Addiction, depression and anxiety can hit many musicians, and it can often take years of making mistakes and learning from those mistakes before a musician can get sober.
Where sex, drugs and rock n roll has been a cliché for many years, it’s now a hoary cliché, and there’s nothing uncool about finally getting help and getting sober, much like Jeff Tweedy of Wilco has.
A Famed Indie Rocker Reflects on Addiction and Mental Health Struggles
The famed alternative band Wilco has been around for a long time, and one of their best known albums, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, made Rolling Stone’s list of 500 best albums of all time. (The band also won two Grammys.) Tweedy has now written his autobiography, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) where he goes into detail about addiction, anxiety, depression and sobriety.
Like many who struggle with addiction, it ran in Tweedy’s family. His father was an alcoholic. He started playing in bands when he was a teenager, and first gained fame in the alternative band Uncle Tupelo.
Tweedy also suffered from terrible anxiety when he was a kid. Anxiety is common with a lot of performers, and being onstage can create a level of fear unknown to man.
As Tweedy told PBS, when Uncle Tupelo came to an end, he was unhappy with it, but growing up in an alcoholic family, so he understood unpredictability. Even when he hit an artistic high with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, it got dumped by the label. Tweedy released it through another label, and it went gold. Then Tweedy won a Grammy two years later.
But Tweedy was already struggling with addiction. He was taking painkillers, namely Vicodin, and as PBS reports, by 2003 “he was battling a full-time opioid addiction.” He tried to quit cold turkey, then he went into inpatient care.
Looking Back Into a Dark Past
As Tweedy looked back on his dark days of addiction, he told PBS that what he thinks about the most since getting sober is “what I need to do next to stay healthy or to stay sober…I’m a big believer in when things get a little bit overwhelming, to slow yourself down and think of what the next right thing to do is. I have all this evidence from many more years of living that reassures me [that] I’m probably gonna be okay.”
Since getting sober, Tweedy has also been remarkably prolific, and musicians often have the fear that they will lose their creative spark when they get sober. Thankfully, a lot of musicians like Tweedy who have come out through the other end of the tunnel have proven this is not true, and sobriety is the best thing you can do for your creativity.
Writing an autobiography can be a final statement for a lot of people, but Tweedy is only in his early fifties, and there’s still plenty of chapters to be written. For a lot of people who have suffered from addiction, writing a biography can be a way of closing that particular chapter of their lives, which is hopefully what Tweedy has done with Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back).