He sat across from me at lunch, chewing over my words, hearing everything I was saying but he disagreed. “Everyone is capable of picking themselves up after failure,” added Alex (the name I’ll go with to protect his true identity). Alex has been studying behavioral psychology in the Netherlands. He was so sure of peoples abilities, he couldn’t understand the prevailing cultural attitude toward why some can recover from defeat while others cannot.
“Social Darwinism is an excuse,” he opined, “anyone is capable of self improvement, of making things better. It’s just hard work.”
Many years before we met my friend Alex here was in a band about to make it big. Drug use was common at just about every level, and he admitted to being entirely too dependent on marijuana to cope with the incredible amount of stress that came with working in the business. Worse than heavy dependence on pot was the cornucopia of pills and other various drugs which studio owners would leave out like some kind of cheese platter for the musicians to sample.
Just as his band was about to make it really, really big — they didn’t. One of his buddies became so hooked on drugs, he nearly killed himself because he didn’t sleep for 48 hours while high on a cacophony of racing substances including cocaine and marijuana to try and bring himself back to the ground. The business had begun to take its toll on him, and those he grew up around. It started with wanting to make something that mattered, only to realize that in the scheme of things you don’t matter at all.
You are replaceable at every level of the entertainment business. It is this constant battle for survival which at times creates desperation and desperate behavior. Needless to say, both hinder ones ability to make art or to make money selling it.
My friend eventually entered rehab for marijuana dependence. He didn’t like that he felt that he was unable to function without toking several times a day. He, like many dependent on marijuana, told himself its really not that big of a deal — its much safer than binge drinking. The problem was that in his gut, he knew this wasn’t true. He was depending on artificial relief for a problem he was unable to face: depression. The long term side effects of chronic use aside, he decided to kick the habit by facing his demons. He no longer associates himself with people that abuse substances, including his former band mates and friends of that time period.
“You have to get rid of everyone that was a part of that life, everyone you used with. There’s no excuses.” This he admitted was the hardest part because he enjoyed more than just drug culture with them. He appreciated music, art and just being “bros.” He knew what he had to do, and made the right decision by going his separate way from them.
His story is one of many. He firmly believes through his own experiences in addition to his PhD studies in Europe, that people can do incredible things with the right mindset and will power. It wasn’t easy to leave a whole group of people and life behind, but he knows he is better for doing so.
It is so easy to feel trapped by ones circumstances. It is so easy to wallow in your own sea of sorrow, not accepting that you are perfectly in control of your own situation. Marijuana or any other drug of choice, even binge eating, will not change your life around. It will provide a temporary pleasure until you repeat the addictive and dependent activity.
Whether dependent on a substance or suffering through a down turn in career or life, the only way to survive the aftermath is to forge a new chapter. Defeat need not come to define us. Find new ways to forge ahead. Be creative, find ways to excel that you haven’t before. Sometimes you may even need to take a step back before you can take a step forward. You might need to humble yourself. We cannot always be at the top all the time. You may need to take a job that signifies defeat, or embarrassment. But you take that job in order to always be moving ahead. Never stand still.
You cannot just perpetually wait on people or for things to go your way. You cannot just sit back and hope that contacts in the past will be contacts in the future. You cannot turn to substances to make yourself feel functional. You cannot start spreading blame without realizing how you yourself contributed to your own downfall. Sometimes it is the fault of external people or things, but there is always the self to blame too. Maybe your temper or attitude keeps people away? Maybe people find your substance abuse off-putting and unstable, thus not wanting to form a professional relationship. Maybe you are surrounding yourself with people who are lesser than yourself and people see that as unprofessional and weak. If you are the smartest person in the room, you ought to find a new room.
If we just sit and allow ourselves to see how we also contribute to our problems, overcoming them is so much easier. Since taking this advice to accept self-blame, I have seen amazing improvement in my own life leading to incredible happiness. The moment we are happy is the moment we are at our creative and professional best. It is never too late to merely accept to defeat and know that is it not permanent. Start today, don’t wait another day to start making a better life. Don’t dwell in the aftermath longer than necessary.