In a recent GQ article, Trey Anastasio, Jason Isbell, Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler, Ben Harper, Zachary Cole Smith, Soko, and Julien Baker discussed a series of questions surrounding their sobriety with journalist Chris Heath.
Heath’s questions are provocative and thoughtful, as the rockstars give an in-depth account of their initial need to get sober, whether they were having fun while getting high, their road to recovery, life after using, as well as many more insightful discussions. In L4LM’s recap of this enthralling interview, we keep the focus on our beloved Phish frontman’s candid responses.
Trey Anastasio’s drug habits date back to Phish’s early years, when the quartet began to take off as an internationally recognized jam band. After first trying an opiate in 2000, Anastasio began a rapid downward-spiral, before hitting rock bottom and getting arrested in 2006 for felony drug charges. After graduating from a 14-month felony-drug-treatment court in Washington County, NY, the eye-opening experience forced Trey to turn his life around, and he now has 13 years of sobriety under his belt.
When asked, “Were you having fun (while using)?” Anastasio responded:
Oh God, yeah. Tons of fun. Mountains of fun. Nothing but fun. But then it wasn’t fun.
My primary band had stopped working, so I had essentially lost that band. My solo band was not working and not together. I had issues with my family. And I had been arrested. So I was in a complete tailspin, and I was addicted to opiate pills and drinking and the whole bit. It wasn’t a good picture. I couldn’t see at the time how much I had lost. Close to everything.
When asked about starting to make the change and sober up, Anastasio responded:
I had been trying to stop, oh man, for years. I had checked myself into a rapid detox hospital—it didn’t work. And I would go home and clean myself up. It was the kind of thing where every time I went back out on the road, it would just fire back up again. I would do yoga [laughs], go the gym, and all this stuff that I thought would address the problem. And I would start a tour, and by set break of the first show, there would be 30 people in my band room and it would all come back.
When I got arrested, I was very sick and I was in the process of losing everything that was dear to me. I had not played a show for two years and was out of communication with the guys in Phish. I was very sick and skinny and crazy and mean. It hurts my head to talk about this stuff, but it’s true.
It all seemed to happen so fast. I had done work a few years back with the Vermont Youth Orchestra, which was something I was so proud of. And when I got arrested, my mug shot was on the cover of this local paper for something like six days in a row. All I could think about was all of these parents and all of these kids having to look at this, and it just filled me with so much shame. I just couldn’t figure out what had happened. Like: What happened?
When asked, “Do you worry about remaining sober?” Anastasio responded:
Not really, no, but I’m respectful of the power that I’m up against. And it saddens me deeply when I see situations happen…other people in my ﬁeld, for example, musicians who for some reason forgot what they were up against and ended up dead. Which just happened about four times in the last year. And in all of those cases, I knew it was happening. It’s a small community. People were talking about stuff before Tom Petty died. It’s devastating. And the only reason I said that about him is because I adore him and I wish he was alive until he was 90. He’s an American treasure. He’s the kind of musician who could’ve been like Doc Watson or Johnny Cash—old, sitting on a chair, singing those songs.
Heath continued on the same track asking, “Have you ever relapsed?” in which Anastasio responded:
No. Let’s thank God I have not. This is sobriety number one for me. But I’m active enough in sobriety that I hear these stories every day. You know, I look to my heroes to be reminded that really good, really smart, really talented people can fall into this trap pretty easily, far down the road, if they’re not careful.
When asked, “Do you miss anything about how you used to be?” Anastasio responded:
Not anymore, but there was a period of adjustment. There was a time, three or four years in, where I thought I had lost my mojo. I had lived my life with reckless abandon to great effect—just pushing every boundary that was in front of me. If there was a fence, I’m gonna step over it. And then to be in this thing where if you jump over the fence, you wake up in a blue suit. In a cell. It kind of turned me into a cautious person. I was really nervous and scared about everything for a while. I would drive the car at 49 miles an hour, with nothing in the car, and still think I was going to get pulled over and yanked out of my life by some authority ﬁgure. Sober people around me kept reminding me “More will be revealed” and “Just keep going,” “Don’t quit till the miracle happens,” and all those sayings they have. And lo and behold, they were right. I thought my mojo was gone, but you ﬁnd a new kind of mojo.
Head over to GQ to read the full in-depth interview with some of rock and roll’s most iconic sober stars.