June 15 is a day that Everclear frontman Art Alexakis will never forget.
It’s coincidentally the day he lost his older brother in 1974, the day he overdosed and almost lost his life in 1984, and it’s the day he decided he wanted to get clean in 1989.
Alexakis was the final speaker Thursday at Horry-Georgetown Technical College’s Addiction and Recovery series, organized by Prof. Casey King.
King created the series in 2008 to increase public awareness of recovery in the community, educate the public on the biology and psychological basis that drives many addictions, demonstrate that addiction crosses all social and economic boundaries, reduce the stigma our culture assigns to those in recovery, and to demonstrate that recovery from addictions is possible through a multitude of methods and can be free to those who want it.
The series is sponsored by Grand Strand Health, Faces and Voices of Recovery Grand Strand, Lighthouse Behavioral Health Hospital, and Shoreline Behavioral Health Services.
King himself is a recovering addict, and came full circle with Alexakis’ appearance at HGTC. King was in the early stages of recovery when he bought a ticket to see Everclear at the House of Blues.
“I was worried about going to the House of Blues. I left my license in my car and only took $10. It was my first concert in recovery and now 13 years later, I’m introducing him to the stage,” King said.
Alexakis has been in recovery for 30 years now, he said.
“People like to tell their war stories and ask ‘What was your drug of choice?’” Alexakis said. “I tell them ‘Whaddaya got?’”
He grew up with his brother and a single mom in Culver City, Calif., “the only white kid in a primarily African-American and Hispanic neighborhood,” he said.
He was sexually abused at age 8 by some teenage boys, and tried marijuana for the first time at age 9. At age 11, he went to his first rock concert and took LSD.
“My daughter is 11 and I don’t think she’s even ever seen anyone smoke a cigarette,” he said incredulously.
His brother used to take him to a particular ice cream truck to get ice cream when he was a child, and it wasn’t until later he realized the man selling ice cream was also selling heroin, and his brother was helping him sell it.
He was bullied in school, and said before the abuse he was a “nice kid”, but said after the sexual abuse happened, he would “take anybody out” that bullied him.
“It was hit first, ask questions later,” Alexakis said.
After losing his brother to an overdose when Alexakis was 12, he continued down a dark path.
At age 13, he shot up crystal meth for the first time.
“I spent most of my teens trying new drugs, and learning how to lie about them,” Alexakis said. “My priorities in my teens and early 20s were drugs, alcohol and sex.”
The night he overdosed, he was at a friend’s house and had been doing drugs all day. He said he remembered needing help walking because he couldn’t walk straight. That evening he said he put three quarters of a gram of cocaine in a syringe and put it in his arm all at one time.
“My heart stopped,” Alexakis said.
An emergency medical technician happened to live next door to where he had overdosed, and was coincidentally just home from a shift, Alexakis said. He was able to use the defibrillator to save Alexakis’ life.
He said he used for six more months but then stopped all drugs except for alcohol.
“When I was clean except for the alcohol, I wrote good songs,” Alexakis said. “But I woke up drinking, went to bed drinking and woke up in the middle of the night to have a drink.”
When he was living in San Francisco with his first wife, he would frequent a local record store.
One day, the record store clerk spoke up and told Alexakis, “You know, you have a problem.”
“He could tell just by looking at me. He told me if I ever wanted to go to a meeting, he would take me,” Alexakis said.
He woke up from a bender one day, took a bus to that record store and asked the clerk if he would take him to a meeting. The clerk said he’d be glad to take him to a meeting that night.
“I told him ‘No, I want to go to one right now,’ so he asked the other lady there to watch the store and took me,” Alexakis said.
They went to two meetings that day, he said, and by the end of the evening he realized he wanted to get clean.
He was five years sober when his band Everclear came into more notoriety in the 90s, with their albums Sparkle and Fade, and So Much for the Afterglow.
Their latest album Black is the New Black, came out in 2015, and he will be releasing a solo album in the next few months.
Does he think he would have had the same success if he had not gotten clean?
“I’d be dead,” he said. “It’s not even a maybe. I’d have been dead,” Alexakis said.
While social media can be a great thing, he said social media can be a double-edged sword when it comes to addiction.
“It depends on what you’re going to do with it. You could do really good things. I see people talking about treatment and outreach, but then I see people … setting themselves on fire,” Alexakis said.
He said he spoke at some Alcoholics Anonymous meetings before he went on tour back then, in anticipation of being thrown back into an environment where it was easy to feed the addiction.
“It’s all about choices. Don’t put yourself in places you don’t want to be. If you can’t make good choices in those places, don’t go to those places,” Alexakis said. “You have to find that desire to be clean and sober and to be in recovery.”
Arthur Paul “Art” Alexakis is best known as the singer-songwriter and guitarist of the rock band Everclear. He has been a member of several notable bands, in addition to his own work as a songwriter for other artists. Alexakis founded several record labels throughout his career and worked as an A&R representative for major record labels between and during his own musical projects. Later, he became a political activist and lobbied for special concerns which included drug awareness policies and support of the families of the military.
For more about the Addiction and Recovery series, visit https://www.hgtc.edu/about_hgtc/news_center/2019-addiction-and-recovery-series.html