As news spread last week about Demi Lovato's drug overdose, people from all walks of life (and musical genres) chimed in with their thoughts on the matter. Many were compassionate and gave regards to Lovato and her family, especially on Twitter. Yet it quickly brought up a debate about addiction, whether it's a choice or a disease.
Originally reported wrongly as a heroin overdose, the incident, coupled with Lovato's open struggles with addiction (especially her recent song, "Sober"), made her the center point of discussion about addiction.
Dallas musician Spencer Douglas Wharton, who plays as a solo act and with his own band, the Infamists, has been vocal about his struggles with addiction, especially alcohol. He looks forward to celebrating one year of sobriety in a month.
"I saw my life was going in a direction I didn't want it to go in," Wharton says. "I didn't feel like drinking and doing all these other sorts of things was a good path to go down. I saw it ruin my father's life and my uncle's life. The whole Demi Lovato thing is shocking, to say the least. It's not exactly surprising, I suppose. Anybody that has a tendency to overuse things, they tend to relapse. I'm always afraid of it myself. I may, one day, make the choice to go back and at least drink again, but I don't think I will. I'm not planning on it anytime soon."
Relapsing is always on Wharton's mind.
"Musicians, in general, we live a much harder lifestyle than normal people do, for whatever reason," Wharton says. "I worry about it all the time."
Wharton quit cold turkey and has opted out of working with a program. Playing music, holding down a full-time job and his willpower are reasons he has stayed sober since last September. As for the question of addiction versus choice, Wharton has a wise assessment on it.
"I've always said, the very first time is a choice, but everything after that is not," Wharton says. "You have to choose to want it at the beginning, but then it takes over and then you can't make the choice whether you want it or don't want it."
Cameron McCloud of Deep Ellum alt-rap group Cure For Paranoia has also struggled with addiction. He celebrated his 18th month of sobriety in July while visiting New York City, a trip he called a "mental mission trip." While in New York, McCloud released his single “ComfortZone.”
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During his first two years with Cure For Paranoia, he struggled with alcoholism, stuck between drunk and hungover, he says.
“I knew I wanted to do music for the rest of my life, and that drugs and alcohol were a big part of the industry, so if I was going to even survive and see how big this thing would get, I needed to make a change," he says.
McCloud stayed away from drinking by staying busy with his band. He says he grew tired of ending every night with the spins and promising himself he wouldn't drink the next day.
“Once addiction takes over, you’re no longer the one in control," he says. "Some people are just wired different and aren’t able to control their vices. In that case, it’s up to you to make the choice to just stop altogether."