When we were laying out the May Seeker, a very interesting email came in from a lady called April Silvania. It was telling us about her partner, Bobby Parent, a Canadian singer & songwriter who is a recovered alcoholic. Bobby has been sober for 4 years and during his journey to sobriety he used his musical talent to help him fight the addiction and win. Bobby is now in the process of releasing his album titled “Real Love” (3 out of his 10 songs have been released already).
That was also the day that his 4th single “Always” got released and we got to listen to it on the show. Bobby’ is telling his story to help raise awareness about addictions hoping that it will have a positive impact for someone. During the show Bobby shared so much great info that I did a follow up interview with him and want to share it with you all here…I believe this info is even more important as we deal with the Covid Pandemic with more people dealing with the effects of Addictions and Mental Health issues.
Please tell us a little about yourself. You are now living in Summerstown but where were you born and what brought you here to this community?
I grew up in La Gaspesie, a peninsula on the very Eastern part of Quebec. I spent most of my life there moving only for college and University and spent a few years outside the region traveling and working. In 2015 I separated with my ex-wife and shortly after that I sold my house, gave up my small IT company and moved to Gatineau. Hoping to start a new life I gave up my IT career and started working in the RV industry in Ottawa. In 2019 I was transferred from Ottawa to Alexandria and I have been living in the area ever since. It’s a great community with wonderful people, we love it here.
You have been sober for 4 years now, Congratulations. Your journey I’m sure had many bumps. How and when did your addiction begin, what triggered it? Were you alone throughout your period of addiction?
So this is a great question. How and when addiction begins is a not so easy question to answer. When I realized I was an alcoholic or at least when I could finally admit to having a problem with alcohol was years after the problems had begun. After I became sober and started the hard work of recovery, I worked with other people, other alcoholics who had been through the process from addiction to recovery. It was that work and going through that arduous and difficult process that I realized my problems had probably begun very early on, maybe even before I ever had a drink. I know that might be hard to understand, ‘how can one be an addict before ever using the substance? My belief is that substance abuse is but a symptom of other underlying issues. It took me most of my adult life to understand something deeper about myself, that I was very insecure, was living with fear, I felt I was not good enough, not strong enough to just live life on its own terms. I chose alcohol as a way of chasing those insecurities away and I got pretty good at it for a time. At least I got pretty good at portraying to the outside world I was something different than the person I was inside. When I was younger I would drink in social settings and consume more than almost everyone at the party, I thought I was strong for that, that’s what I told myself but again the excessive consumption was just a way of dealing with deep insecurity. As time went on I drank more and more. I got married, raised 2 boys and life seemed to be pretty good, and in a lot of ways, it was, except that I never dealt with my issues and I was increasingly more and more fearful and insecure until all of that culminated in the destruction of my marriage, my family, my work, everything.
I know on the show I asked this question. If I’ve had a bad day I have a glass of wine and it relaxes me. If one does this every day is that how one can get addicted or is there more to it?
Another great question. I have a friend that puts it this way. One can drink every day of their life and not be an alcoholic and someone can drink 2 times a year and be one. I think addictions are defined not by how many times you take a substance but rather does your life become out of control because of the substance. In other words, if you drink every day but nothing substantially negative ever happens and you are happy and content with life, then you are probably not an addict or an alcoholic but if you abuse a substance only once a year and each time something horrible happens then you likely have an issue that needs to be addressed. There is an expression that is used often in the recovery community. “One drink is too many and a thousand is not enough. So if you can manage a glass of wine with dinner everyday than great but if that one glass of wine always turns into 10 then that’s likely a problem.
Does addiction run in families. Is it in the genes or is it an individual thing? How do you know that you have an addiction or does one even realize that they have a problem or do you think it is a normal way to be?
I think whether or not addictions are genetic or not is best answered by scientists, doctors and other professionals. There are certainly examples of it running in families and in other cases it is very much an individual thing. Chances are if you have a disposition toward addictions and your environment (family, friends) have addictive tendencies then the addiction will be accelerated. Knowing you have a problem and accepting you have one are 2 different things I believe. Pride, self preservation, our egos all go against us easily admitting we have may have substance abuse problems. The social stigmas that are embedded in our society about addictions serve to make it more difficult for us to want to admit that we may have a problem as well. There is a great saying I heard “We are not embarrassed to be seen at a liquor store buying several bottles of alcohol, but we should hide our face if we are seen leaving an AA meeting or a treatment center. The bottom line is that the nature of an addict combined with our personal and social beliefs about addictions make it very difficult to ever want to admit to having a problem. For myself it was a great threat to have my best friend (alcohol) taken away from me even if I long knew I had a real problem. I thought that alcohol was the only way I could ease my pain, anxiety and fear so I manipulated every scenario I could to make sure that I wouldn’t lose it.
They say that once you are addicted (to whatever it may be) the addiction consumes your life and no matter what anyone says you won’t listen or change until you are ready. What happened to make you want to change? They say often you have to hit rock bottom – what is rock bottom, what was your rock bottom?
In my case, my alcoholism eventually became all consuming. From social events to celebrations to sad times to happy times until it was just all the time. And I did not want to hear about suggestions of slowing down or quitting. I would be offended by those suggestions. Unfortunately addiction is a very powerful force that takes the addict almost hostage. Again, for me to lose that substance would mean to live a life in complete fear, full of anxiety and stress. I mean who wants to live like that when there is a solution or seemingly a solution however misguided that solution is. That’s what makes it hard for an addict and their family and friends, you need to convince them somehow that they should stop using the only cure they have. So unless the person comes to some epiphany, some kind of life altering realization that they need to dramatically change their life, it’s very hard to convince them to let go of the only cure they know. So maybe hitting ‘rock bottom’, losing your job, losing your license or family can convince an addict to stop using but it wasn’t in my case and for a lot of people I know what should be ‘rock bottom’ isn’t what starts recovery. If ‘rock bottom’ were the cure to addiction then there would be a lot less people abusing substances, because one fact that can be almost guaranteed is that an addict or alcoholic will have disaster strike their life. Abuse drugs or alcohol long enough and somewhere along the way bad things will happen.
How did things change for you?
So the good news is, addictions can be managed, recovery is very possible, it was for me and for millions of other people as well. By the time I came to an epiphany that I needed to change my life I had lost everything, my family, my friends, my job, my car, my self respect, my dignity, everything. I had gone from being a husband and a father with a home and people around that loved me, to someone who was completely isolated, living in a rooming house with nothing to my name but maybe a pair of pants, a t-shirt and my guitar. I can tell you, that’s a painful fall from grace. And I lost all of this for alcohol? Well, the truth is I lost all of it because I could never be totally honest about myself to myself or other people. That’s when something changed for me. I spent my whole life denying who I really was. I had all of these insecurities and vulnerabilities that I was denying and avoiding and I put myself and others through hell because I just couldn’t come to terms with them. Then, one day, something struck me very profoundly. Somehow I began to believe that there might be another way. I thought to myself , ‘what if I Am all the things that people said I was. What if I am an alcoholic, imperfect, insecure, vulnerable and who acted my whole life in a selfish, self-serving and manipulative way? What if I caused all this chaos for myself and others? And also, what if I could just stop feeling sorry for myself and admit all that to be true and then just ‘Let Go’! On November 8th 2017 I began a journey in sobriety because on that day I just ‘Surrendered’. I gave up every notion I ever had of myself. I took a long walk to a church, where there was a meditation meeting I had heard about. I walked into that room beaten, empty and broken. In there I was greeted by people, strangers, who gave me a hug and made me feel welcome. I did a 30 minute silent meditation with a group of strangers and there, in that room, I began a new journey. That’s what’s tricky about addictions, hitting rock bottom didn’t change things or I would have been sober years before that. And then one day, I felt an overwhelming desperation to be sober and live a different life. I got lucky, lucky to be desperate and totally vulnerable. That’s what changed things for me.
What was the first step? What kind of things helped you in your journey? Your music etc. and please tell us about this songwriting, singing, album producing journey, with who etc.
The first step for me was simply admitting that I was an alcoholic and that most of my failures in life were caused by addiction. So that was the very first step. Beyond that it was really the grace and generosity of other people that helped me the most. When I finally decided to take action and start a recovery program it was amazing the people that all of sudden started coming into my life. People who just wanted to help and support me. From friends to family and colleagues. I am very blessed to have had a second chance at life and develop all these new relationships with people. I also developed a pretty rigorous program for myself that involves meditation and mindfulness, going to the gym and using music and songwriting as tools to help me heal and grow. In my first year of recovery I wrote a bunch of songs to help me heal, a form of therapy that helped me a lot in sorting things out psychologically and spiritually. I met Kevin Cooke, an engineer and producer who had heard one of my songs at a jam session and invited me to his studio where we went on to record 10 songs for my album ‘Real Love’! Kevin was very generous with his time, talent and expertise and another great example of the beautiful people who helped me out greatly in recovery.
What does your life look like now?
So my life now is very different than it was 4 years ago. It’s like night and day. After losing everything to addictions I was able to rebuild a beautiful life in recovery. I am a general manager of an RV dealership, a professional artist with a new album and a new Dad to my beautiful little ‘chunky monkey’ baby boy Dylan and Miguell, April’s 11 year old son, who I might add is the best big brother Dylan could ever have and a tremendous help in our very busy lives. I have a beautiful partner who is amazing in her support of my sobriety, my recovery, my music, and my mission to tell my story of recovery. I have amazing friends who all give me great support. I am surrounded now by people who are loving and kind and I am very grateful for it. And I have all of this now because one day I just decided to ‘let go’ to ‘surrender’. That’s why I decided to tell my story, to bring as much awareness as possible about addiction and alcoholism. I want to show that recovery is very possible and the results of recovery for the addict and their families are so positive. So even if my story helps only one person to get sober then it’s worth while. Addiction causes so much chaos, so much much drama and that negative behaviour goes well beyond the addict and into the families, friends and society at large. However, that ripple effect is just as powerful in recovery, so helping one person recover can actually help many people heal.
Do you drink at all? I have been told that once you have been addicted and have become sober it is very dangerous to even touch a drop of alcohol as it can easily begin the addiction again. Is this true?
I don’t drink at all now. I don’t see a way for myself to drink or use drugs that could be compatible with a healthy recovery. The important part for me is not necessarily to stop drinking though. It’s about taking care of all the issues that caused me to use them in the first place. It’s about developing a program that allows me to be content and happy without drugs or alcohol. Recovery for me is not about stopping something I want to do, it’s about living a life free from craving it in the first place. There are many kinds of programs out there for addicts, different treatments and some are about teaching an addict to be more moderate with their consumption. Maybe that can work for some people but not for me. I don’t look at it anymore as quitting something but rather as embracing something new. I am very grateful to not be chasing that feeling anymore .
I know that Julia and I were so happy to have you on our “Monday Morning Motivation Show” to talk about your journey to sobriety. We started this show over 60 weeks ago when Covid emerged to help us with motivation during the pandemic and at the same time it has introduced to some special guests. Tell me about your Sunday night show. When did you and April start this and how does it help you on your journey?
It was really nice to chat with the both of you and I think in our own way both our shows aim to try and accomplish the same thing. We both want to try and bring about positive change, to offer hope, especially in these crazy times. April and I started our Sunday night show during the pandemic as well. I had a brand new album but we had no way to promote by traditional means. We couldn’t and for the moment still can’t do any live tours. So we started doing our Facebook live show just about a year ago. We developed the show with the help of Tara Shannon and Willow Sound Records. It started with some trial and error and has developed into a fun weekly episode for us. April does most of the production for the show and I talk and play some songs. It’s really been a lot of fun meeting people from all over the world, staying connected with our friends and aslo reconnecting friends and also reconnecting with people I knew back home. April also gets to connect with her friends and family back in the Philippines where she is from. We just try and bring a positive vibe and try to have fun. The show is at 8pm on the Bobby Parent Facebook page.
What words of advice would you give to someone who is dealing with addiction?
Well it’s tough to offer advice until someone is ready to take that advice. Unfortunately that is the nature of addictions. What I can say for certain is that there is a great life on the other side in recovery. An amazing and beautiful life is there and there are plenty of people that will lend a hand and help you get there. One of the effects of addictions is to isolate and hide from the world in a way, but I can say to anyone struggling out there, who may feel alone and hopeless that there are many people who would gladly help you to a better place. People who will help and not ask anything in return, people who will listen and never judge, only try and help you move forward to a better place, no matter what your story is. You just have to reach out! I did and it changed everything.
Family and friends and people from the outside can see what the addicted individual is doing to themselves and feel that if they could break the addiction life would be so much better for them but the addicted person can’t usually see this OR may not even feel that they need to change. Instead their behaviour pushes people away and they don’t understand why people don’t want to “hang out” with them when they are drunk. Often if you even mention quitting the addiction the addict doesn’t even want to talk about it – does that mean that they are not ready to quit?
Pushing people away, feeling sorry for yourself, denial, refusing to acknowledge the reality of their disease are all pretty common symptoms of addiction. I was an expert in all of that. I developed great skills in the art of manipulation, evasiveness and getting people to feel sorry for me. When people were finally fed up enough and no longer felt sorry for me I would isolate and take pity on myself. I know this sounds harsh but it’s the reality for most alcoholics and addicts. It’s part of the disorder, disease, however you want to describe it. I think though that all addicts want a way out, they just don’t know how to get there. It’s a lot of work, exhausting work to overcome addiction. That’s why I believe awareness is so important, showing them that there is hope on the other side of recovery. Put in the work and the rewards will follow.
What words of advice would you have for family and friends who are watching someone who is dealing with addiction?
It’s so hard for families, friends and colleagues to watch someone they love fall apart from addictions and alcoholism. Especially for families to watch the chaos then hear the denials. The addict by nature is in a pretty selfish state. I know I was. It’s very difficult for spouses, children, mothers, fathers to deal with people they love put their addictions ahead of them. You can always offer support. seek information, try and understand addictions better, know and understand possible treatments, offer love and be ready to help. At the end of the day an addict is responsible for their own health, their own well being and it’s very hard to make them do something they don’t want to do. Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own well being and there are many great support groups that exist for the families of addicts. AL-ANON is an amazing 12 step program specifically intended for family members of addicts and alcoholics and there are other support groups out there. I wish there was an easy answer to addictions. I wish I could say there is an easy road to recovery. Unfortunately there are no easy answers but I think raising awareness as much as possible is a good start. Raising awareness for the person suffering with addictions and raising awareness for families and friends who live with it. There are great resources out there for both sides of the equation, many people who are willing to help. For the addict and for the families of addicts, I just think it’s super important to know that you are not alone.
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