My wake-up call with drugs — at least in terms of the music — came when we played Boston College in 1984. For the three or four nights prior to that, I had been swallowing Tuenols and putting cocaine up my nose and not sleeping at all. By the time I got out to BC, I was fucking blotto. My drum tech, Nils, had to help me take my street clothes off, put my stage clothes on me, tape my hands, prop me up behind my drums, and wrap my fingers around the sticks. "Joey, this is all I can do," he told me. "The rest is up to you."Drums and drugs really don't mix — the timing, the physicality — so I didn't play well that night, and my partners weren't very happy about it. I took heed of that experience, though, and I never again took drugs directly before a performance. On the other hand, I was always able to make up for lost time afterward. As soon as the last note was hit, I would be off stage and catching up to wherever I might have been if I had been snorting like a maniac all along.
After a while it should have been clear that the drugs had become obsessive, addictive, and destructive. But when you're doing drugs, nothing is clear — that's the whole point. Looking back now, I realize that even just thinking about doing lines had become an obsession. I enjoyed simply the thought of drugs, relishing the anticipation, then feeling the actual sensations. There was pleasure in all of it, from the first moment the coke burned into my sinuses, as the chemicals slammed into my brain cells, and until I was racing along all grandiose and invincible. I loved the way it made me feel holier-than-thou and how I could sit and talk with anyone about anything as if I really knew it all. And then there was the sort of connection whenever I found somebody else who liked coke as much as I did. Trouble was, while there was pleasure, there was no real joy in it. After a while, drugging became as empty and gross as stuffing my face with cheeseburgers and greasy French fries, eating out of gluttony instead of hunger for nourishment. Eventually feelings of waste, excess, and anxiety crowded out all the feelings of pleasure, but by this time, I had no choice. I was no longer doing the drugs for a good time — I was doing them because I had to. And then the drugs started pulling the band apart.
Hit Hard: A Story of Hitting Rock Bottom at the Top © 2009 by Joey Kramer, and reprinted with permission from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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