A Broken Record by Shane Ramer
Being a musician is my deepest passion. Early on, I realized that being a rocker pretty much meant you could do or say whatever the hell you wanted, which was very appealing to me. My rebellious “screw the world” attitude was polished at a young age to cover up my insecurities from feeling lost as a kid. As I listened to bands like Social Distortion, Dead Kennedys, and 2 Live Crew, I cultivated a certain coolness and attitude.
The first time I picked up a microphone and stood in front of a few people with hardcore punk rock blasting through the speakers behind me, I felt invincible. My insecurities and worries went out the door faster than a convict released from prison. It was a powerful high.
I grew up in the 1980s with alcohol, drug use and partying all around me. It was the norm in my household. By the late 1990s, alcohol, drugs and partying were producing another high for me. I had no reinforcements to help me withstand the storm that would follow.
The first time I picked up a microphone and stood in front of a few people, hardcore punk rock blasting through the speakers behind me, I felt invincible.
With alcohol and drugs flooding my veins, I jumped around on stage like a madman, whaling my arms, thrashing my head and making faces that made me look half-man, half-demon. I took out all of my aggression; it was exhilarating. I was superhuman; I could do anything and be anyone I wanted. Unfortunately, I had no idea who the hell that was!
Even after one of my idols, Nick Traina from the East Bay ska punk band Link-80, died of a heroin overdose, I still believed that I needed to drink and do drugs in order to “make it” in the music business. They helped me be creative. This was what rock stars did, or so I thought.
As I coasted into my mid-20s, the band thing was not quite working out as I expected. I was in a number of different bands, playing local shows and sometimes out of town, while dry walling to pay the bills, a job I hated. Succeeding in the music industry was harder than I thought; I was slowly learning that there was much more to the business than just partying and playing.
I was still operating under the false impression that the “magic music fairy” would come down and sign me to a record deal. I refer to this as the “dreaming drunk” state. I daydreamed about my life and continued to believe that one day I would prove everyone wrong and “make it.”
It was an endless journey of peaks and valleys. I alternated between indulging in self pity, playing the victim and having a bad attitude, all made worse with plenty of booze and cigarettes to compliment my excuses for my behavior and failure.
In 2008, I married Jess, the love of my life. In 2010, we had our beautiful baby girl, Lucy. I vowed to quit the drugs and alcohol for good so I could be a great father to my daughter, but my promise did not last long. Before long, I was again chasing the bottle and the dream of making it in the music business.
In 2011, a close friend and I published an album, Chemical Diet. This was our last ditch effort to get a record deal. The title described what we were doing during that sluggish year of recording; there were many drug-induced late nights. All the while, my wife and baby girl were wondering what the hell I was doing and where the hell I was. My life had become a broken record.
Not long after my 32nd birthday, I woke up in the small, musty detox room of a 30-day rehab program. I had managed to drag my guitar there, but when I got a chance to play it, it just didn’t feel the same. Did I need to get high to play? Maybe I needed a drink to loosen up? Maybe I just wasn’t that good? Later on, I figured out it wasn’t any of these. I discovered I simply wasn’t as passionate about music as I had once thought.
Allow me to explain. I love music. I love writing. I love singing, and I love strumming an old dusty acoustic. I am passionate about music, but my passion was confused with the desire to live in the fantasy world. Mixed with substance abuse, it was a recipe for an unfulfilled dream. I never understood the stability and business savvy it took to succeed in the music business. I had no clue.
Today, the dream of having a career in the music industry is behind me. I still love to play my guitar and sing an old Social D or Hank Williams song. I have fun rocking out in my living room with my two-year-old son, Cash, and watching him bang his drumsticks together as he tries to keep a beat. I now play because I enjoy playing, not because I am looking for fame or fortune.
As it turns out, the thousands of hours I spent writing, recording, producing and performing weren’t all for nothing. Six months out of rehab, I found a new passion that changed my life.
In April 2014, I started That Sober Guy and Sober Guy Radio. There, I found deep fulfillment as I dove headfirst into vulnerability and shared my story on the Sober Guy platform. I discovered there were many others struggling with the same issues. Because I kept the show’s content real and raw, with no filters for language or topics, I attracted new listeners every day. This mindset stemmed from my love for the punk rock way, the DIY mentality, and the Link-80 “Against-the-Rest” attitude, where truth and independence always prevail.
I occasionally invite recovering musicians onto the show and regularly talk with philosophers, professional athletes, entrepreneurs, interventionists, doctors, veterans and many others. Everything I have accomplished has been the result of my surrendering, and my determination to make a difference and put my true passion out on the table for the RIGHT reasons.
I’ve discovered a deep love for helping others. My life isn’t perfect, and neither am I. However, when I get an email from a guy on the other side of the world telling me how last week’s podcast had saved his life, the positive effects are amazing on both ends. Today my life is about the pursuit of happiness through relationships and positive self-love. I may produce another acoustic album some day, but who knows when that might be. I’ll leave that decision, and the many others that I cannot control, up to Him, the Man with the Plan.
I leave you with a quote from Danielle Steele, the mother of a punk rock icon and who, like so many other moms, lost her son to mental illness and addiction. Her son, Nick Traina, was an inspiration to me and many other lost kids trying to find their way in a world full of confusion.
“If I had three wishes, one would be that he had never suffered from mental illness, the other would be of course that he were alive today, but the third would be that someone had warned me, at some point, that his illness – manic depression – could kill him.
It was Nick who made it all worthwhile, and worth fighting for. He did it for us, and for himself, and we for him. It was a dance of love from beginning to end. His was a life worth living, whatever the handicaps and challenges. I think he’d agree with that. And I have no doubt of it. I have no regrets, no matter how hard it was. I wouldn’t have given up one second with him. And what happened in the end was his destiny. As his song says, “Destiny . . . dance with me, my destiny.” And how sweet the music was. The sound of it will forever live on, just like Nick, and our love for him.” – Danielle Steele
Excerpt from HIS BRIGHT LIGHT by Danielle Steel, copyright © 1998 by The Nick Traina Foundation. Used by permission of Dell Publishing, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. Any third party use of this material, outside of this publication, is prohibited. Interested parties must apply directly to Penguin Random House LLC for permission.
Shane Ramer lives in Northern California with his wife and two children. He is the creator and host of ThatSoberGuy.com and Sober Guy Radio. He also is a corporate podcast producer with an extensive background in music and production. He is clean and sober since September 2013. www.ThatSoberGuy.com