure out what this is.
I was running the numbers through my head: 1200% increase in this, 580% increase in that, while roasting a 21.5 pound turkey for Newbie-Doomer and our wonderful, quirky, sit-com worthy family. I took a look at the insane amount of food we were preparing for the five of us, and as that dark-and-golden bird was cooling and we were preparing the mashed potatoes, I realized just how truly fucked-up that post was turning out to be.
Somehow, I thought the numbers were important, what I was grateful for. But as I saw the feast laid out for the people I love the most, I remembered other times. Like when I was so poor I was cutting mold off of bread and cheese because I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from. And that was after 5 years of continuous recovery from some pretty nasty drugs. Shit, man, I still pull food out of the trash if I think it’s edible, with a bunch of people wondering what the big deal is about an old bagel or 4-day old burger.
I’ve never been actually homeless, but I’ve been damn close. My recovery was not exactly a Hallmark movie, as you can see in 30 Years of Heavy Recovery. I’m about to get out of the boring parts, and soon I’ll be in the chapter where I see Kyuss open for Faith No More. Things become very un-Hallmark after that.
My point is I’ve dealt with some painful physical and psychological injuries over the years. I’m a disabled vet with a handful of diagnoses to go along with that baggage. At the same time, I have a fairly successful private practice as a counselor/life coach, a masters in Psychology and Addictions, and those two realities sometimes clash in amusing and ironic ways. Wounded healer stuff, I guess.
No matter what, there were always the bands. When I was quitting meth and crack, cold turkey, there was Celtic Frost and the emerging extreme bands of the mid-80’s. When finally kicking alcohol and that whole protracted withdrawal thing, there was Soundgarden and Prong. And when it came time to stare depression in the eyes until it fucking blinked, there was Kyuss.
Ever since I bought my first album, with my own money, at the age of 12 (Black Sabbath Vol 4, btw), the bands were there to guide me and get me through life. I was very much that kid, locked away in my room, looking for music that made me feel less alone, less like a “freak.” For good or bad, my essential adolescent world-view was informed by Ozzy singing Geezer’s lyrics. I’d like to think that it added to my resiliency over the years.
So no, it’s not about the goddamn numbers or how many people are reading my stuff. It’s about what I get to write about, and the reality that there’s a few people willing to read it. Just like everything else in my life, it’s the bands that get me through.
So, in some way, I’m most grateful this Thanksgiving to be able to give back a bit. I know those bands are struggling, as my new friend Dying Wizard has pointed out.
Looking at the food, I had to wonder how many of the artists I listen to are struggling, starving, feeling alone right now. They’re certainly not whining about it, instead funneling the pain and/or anger into another killer riff or seismic groove. Maybe they’re lucky enough to have a gig, driving 3 hours in gawd-knows-what weather to a 5″x5″ stage with a questionable PA of dubious vintage or origin. Somewhere from 3 to 300 people, spread out or packed, bored or psychotically slam dancing. You just never know man. Paid in beer or something ‘stronger’, maybe cash or at least a tip jar. Split the door? Sure.
Because it’s a gig, and a chance to experience that one thing, that singular moment that tells them that they belong in this world. And you, my reader, probably aren’t going to show up. Instead, the “crowd” is the members of the other bands and their old-ladies or old-men. That’s just how it goes.
That’s who and what I’m grateful for: the bands. No matter what physical or mental shit I’m going through, no matter the promotion or personal accomplishment, the bands, and the songs, remain the same. They either get me through, or keep me humble.
And if even one person got to experience the joy of discovering Desert Wave, then it’s all worth it. And on this Doomsgiving, it doesn’t get any better than that.