875. Undertow

(Site news! Late last night I posted a major DGC news update. Go check it out the excitement here: https://daron.ceciliatan.com/archives/11115 -ctan)

What happened next was we had to play the first of two stadium shows in Argentina. You’d think I’d be excited to play in front of fans who were chanting my name, right? Well, I was.

But I was also terrified about Star*Gaze. It wasn’t going to be what they wanted. Me ranting like a madman wasn’t what they wanted from a baby-saving guitar hero, was it?

I tried to back up and look at things objectively. It wasn’t that my performance was bad. A million frontmen–mostly metal but sometimes other genres–made the screaming maniac thing work. I knew the contrast between that and the complex layers of the band’s music really worked. At least in recordings.

And I really did feel the songs. The anger, the hurt, the moments of beauty. They were mine. They were real and they were mine.

And putting them out there for everyone to see was getting more terrifying with each passing show, not less.

Jesus fucking christ what have I gotten myself into?

Oh, come on, don’t be a wimp. It’s only four more shows. Get yourself together, Daron.

Yeah, pull yourself together, kiddo. Don’t make a federal case out of it.

That’s what the inside of my head sounded like. Like stress and doubts and what the fuck. Which made it really difficult to focus long enough to have a conversation with anyone, no matter what language. I was basically about to crawl out of my own skin.

I got my usual show-day Vitamin F from Flip, thinking that would calm me down.

It didn’t work. Instead I wondered if I was going to puke, as my anxiety level kept going up.

There are some performers who are like that before every show, butterflies in the tummy to the point of needing to purge. Some Olympic athletes, too. I’ve never been like that. For me the adrenaline rush comes during the show when everything’s going great. Even some of the most stressful gigs I’ve done, I haven’t been nervous beforehand, much less anxious. So feeling like this didn’t feel like me.

But it was what I was feeling, so I had to deal with it. I vaguely wondered: if I actually could bring myself to vomit, would I feel better after? Like you do when you’re sick sometimes. But when you have something making you sick in your stomach and you puke it up, it makes sense that you feel better. When what’s making you sick is your own bullshit, though? I was skeptical that puking wouldn’t just make me feel worse.

It was pretty obvious to me what was wrong with me was in my head and not my stomach. The voice of doubt was so loud in my ears it was almost hard to hear during Ziggy’s soundcheck.

As soon as that was done, I downed one of my “for emergencies” bottles of booze. And that worked like a charm. Being tipsy was like a giant “la la la I can’t hear you” buffer inside my head. The knots in my stomach and my chest started to loosen.

What the fuck. I went to Carynne while I was feeling good, but feeling bad about feeling good. “Hey, could I give you a note for later?” I didn’t mean a physical note written on paper, I meant a comment. Notes were usually about the show, i.e. I need my shoes resoled because I’m slipping on the riser. That sort of thing.

“Sure, what’s up?” She was even carrying a notepad at the time. We were alongside the stage on the grass but no one was near us, soundcheck being over and the doors not yet open.

“Remember when you were afraid I was drinking way too much?”


“It’s my turn.”

She frowned. “What do you mean? I thought you and Flip had worked out a regimen.”

“We had. But rather than just nuke my brain to mush with Flexeril, we’ve been doling out certain amounts.” Of booze, I meant, and she understood. “But those amounts keep creeping upward.”

“You know if you mix Vitamin F and alcohol you can black out, right? Or worse.” Carynne looked at me like if mixing drugs and alcohol didn’t kill me, she was going to.

“Yeah. Anyway, the note is let’s research me getting dried out completely. After the tour is over.”

She tapped her foot. “And you couldn’t start drying out now?”

I tried to think of how to explain the whole insane tangle of anxiety and artistic angst and creative doubt and other stuff all knotted together in my head. There was no way to explain it, so I just tried to put it all into the word “No.”

I guess something about the way my voice sounded got her attention. She put a hand on my arm. “Look. If I know you–and I do–you’ve decided being an alcoholic is this humongous problem that gnaws away at your self-esteem, because you’re judging yourself over it. And the judging yourself is being even worse for your psyche than just having an addiction in the first place.”

“Um.” Maybe that was a piece of it, at least. “You’re probably right.”

“Well, take it from me, Daron. This isn’t that huge a deal. It feels like it, but it isn’t. It’s a solvable problem. You’re not the first rock star–or human being–to deal with it, and you won’t be the last.”

“Oh.” What she was saying made some sense, but it didn’t really get to the bottom of things. I was definitely judging myself too harshly, but it wasn’t because of alcoholism. It was because of things I deeply felt I deserved to be judged for–not just “deserved” to be judged for, but things I was unavoidably going to be judged for, like my performance. It was literally my job to go out there and have people judge me.

Which I did. I’d drunk my 110 milliliters of I-don’t-care and I went out there and made it through. When it was over I counted myself lucky that was all it took to solve my problem and get me through. Really, as performance issues–or psychological ones–went, it was an inexpensive solution with a ready supply.

I let myself sober up a little before Ziggy’s show, as usual. And the volume knob on the chatter of complaints and self-castigations in my head started to turn upward again, but I was busy prepping for the set and was able to ignore it. Mostly.

Little things kept setting it off, like getting dressed in my tailcoat causing me to remember my whole doubt about whether Ziggy might have felt coerced into taking my ring.

Right before we went on was not the time to talk about that. Besides I kept telling myself the time when we were on the stage together was the one time when everything between us clicked.

(Site news! Late last night I posted a major DGC news update. Go check it out the excitement here: https://daron.ceciliatan.com/archives/11115 -ctan)

(Sometimes all I want is a voice and a guitar. You know? Suzanne Vega was–and is–and incandescent talent the music industry never knew what to do with. -d)


  • G says:

    I guess it’s good you see this as a problem and are reflecting on the connections between your physical and mental health, performing and drinking, but it’s sad that you are consciously holding off on starting to fix it because you don’t think you can handle the consequences right now.

    I really (naively) believed that this tour would be fun for you and Ziggy, given the events of the last one. Maybe not fun, but a good time with lots of bonding and cute moments. I pictured him grabbing you and kissing you right after the concert is over. I pictured so many things and it’s hard seeing the complete opposite. Every concert is a chore, every day is lonely and filled with angst.

    I’m starting to feel like I need to go into each chapter with cynicism, and I actually hate that.

    • daron says:

      I’m starting to feel like I need to go into each chapter with cynicism, and I actually hate that.

      ZOMG you and I are on such the same wavelength except that 1991 me hasn’t quite figured it out yet.

  • s says:

    It’s so hard to watch you struggle doing the one thing that always made you feel complete. I’m glad Carynne is involved now. I just wish there was a solution to your problems that you could start now.

  • Lenalena says:

    I feel like I might benefit from some Vitamin F and some booze myself.

  • Aunt Muriel says:

    When everything seems stressful, it’s time to look for some help. Glad Carynne’s there for you!

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