by Carl Atiya Swanson
Hi, I’m Carl and I’m an addict.
Prince apparently died the day before he was scheduled to meet with a doctor about treatment for his addiction to painkillers. It’s an irony and a tragedy that goes to the capriciousness and insidiousness of addiction, that a performer who exerted so much control in his own creative life, who was energetic, clean living, right with his own God could be taken away from us like that.
Now it’s been over 7 hours and 13 days since you took your love away, and it’s been over 8 years and 155 days since I graduated from rehab. I keep my head down, do good work, try to love my family and build in enough creative, social and recovery-oriented outlets so that if times are hard, I have options. I find comfort in knowing that AA meetings are there if I need them, and that they help my friends. I carry my AA 24 hour medallion because those hours matter, like Prince showed us.
I am also not so foolish to think that my own sobriety and work in recovery can or should be universally applicable. There are whole systems of underemployment, economic need, failed infrastructure, gender norms, and mental health stigmas at play. I stay sober because I have options and support networks that are functional and loving. There is a lot of privilege - and more than a little luck - in that. I am eternally grateful that other people were willing to love me when I was incapable of loving myself. I hope Prince knows how much we loved him, and would have been willing to help him.
The double irony of Prince’s passing is that the day it happened, MPR shared an interview with Gary Louris of The Jayhawks who opened up about his own opiate addiction, what it took to get help, and how he didn’t do his most creative work when he was stoned. I’m grateful to him for sharing his story and to anyone who shares their struggle with how difficult, weird and glorious living can be.
If you feel like you are suffering, reach out to someone you love. You are dearly beloved, even when you don’t feel like you should or could be. Reach out to a stranger. Call for help. Recognize your triggers. Find a meeting - http://aaminneapolis.org/. Live your best, funkiest life. Do it for Prince.
Carl Atiya Swanson is a Dissonance Board Member.