Up With People –
June 2, 2020 – My sobriety began with a jump, falling into murky water. That’s not a metaphor: swimming in the middle of nowhere in my native South Africa in 2012, I picked up a parasitic disease called bilharzia; my subsequent weakened immune system and a summer of binge-drinking led to a case of hepatitis. Both diseases required prolonged hospital stays and strict admonishments against drinking alcohol. My nightly drinking and smoking were replaced with green tea and rest.
Three months of rest on doctor’s orders turned into eight years and counting. I left my old self at the bottom of that river, along with my old career and a few drinking buddies. As I transitioned into the life of a full-time writer over those years, I wondered whether it was possible to have a dynamic creative life after you get sober: can an artist relish the routine instead of the riot? The image of the drunk, drugged rock’n’roll life has helped to normalise addiction, after all. Sobriety and creativity cast a complex picture that asks more questions the longer you stare at it. I spoke to three musicians at different stages of their sober journey about leaving drink and drugs behind.