The news this week has been swamped with the story of Whitney Houston’s death. As a blogger, I have investigated celebrity addiction, and delved not only the life of Whitney Houston, but also the lives of Bobby Brown, and their daughter, Bobbi Kristina. Addiction in celebrities is a huge topic, and so many of the stories end tragically.
As an addict in recovery, I also want to hear the stories of recovery. We do not hear the story of celebrity recovery as often, and for some reason those inspiring stories are saved for the back page of the paper, if they are even told at all. And I felt like I needed a good story of a celebrity in recovery…
I sat at my computer, craving a more uplifting recovery story, just like I once craved drugs. I searched my brain’s database for someone who fit the bill. I thought back to my own addiction and recovery, when a story popped into my head.
I saw myself riding down the road in my first year of recovery. I heard a sound on the radio that caught my ear, and I honed in on the words. “It took a funeral to make me feel alive….” I craned my ear to listen to the lyrics. “Just open your eyes. Just open your eyes. And see that life is beautiful. Will you swear on your life, that no one will cry at my funeral?” And I was hooked.
After the song finished, I was so thankful to hear the DJs voice, announcing the song as “Life Is Beautiful,” by Sixx A.M. The DJ went into a short bio of the band, naming Nikki Sixx as the brains behind this new venture. He would soon be releasing a book, a diary of his heroin addiction, and this new band made the soundtrack.
Sixx A.M. spoke to me. It whispered about recovery, telling the tale of the moment I lived. And Nikki’s story gave me the feeling that I was not alone, and I could make it.
I bought the CD as soon as I could. That was still in the infancy of my recovery, and I could not yet afford an MP3 player. Essentially, I was still fresh out of jail at this point. I was searching for myself, feeling my way blindly down this new path of recovery. And I listened to the CD over and over and over.
I bought the book as soon as I could afford it. I was working in the kitchen of a restaurant at the time, finding it difficult to justify spending 35 bucks on a book. When I finally brought it home to my little one bedroom apartment, I devoured it.
I remember siting up all night that night, in the first apartment I managed to keep on my own in many years. I remember sitting up all night, reading and reveling in the fact that I had my own place. Finally, I attempted to stand, clean, on my own.
“There’s nothing like a trail of blood, to find your way back home.” How true that is! I pictured a trail of blood, dripping from my arm at the injection site, as I blindly walked towards something familiar. I thought about the trail of blood I had left in my wake. I realized I was trying to find my way home.
The way home was bumpy, and not without incident. But, I finally made it. Nikki found his way back home, too. I had never been a huge Motley Crue fan in high school or college. They gained my respect, as a stripper, and I think I have heard “Girls, Girls, Girls” in the club more times than the average girl.
Nikki is brutally honest about his past, sharing his demons, and speaking out in the recovery community, to inspire others to get clean. Nikki was addicted to heroin, and cocaine, and needles. He suffered the insanity of addiction, sealed up from the world, wrapped in his fame and own demise.
In 1987, Nikki was declared dead for 2 minutes after a heroin overdose, until paramedics revived him. He woke up in the hospital, pulling out all the tubes, and leaving immediately. He went home, and shot up. I remember leaving the hospital after an endocarditis scare, and shooting up later that day.
In 2004, Nikki Sixx got clean and gained a whole new lease on his life. Nikki tells it all in his memoir, “The Heroin Diaries, A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star.” The book is a year of diary entries, at the height of his addiction to needles and drugs. With the book’s release, Nikki’s recovery message began to spread.
He even spoke at the National Alcohol and Drug Recovery luncheon on Capital Hill in September of 2007. He was the first musician ever asked to speak at the event. He nervously began the speech, out of his element and endearing. But, Nikki’s commitment and passion shone through.
Nikki also teamed up with Covenant House, creating ‘Running Wild in the Night.’ In an effort to give back to the community, Nikki raised money to start a music program for runaway teens that end up at Covenant House. He hopes to help these youth find their passion, as he strives to be a life changing role model for these kids. Kids look up to him, and he delivers a message of hope and healing. After reading the depths of his addiction in his candid memoir, his message of recovery strikes even harder. He shows us that recovery is possible.
Nikki Sixx hopes to make sobriety cool. “I don’t make it a bummer,” he says. “I’m in a rock band, you know. There’s drinking, and when I’m on stage I see waves of people smoking pot. Can you imagine if I was like sobo cop and was like, ‘I’m not going to perform if people smoke pot at my concerts?’ Its like, ‘Hey man, do what you want to do, but if you do have a problem, here’s an answer, and here’s some awareness.”
After he got clean and sober, Nikki went through a divorce. He proved his resilience and dedication, remaining clean and sober throughout the tough times. He focused on his kids, and he believes their relationship is much stronger because of that time. As an addict in recovery, we can never turn back time…but we can change our future.
I admire him for remaining true to himself, both in and out of the public eye through his recovery. His still dresses the part of a rock star, tattooed, leather, and spiked. He is still drawn to things a little darker, but in recovery Nikki finds beauty in that. And he shares it with the world.
In recovery, Nikki Sixx delved into many avenues of his creativity. Creativity became an outlet for Nikki, and photography grew into a prime focus. His second book, “This Is Gonna Hurt: Photography and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx,” emerged. Nikki claims that he is often drawn to subjects that are “old, decrepit, deranged,” and outside the mainstream ideal. Remaining true to himself and also his sobriety, he delves into the darkness with his camera lens and shares his view of the world.
When asked about a correlation between his recovery and his pictures, Nikki said, “It softened my heart.” He explained that if a subject was disfigured, “I see the beauty in it. You get clarity as you get sober, and you get clarity as you get older.”
Nikki has been an inspiration to fans and friends alike. Former girlfriend, Kat Von D, said, “For a long time I felt like there is no God, there’s no karma. Meeting Nikki was an eye opener. He helped restore my faith in general.” When celebrating a year in recovery, she credited Nikki with the inspiration.
But, for every celebrity that celebrates life and recovery, there are two more dying in the trenches of drug and alcohol abuse. The entertainment industry tolerates substance abuse much more than many other industries, almost expects it. Definitely accepts it.
And we laid another great musician down to rest, forever this week. Whitney Houston, whose highly publicized addiction has made everyone ask the question. As we await the coroner’s reports and the official cause of death, the question is still on the tip of our tongues. Drugs?
Addiction is powerful. And some succumb to the beast, and others will make it out alive. Thank you, Nikki Sixx, for daring to be different, and mostly for daring to make sobriety cool.