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Rock’n’Roll Fueled my Addictions…and My Sobriety

Rock'n'roll is often associated with excessive consumption and intoxication. So how did two rock bands so associated with drugs lead to my recovery?

For many years, I built my identity largely around two things—music and getting wasted.

I’ve loved music since I first heard my beloved Beatles when I was a little girl. While there are many bands I love, there are two main favorites that have stood by me through thick and thin—The Beatles and Queens of the Stone Age.

The Beatles epitomized the free love and drug culture of the sixties.

While I would happily sing and dance along to all The Beatles’ songs, I especially loved the songs written under the influence of the many drugs they took throughout the hippy years. When I was stoned or high, The Beatles convinced me that my intoxication was not just me being wasted, it was connecting me to them and their music on a deeper level.

I had a very big crush on George Harrison. Being the good fangirl that I am, I had to explore some of the things he loved. Yoga was one of those things and it was the most accessible to me. In time, my love of the yoga that George introduced me to led to my salvation and recovery.

In 2003, I was tired of not knowing any of the new bands my friends were talking about, I started listening to the radio a little more. One day, I heard a song drew me away from my childhood Beatles and took me to my new favorite.

The insistent drumbeat of No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age got into my soul.

Esther Nagle with Josh homme of Queens of the stone ageOver the next ten years, I would go to many Queens of the Stone Age shows, and in keeping with the hard-drinking, fast-living image the band has, I partied hard, living the dream and making lots of friends who would party even harder.

I continued to tell myself that my drinking and drug use was bringing me closer to my heroes. Then, one night, as I was sitting on my porch, a glass of wine and cigarette in hand, everything changed. I was listening to Like Clockwork, the most recent album from Queens of the Stone Age, obsessed with a track called I Appear Missing. As I listened for what must have been the tenth time that night, I heard the words as if for the first time. It was as if the band’s lead, Josh Homme, had looked into the frazzled mess of my mind, and written down my feelings for me to see.

I was utterly lost. I was “missing” in my own life.

That moment was a powerful catalyst for me. I realized I was tired of fighting the feelings of hopelessness that were threatening to overpower me. I surrendered to the breakdown that was my only way out. Six rather painful and erratic months later (thanks to George) I began the yoga teacher training that transformed my life. Seven months after that, I drank my last drink, smoked my last joint and changed my life forever.

Esther Nagle and her George Harrison inspired tattoosI’ve found it’s actually very easy to be a sober rock chick. The tattoos on my arm (which I got last year) are a tribute to my childhood hero, George Harrison. The horse is the logo from his Dark Horse record label, the other is the logo from his Thirty Three & 1/3 album.

I dance better at gigs now. Even better, I remember them, and I don’t have to keep leaving to go smoke a cigarette or go to the bar.

Drinking to ‘”be” rock’n’roll nearly killed me, but ultimately it also saved me. And even sober, I know now I can still “be” rock’n’roll!

Esther explores the issues around her relationship with God and the role music and Yoga play in her life and recovery in her book, Bent Back into Shape, Beating Addiction Through Yoga, which is available on Amazon.

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