Tips for Staying Healthy on the Road

Editor’s Note: Touring can be challenging for all artists, especially those with substance use or mental health concerns. On our Resources-Tools page, we are assembling wellness tips from and for artists who spend a good deal of time away from home. We kick off that effort here with ideas from musician John Solomon, and invite others to send us your tips, too.

By John Solomon

Hint #1: Routine, routine, routine. One thing that makes touring so stressful is the constant changes. No matter how hard you work beforehand to schedule a tour, the plans never seems to stick. The key is to find routine where you can. I focus on making my mornings identical. I wake up at the same time no matter what. I travel with my own coffee setup. I try to eat a mild breakfast and lunch at the same time each day. It seems inconvenient, or maybe a little boring, but in the long run, establishing a routine lowers the stress levels and gives you something familiar to hold on to in the middle of the tornado.

Hint #2: Exercise. Playing shows every night, riding in buses or vans for hours, and sleeping in new beds or moving vehicles every night punishes the body. Getting up and moving every day for your own sake will lessen a lot of that physical stress. I don't work out on the road like I do at home. I just work out to give myself some time to reset and get some fresh healthy feeling in my life in the midst of the chaos.

Hint #3: Consider what you are putting into your body all the time. I don't drink, but a lot of my bandmates do, and it's easy to lose track of days on the road when every night seems like a Saturday. Drinking, and eating pizza and fast food, probably won’t hurt you if done once in a while. But after the third day of tour, you'll stop remembering what day it is, and if you don't get in the habit of eating healthy and staying away from booze, then you might fall into unhealthy patterns without even realizing it. 

I know … establishing routines, exercising and eating healthy might seem like bummers compared to what you expect touring to be, but I like to remember that the tour will be exciting enough. The goal is to make it through with as many good vibes as when you started.

John Solomon is a singer, songwriter and guitar player for the acclaimed indie rock band Communist Daughter. He is also a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in addiction studies and a former board member and ongoing advisor for Dissonance.

* Banner image above by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash. Used with permission.
* Photo below, courtesy of Communist Daughter, shows John at a roadside stand in Georgia in 2015.


Don’t die. Be Kind. Be Easy. What’s Next?

By Carl Atiya Swanson

Feb. 7, 2008.

I wrote this for the 10-year anniversary of leaving treatment. It's been just over a decade now since I began moving through life without alcohol or other drugs.

I had been trying to put something down about the work and the process, but mostly I started thinking about people who have made it possible, song lyrics and riffs, and weird quotes and phrases that have run through my head in doing the work.

Don’t die.

Thanks to Stacy, Rosanne, Mark, Karen, Ted, JoAnn, Hannah, Bekah, Kathy and Doug ... for making sure I didn't die. Sadly, others did along the way, and I remember their names: Amanda, Omar, Dan.

“I'm an alcoholic. I don't have one drink. I don't understand people who have one drink. I don't understand people who leave half a glass of wine on the table. I don't understand people who say they've had enough. How can you have enough of feeling like this?”
– Leo McGarry, The West Wing

There’s always work to do. I've had an enormous amount of privilege in my sobriety and recovery, starting with the fact that I got to go to treatment and access the health care I needed. I also come from an educated family and have degrees myself. I have people who loved and continue to love and support me. I have had jobs and homes to go to. I have the ability to choose to leave triggering locations; I haven't depended on being in a bar for work. I have choices about meetings to attend and resources and networks to help me build connections and social capital. To be sober is to be continually humbled and compassionate, to be deeply grateful.

Be kind.

Thanks to Natalie, Colin, Lizzie, Eric, Kristina, Shawna, Brian, Heidi, Karen, Kathleen, Alexandra, Chavis, Chris, Dana, Brandon, Laura, Molly, Andy, Noah, Nikki, Michele, Naomi, Dominic, Daniel, Jun-Li, Peter, Sam, John, Caly, Dennis, Zaraawar, Nancy, Caroline, Adia, Anna, Susan, Ashley, Lindsay, Brian, Jamie, Erica, Danielle, Sarah, Jarell, Cary, Cole, Brandon, Lauren, Pa, Naaima, Josh, Kat, Matt, Ashley, Sarah, David, Ali, Jeremiah and Katy  .... for giving me work, trusting and challenging me, and opening up new possibilities.

“But there are hundreds of ways
To get through the days
There are hundreds of ways
Now you just find one.”

– Conor Oberst, Hundreds of Ways

My aunt once asked me what I put my faith in, if not God. I told her I put my faith in people. “Good Luck with that,” she said. But that’s where faith lives for me—in our capacity for wonder and creation, in our curiosity and imagination. I know I wouldn’t have made it through my youth without being an artist, and I wouldn’t be alive now without believing in others, in all of us. That conviction, and the abilities art fostered to hold conflicting ideas, process ambiguity and open myself to collaboration, contradiction and the messy nature of things—that saved me. I wouldn’t be alive without saying yes to people and feeling the joy of what we can do together.

Be easy.

Thanks to Jacob, Amy, Jake, Jayne, Jeremey, Dianne, Alexis, Carly, Laura, Blake, Hannah, Mason, Heidi, Lisa, Russ, Eric, Rachel, Tanner, Emily, Christina, Foster, Nick, Andrea, Ben, Kyle, Molly, Leslie, Jamie, Betz, Erik, Erik, Erik, Ali, Tom, Dom, Mike, Mischa, Stephen, Colin, Alexei, Stephen, Joe, Bobby, Graham, Lindsy, Scott, K. Alex, Gigi, Susannah, Jay, Joey, Pete, Janey, Christian, Johnny, Molly, Jeremy, Chastity, Will, Brian, Sam, Chantal, Sarah, Levi, Seth, Brent, Tim, Bethany and Jenny ... for letting me create, and helping you create, things we enjoy and find meaningful. Thanks for making life interesting.

“Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.” – Miles Davis

It takes a lifetime to become ourselves, which is what I get to pursue now. It takes the support and connection of others I have found, or who have found me—friends who walk similar paths, who go to meetings, who say the Serenity Prayer, who are making it work because they work it. It takes all the people named here, as well as all the people not named who have shaped the way and lit the path knowingly or unknowingly. I am so grateful for you, your love and what is to come. Be in touch.

What’s next?

Carl Atiya Swanson is a Dissonance Board Member.