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Substance Abuse and the Music Industry: Q&A with Poppy Rose

Who are you? Where do you come from and how did you get to where you are today?  

Trauma; We all experience it in our own way. We all come from some form of trauma which we are consciously or subconsciously trying to overcome for the rest of our lives. It can make you, it  can break you and one day you might have the choice to decide where you let it take you.

My name is Poppy Rose. I come from Wagga Wagga and I moved to Melbourne on my own when I  was just about to turn 16 to get away from a broken home and go to a city where my music would have more of a chance at being heard one day. I have been here for 9 years and it has been a hell of a journey, to say the least.

What were your earliest experiences of being around drugs and what role did they play in your social life, work life and music life?  

Drugs have played an unfortunate role in my life. I say unfortunate, because for me, there wasn’t anything positive about my experiences with drugs. It really started for me when I was trying to complete my schooling in Melbourne at tafe and the age gap between students I was in class with was anywhere from 15 to 50 so I had friends from all different walks of life. Hanging out at friends houses would include smoking a bit of weed here to experimenting with pills and party drugs there.

I was probably 16-17 at the time, I was working to pay rent and bills and also trying to finish high school. Hanging out with the new friends I made in a new city was something that I looked  forward to on weekends, and drugs were just a normalised part of what we did when we hung out.

Maybe because I was so young and didn’t have any real guidance or family with me, I just slowly began to fall into a world where trying drugs and doing them was normal and the party drugs and weed never really had me hooked, but it was probably my impressionable mind and the normalisation of taking substances, that a few years later, eventually led to me trying something  that completely roped me in and changed my life for the worse from the first hit. It took me a while to realise I had an addiction, and I was probably at my worst when I made that discovery. Was it the drug itself, my mental health, trauma, coping mechanisms or wanting to escape reality that led to my addiction? I think they all played a part.

Do you think there are contributing factors that lead some people to be more drawn  towards the altered states or escapism of drug use than others? 

In my opinion, drug use is an extreme escapist strategy. The instantaneity of using drugs to escape reality is probably what draws people to them. The harm it causes in the long term isn’t really taken into consideration when you’re desperately trying to feel something else.

When did you realise that your relationship with drugs was becoming a problem?  

It’s hard to see that drugs are the main reason for your issues when you’re addicted. I had to really look at myself and see the harm it was causing me before I could see that it was also affecting everyone around me, and the heartbreaking part is that a lot of damage had been done to people I loved before I realised the damage I was causing. I had to want to change for myself  and not for anyone else because if I didn’t truly want to better life for me and just did it for the sake of others, I would just keep falling back into self destructive patterns like I had been. When I  thought I hit rock bottom, I had to hit rock bottom many more times before I realised it was a problem. Hitting those rock bottoms looked like 3am hospital trips, car accidents, psychosis, losing homes, losing friends… it’s devastating.

Why do you think there seems to be a correlation between substance abuse and addiction and the music industry and creative arts?  

I can see how there seems to be a correlation with substance abuse and addiction within the  music industry and creative arts.

In speaking from my own experience; since a little girl I have always wanted to be an artist and  share my music with the world. Music is my passion and it gives me a purpose. I feel the pressure  from society to have a job and work hard so you can afford to live. Being successful in the music  industry/creative arts and having a steady, stable income takes a lot of time and luck. It’s working  your ass off only to get your ‘degree’ in hopes and dreams that it might just work out for you. Turning to drugs and substances can become an unhealthy coping mechanism to deal with this pressure.

When I’ve played in music venues, I’ve experienced how easy it is to access alcohol to deal with nerves and socialising with people you don’t know for that false sense of confidence. I think environment, pressure and how normalised it is to use substances in the music industry and creative arts plays a contribution to addiction and substance abuse.

What prompted you to make the decision to reclaim yourself from addiction. Do you have a  particular memory of feeling like you needed to make a change?  

I made the decision one day that I needed professional help for myself. I had just been going around in circles and getting nowhere with my life and I knew that I wanted to be healthy and I  knew that being on drugs isn’t the life I wanted.

I definitely knew that I couldn’t do that on my  own and it was going to take some sort of professional help for me to start recovering. I got into therapy with my psychiatrist and slowly started getting committed to weekly sessions, and I think  knowing I could pick up the phone and stay committed to weekly therapy helped me see that I can try and stay committed to being off drugs which eventually led to over a year off using and being committed to other things like my music, a job, relationships and trying to live a healthier  lifestyle.

The lyrics to your new single, My God reference the ‘demons that I fight off’ and the  concept of you wanting to ‘never let down my guard’. Where does My God and the new music you’re writing fit into the narrative of overcoming your battles with addiction and reclaiming yourself?  

It’s easy for me to reflect on life and dwell on what went wrong, what I could have done better, what I should have done instead, what would have happened if I did something else… so, when I  was writing ‘My God’ I wanted to flip the script and reflect on what I have overcome, my strengths and make a bit of an anthem/reminder on positive self-reflection. A lot of the music I’m writing these days is about overcoming struggles and being stronger because of them and a bit of healthy flexing here and there. My music shares the journey of finding myself, love, shining light on societal issues, my beliefs and I try to keep it as real and raw as I can. I have so much music in the vault that I can’t wait to put out there.

What advice do you have for anyone reading this that might be struggling with addiction or issues of substance abuse? 

I don’t have the answers for each individual person that might be struggling with addiction or substance abuse and how to overcome it, I just have my story. I want to share my story because I  got told so many times that it was near impossible to overcome my addiction and there was no  hope for me.

I thought that was the case for me and maybe at the time I saw that as an excuse to keep using drugs but how would I have known it was impossible if I didn’t try to give it up? It took a lot of hard work and it isn’t easy but it IS possible to overcome addiction and create a better life for yourself. I’ve done that. Trying isn’t just a one time thing, you owe it to yourself to  keep on trying to get help even if it doesn’t work out the first few times because even though there will be a lot of moments in life that knock us back or don’t work out the way we hoped,  there are going to be times where it does work out, you just have to keep trying until that time  comes.

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