Sober Podcast

Ryan Dusick the founding drummer of Maroon 5 finds purpose in sobriety.

November 07, 2023 Ryan Dusick Season 2 Episode 43
Sober Podcast
Ryan Dusick the founding drummer of Maroon 5 finds purpose in sobriety.
Show Notes Transcript

In this enlightening podcast interview, we explore the concept of humility and acceptance with author Ryan Dusick, discussing his latest book, "Harder to Breathe." Discover the importance of recognizing what we can and cannot control in life and the value of staying humble. Join host Jamie Brickhouse as he delves into this profound conversation and encourages you to embrace these valuable lessons. Tune in to Sober Podcast for more thought-provoking content and inspirational stories.

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Welcome to the Sober Podcast. I'm your host, Jamie Brickhouse. And before we get started with our guest, I would like to take a minute to get the word out about one of our latest product lines brought to you by Sober Verse, Sober Life Apparel, where positivity and pride pave the way to a brighter, healthier future.

Please visit SoberLife. com. That's S O B R L I F E. com and check out our new merchandise. Our sober celebrity guest today is Ryan Dusick. He is an associate marriage and family therapist. The founding drummer of Maroon 5. Very cool. A mental health coach, speaker, and advocate. Also very cool and even cooler in my book, since I'm also a writer, the author of the book, Harder to Breathe, a memoir of making Maroon 5, losing it all and finding recovery.[00:01:00] 

Thanks for joining us today. Ryan, how are you? I'm great. Thank you for having me on Jamie. Glad to have you here. And, given your story which is an amazing one that I can't wait to get into, I thought our topic focus of the interview today would be reinventing yourself and starting a new career in sobriety.

And your life has been a long and twisting journey from aspiring pop star with anxiety to heartbroken alcoholic to thriving mental health survivor and messenger of hope and recovery. Tell us a little bit about what life with anxiety was like during your career as a drummer for the 5.

Anxiety wasn't a word that I even had or used in reference to what I was experiencing back in those days. The public discourse on mental health was not quite what it is today. Not that we're quite there yet., but it's better. Yeah, better than it was. And looking [00:02:00] back, I understand better now that a lot of what I was dealing with was anxiety.

It wasn't overt anxiety. It wasn't the kind of thing where I was having panic attacks or having terrible stage fright. But I was somebody who was a was perfectionistic by nature put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. Socially anxious, not to a crippling degree, but just introverted and shy as a kid.

And a little exhausted by the lifestyle. Of having to be on all the time. And having to be around people and performing in one way or another, whether it was on stage or doing meet and greets or photo shoots, video shoots and all that stuff. The lifestyle of a touring musician between 2002 and five when we were promoting the album songs about Jane went from being fun and exciting and exhilarating to exhausting and, really something that was leading to a breakdown that didn't happen overnight, it didn't happen on one show or one tour, [00:03:00] it happened over a matter of years but slowly but surely I was getting more fatigued, I was feeling more stress in my body and mind. And as it turns out in my spirit as well.

And it first, it just manifested in the physical problems I was having playing the drums, just pain in my joints and and feeling like it was becoming more difficult to perform, which was strange to me . It had a physical component to it, really.

Absolutely. And it was complicated for that reason. It was hard to know exactly what was happening. It's only in retrospect that I see that it was more than just the physical, because at the time it was just a physical injury or ailment with, joint pain and some nerve issues and then eventually just lost the ability to coordinate playing the drums.

This of course was compounded by the elements of self care that we're lacking, I didn't have enough rest. My, one of my only coping skills for de stressing was tying one on and burning, burning off some steam with a night out of drinking [00:04:00] or trying to just pretend like I wasn't under the kind of stress that I was under.

Ignoring it and then covering it up with substances, right? And were you at the top of your career when you hit bottom? Did you hit bottom before you started to get into recovery? tHe bottom that led to recovery came a decade after I left the band.

Okay. I hit, I guess a bottom just personally. when I had to leave the band because of my inability to perform anymore. And at that point the drinking was ramping up, but it wasn't to the place where it became a decade later, as it does, in our addictions, it's like , we maintain that illusion of control until we can't anymore.

I was a functioning alcoholic until I wasn't functioning. And when I was in the band, it didn't, I don't think alcohol was the thing that people would have thought was a problem. It was more the symptoms of performance. When I left the band, I was really struggling.

I was depressed. I [00:05:00] was dealing with the grief of that loss and a lot of pain. And so the alcohol became a major issue at that point as my only sort of coping mechanism. But then I went through all the stages of addiction where, for years, I thought that I had it under control and functioning to a certain degree, I was either blessed or cursed, whichever way you look at it in that I had a lot of success.

And so therefore some of the normal things that would have been consequences of my drinking were not in place to hold up a red flag that something was wrong because I wasn't not showing up to work I had a lot of free time to do with as I pleased, which is a blessing, but also really facilitated that the lifestyle of isolation and disconnection and not really having a lot of responsibility or, like I said, consequences for my drinking, but it was really more of a spiritual bottom that I finally hit.

Physically, I felt, sick and tired of being sick and tired, but also just feeling ultimately from where I had been, where I'd had this wonderful sense of [00:06:00] purpose. And meaning and connection in my life to feeling really broken in that regard and not really having any real sense of a life that I was connected to outside of my little world of just drinking to self medicate.

And that became just really sad and a place that I didn't want to be anymore. Yeah. And so once you got into recovery, how did you find or create a new path of meaning purpose and fulfillment? iT was amazing. I didn't have a real vision or five year plan as to how that was going to happen.

And all I could do was put one foot in front of the other as we're supposed to and do what I was told each day and try to. Just do what I needed to do to stay sober, but actually pretty quickly that turned into a new sense of connection and purpose because it started with service, service was something that I found was very connecting and got me out of myself and made me feel like I was a part of something larger than myself.

And so that was just something I got really [00:07:00] attached to and connected to as a source of new purpose and that sort of led me One thing after another that was both helpful in my recovery, but also led to a new sense of meaning in my life. Because once I had a good foothold in my own recovery, I was about six months and I had done inpatient and I'd done an outpatient thing.

I knew that the service element was the most meaningful part of my recovery. So I volunteered at a recovery center for two years. And I was just really enjoying that process of showing up. And I was leading groups and co leading groups and, just being peer support to people that were starting out the program and I got a lot of positive feedback.

That was also helpful because, it built up my self esteem. Yeah, great way to build up self esteem is esteemable acts. So I found myself in this position where this thing that I was doing that I hadn't intended to do was giving me this fulfilling feeling. And then a lot of people were giving me feedback Hey, you have a knack for this.

You should consider doing this for a career. And so on a whim, I applied to grad school for a clinical [00:08:00] psychology master's and I got in and a month later I was studying to become a therapist and I, still didn't have a big game plan. I thought maybe I'd work at a addiction. Recovery center or something as a counselor, but my horizons just kept expanding and in the course of getting my master's degree, I realized I had a story to tell.

That was something that might people that, that could see themselves in my struggles might find hope in recovery from the story. So I started writing my own story, which became the book harder to breathe, right? We want to dig into that 

 You were just you were talking about how this. Doing service led to you wanting to volunteer, or volunteering in a recovery center, leading to you getting a a master's, and and then leading to you writing. After I had been sober a while, I also, I like, I started a business and I started writing and I think a lot of people either want to, or find themselves reinventing themselves and finding new careers.

 But [00:09:00] for a lot of us, I think it happens because not necessarily because as you were saying earlier, you had a five year plan, but the door started opening and you took the opportunities and also we're sober and we don't have, fear so much blocking us. And do you but in any way, you're talking about you got a master's degree.

And so I have two different degrees at very different areas. But the English degree ended up helping out when I wrote my book. And I really look at that first chapter of my education as a really important step because it, I think the English degree helped me think critically and express myself in a cohesive way, hopefully.

So that's helped me in everything that I do. I speaking when I'm speaking when I'm doing any sort of creative project, being able to organize one's thoughts and present them is certainly helpful. Tell us a bit, your book is called harder to breathe a memoir of making maroon five, losing it all and finding recovery.[00:10:00] 

teLl us why you wrote it. I thought about writing a book in the years after I left the band when I was really struggling. I knew that there were some interesting stories that the journey that we went on from my parents garage all the way up to the biggest stages in the world had a lot of interesting tidbits that people would want to read about.

However, at that point I didn't know what the purpose would be because it was just this sort of tragic tale of how, of everything I had lost, right? Yeah. But, fast forward a decade when I was in recovery and starting this whole new chapter of my life and discovering new purpose and meaning.

Writing the book took on a whole different level of importance in my life because it was almost like a mission to, to share what I had learned and enter a world of advocacy. Again, I didn't have a plan as to what that would lead to, it was really just about the craft of writing the book and hoping that it would find an audience, but in doing so and getting out and promoting it, I've found this whole other career speaking and being an advocate, and so it really is [00:11:00] that, you follow that, just that feeling of what's fulfilling.

And do so with that openness that you were touching on of seeing challenges as opportunities rather than as threats. As an addict, I was fearful of anything that might be challenging or uncomfortable. And now I see things that are challenging and uncomfortable as, possibilities for growth.

 You answered one of my questions, but if you want to expand upon it, the question was going to be, what are your words of advice to people who want to or need to reinvent themselves and find a new career in sobriety? And I think you answered some of that. Yeah I think also, in terms of finding purpose and something that's fulfilling in your life, I think we, we often think we're either born with some great talent.

Or it's very clear to us that the universe or God or some entity has, ordained us with something that is our great purpose in life. And I've found what has been very freeing for me is realizing that meaning and purpose is something that we can define for ourselves. And it's something that really comes from.

 [00:12:00] An effort to invest ourself in something that we find valuable, you create purpose by applying yourself to something. You don't have to be in a talent of unparalleled, level to be, people think that purpose only comes in the form of finding the cure for cancer or being a rock star or exactly.

It's there's a lot of forms of purpose and there are people that are doing things that are very small. Wonderful things for themselves and for the world. That, for them is purpose that maybe for me, wouldn't be purpose, to each of us, it's really just a journey of finding and creating a sense of what's going to give us a connection and flow and ultimately create some meaning in our lives.

What's been some of the feedback that you've gotten from readers of harder to breathe. It's been amazing. It's been really. powerful, when you write a book like this, you say to yourself, the cliche, if I touch one person, if one person take something from this, it's helpful, then I will have [00:13:00] accomplished my goal.

And so therefore I have probably accomplished my goal 10 times over, there's been a lot of wonderful feedback and it's amazing. Even, the thing that I hadn't anticipated was the story of what I had lost and everything we had built for a decade and then I had to walk away from was this sad story in my life that I didn't really want to go back to for a long time.

And of course I had to go back there and really mind the depths of that experience to tell the story. And people have been responding about how much that album that we made 20 years ago was meaningful for them in a way that I. Wasn't able to see at the time because I was going through what I was going through.

And so it's been meaningful. Yeah. And so it's been meaningful both in terms of, I think, helping some people and giving some people some hope in my recovery, but also in being able to find ultimate closure on that other chapter and see the goodness in that and find some gratitude for it.

That's [00:14:00] great. As a mental health professional and advocate and your book, you're spreading the message of recovery and the astounding things that can come out of it, which we've just been talking about do you have a story or two of some of the people you've helped and how you've seen things like this happen to them?

Yeah I can't really speak about my clients specifically because it was confidentiality. But it, it is remarkable. I work at a clinic called the missing piece center for anxiety. intensive outpatient clinic. So our clientele is pretty high needs. These are people that either have been to have been hospitalized or are, one step below hospitalization that are trying not to be hospitalized.

And some of them dealing with things that are very familiar to me panic attacks and agoraphobia and traumatic experiences and working through them, depression and everything in between. And you really do see people almost like a light come on sometimes. And the same way that you do in [00:15:00] AA meetings, when somebody finally gets it and they find recovery and turn the page.

I really have been able to see, I went into this field originally thinking I was gonna be a drug counselor and thinking how that's the most profound way. In which people's lives change sometimes on a dime when they find recovery. But I now look at substance abuse and addiction as a part of the mental health journey for most people.

It's one symptom, one thing that people struggle with in an attempt to deal with what pains us. And we all have things that pain us, some more than others. Some people have more traumatic stories than others. Sure. But when you see somebody who is finally able and willing and open to change, as we were touching on, and they embrace the help that they need, and able to put away some of the behaviors that were keeping them in that dark place, and start embracing new ones that will carry them into Thank a better place.

You see that light come on and that is so fulfilling. People that maybe for the first time in their life [00:16:00] sometimes are actually able to experience joy and connection and purpose in their life. It's beautiful. One last question that we ask all of our guests and that is what is the best lesson you've learned in sobriety and recovery and how does it help you?

I think that, you start the journey with acceptance, right? And surrender, finding humility. And it was ironic for me that sort of coincided with the final stage of grief that I was going through, the final stage of grief is acceptance. And the first stage of recovery is accepted.

. So it it accomplished a lot of things at once for me, because I think that element of humility getting out of my own way. It was a big factor of both things. Finding closure on the painful past and finding openness to a better future.

And it really is maintaining that humility and that acceptance, which is an element of almost everything. That I do is it's like [00:17:00] I don't make the rules, we use the phrase life on life's terms a lot And that has taken on new meaning for me. It's call it nature. Call it god.

Call it the universe I know I don't make the rules. I know i'm not god right and the more I can remind myself of that It's not that I have to belittle myself in the process. I know that there are things that are under my control And first and foremost, myself and my behavior, the things that I choose to do to help myself and be a better human being who's capable of doing good things.

 But maintaining that humility, that acceptance, that the fixating on the things that I can't control is not going to help anything and playing God or trying to believe that I have this the control that I don't have is just an illusion that leads nowhere. So it's being humble.

That's probably the most important thing. That's a great lesson. And thank you, Ryan, for talking with us today. And everybody, I urge you to get a copy of his book, Harder to Breathe. And [00:18:00] thank you for a great interview, Ryan. Thank you, Jamie. Appreciate it. And to all our listeners, thank you for your continued support.

Visit us on SoberPodcast. com and all places where you find podcasts leave us a review, sign up for our mailing list. You will also find the contact information and book ordering information for our guest Ryan Dusick. I'm your host, Jamie Brickhouse. You can find me every day on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, where I tell a true story in high heels, and I'm also the author of Dangerous When Wet, a memoir of booze, sex, and my mother.

Signing out from Sober Podcast and tune in for another show next week.