Steven Tyler (lead singer of rock band Aerosmith and former American Idol judge) admits to blowing $20 million on drugs. He’s seen the highest of creative highs and the lowest of strung-out lows.
I (Brenda) have relatively little experience with drugs. Sure, I experimented in college; two inept attempts at smoking pot. One resulting in temporary paranoia and the other in zero effect at all due to user error. Who knows instinctively how to inhale from a skull pipe?
I do know about wanting more and being numb.
I read Steven Tyler’s autobiography, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?, and developed an admiration for the artist that goes beyond groupie.
Who hasn’t drifted through life at one time or forever in a cocoon of distractions?
Early Days in the Garden
There’s my dad sitting at the piano, practicing three hours every day, and me building my imaginary world under his piano. It was a musical labyrinth where even a three year old child could be whisked away into the land of psychoacoustics, where beings such as myself could get lost dancing between the notes. I lived under that piano…
Steven Tyler was not always immersed in drugs and trouble. There was a childhood of family, forests and tom-foolery; a time when Steven could exploit his curiosity and imagination without relying on hallucinogens. Life was simple and pure. His personal garden was manageable, consisting of his family’s tiny apartment in the Bronx and their summer camp in New Hampshire. He experienced otherness for the first time while listening to the wind move through pine needles in a silent forest.
My spiritual ideas didn’t come from the Lord’s Prayer or church or pictures in the Bible, they came from the stillness.
Path of Reverie
I tapped into the wonders and emotions of my inner world listening to my dad’s albums on his stereo. Bill Withers sang Just the Two of Us on the long-playing LP out in the living room. The jazzy notes drifted like an aroma into my bedroom where they permeated my thoughts. I imagined cosmopolitan couples next to rain speckled windows holding each other’s smiles and glasses of golden wine. I saw people in cozy places reading books while a black man sings through their radio. I felt connected to something beyond what I knew. Music became a muse, an inviting path to reverie.
Nature also provided me with a sense of something other-worldly. Our eighty acres in a cow-town were a gift of beauty and stillness. In the country there were no streetlights to fight with twinkling night skies or car noises to muss up the tresses of peace. I sigh when I recall the silence experienced atop a diamond mountain of snow under a black velvet sky of stars.
Numb Days in Success
Music crooked its finger and Steven Tyler followed. He could not stop himself. Rock and roll was sex to him before he had sex. Drum sticks felt natural in his hands. Rat-a-tat-tat was the voice of his heartbeat. Singing and writing gave his spirit an outlet. Drugs enhanced his writing. He was in love and wanted more. He found it. And wanted more.
Success led to battles with band members as well as women, women, women and drugs, drugs, drugs. His personal mantra, It ain’t worth doing unless it’s worth over-doing, took over. Fast living left no room for stillness. The dancing bear had to perform and it took a lot of energy. Cocaine provided energy and a buffer from details. Eventually drugs became more important than the music or relationships. Many fights between Steven and Aerosmith’s lead guitar player, Joe Perry, were over Steven’s zoned out behavior or the lack of drugs. Spirituality was lost.
Lost in Child-Rearing and Busy-Ness
I had my own addiction. I met a wonderful man who could provide a beautiful home, devoted family and security. I fell in love and wanted more. We added three children and a big home to the mix. I spent my days intoxicated by the abundance of money and the distractions of motherhood. If I started to come down, I was easily appeased with another hit of luxury or a project to undertake. I filled every second with busy-ness. I needed to be useful. Earn my keep. Be the dancing bear. The tasks became more important than the human connections. I couldn’t get to the garden of reverie. I had no time and worst of all I feared if I did look inward I would find no depth, no creativity, just a follower, a groupie.
Awake in the Garden
Steven Tyler has been to rehab countless times. Major success (twelve years of sobriety) occurred when his bandmates also committed to sobriety. He met a counselor who showed him a way to enlightenment other than drugs. He found familiarity and peace in guided image therapy where, just like when he writes music, he navigates the images within himself.
Over the last ten years Steven lost: his mother, a wife (to divorce) and aspects of his health. Like all gardens, his has fragrances and flora as well as aphids and ants. But today Steven is LIVING, open to criticism and pain as well as otherness and beauty, not a gram of numbness.
Just recently my dad came over to the house – he’s ninety-three now! And I sat down next to him at the piano and he played Debussy’s Clair de Lune… It was so deep and invoked so much of that early emotion laid on top of my adult emotions that I wept like a baby.
Once More With Feeling
As for me, I went through a withdrawal process that started with caring for my body. I hired a personal trainer, became fit and ate healthier. I found running gave me access to an inner space of ideas. I distanced myself from my dealers, More and Expectations. My interests expanded beyond our manicured lawn. I signed up for guitar lessons. I reconnected with my love of music and its influences. I filled our house with music so that our children would daydream. Musical tendrils unrolled and pointed to a familiar path leading to a garden of wonder and reverie within myself. This internal garden is where I LIVE without numbness.
Is there an artist with whom you feel a deep connection? What makes you feel expansive?
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