Photo by Jamie Weiland
We’ve lost a lot of good people to excess. Both in the world of the arts and in our own, personal universes. People we both loved and resented because of the fact that they couldn’t put the bottle down. Or put their cigarette out. We loved them because they were in our hearts for good; yet resented the fact that they loved us but not enough to stop a behavior that was obviously bad for them and could certainly be fatal in the end. Unless you’re afflicted with an addiction you can never truly understand how hard it is to stop that harmful behavior. You should thank your lucky stars you don’t have to consider food over narcotics. Or breath over smoke. Sobriety over booze. Christmas presents over a fix. It takes the strength of Atlas not to wring the neck of that person in your life that can’t stop doing what you know is killing them. They know what they’re doing is slowly(or not so slowly)killing them.
For me personally it ranges from loved ones that can’t quit smoking(one eventually did after cancer intervened, as well as heart failure), to a mother-in-law that drank herself to death.
Passing out drunk outside on a cold March Midwest night, and then sleeping it off in a frost-covered bush couldn’t even convince her to put the bottle down. A month in rehab, picking herself up, moving into a home away from those that pushed the demons, and attempting clean living really only led her back to pints of cheap vodka and 6-packs of cheap beer. There was a last ditch effort by herself to get help and she spent February of 2014 in a rehab facility. It was 7 or 8 days and she went from a shaky, nervous bird of a human being to someone that resembled the woman that worked long hours working to support herself and her daughter all those years ago. It was short-lived, though. By May of 2014 she was drinking more than she had been during the March black out. My wife found her mom dead in her apartment on May 19th, 2014. Drink, malnutrition, sadness, and an overwhelming malaise took her. No matter how hard we reached out; inviting her over to spend time with her grandchildren, offering trips to facilities for help, and even just trying to talk and open her up a little, nothing could break through the wall she seemed to have been building between herself and the world for the past 30 years.
I hate to say it, but she was beyond saving. She was no longer drinking to ease the pain, she was drinking to punish herself. She was punishing herself – for in her eyes – failing her children, failing her mother and siblings, failing at her job, and failing at sobriety. Once someone’s gone down that deep in the hole you can almost never get them back. If you do, count your blessings. If you don’t, you have my condolences.
I’m sure there’s going to be lots of talk about the great talent we lost in singer Scott Weiland. That his talent as a singer, frontman, and songwriter will shine on long after he’s laid to rest. His songs in Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver, and his solo output will live on and in years to come he will be seen as another musical genius we lost to drugs and alcohol. I think 90s nostalgia will blind people to the fact that Scott Weiland was kind of a hack. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up with STP. I graduated in 1992, bought Core as soon as it came out, and continued a love/hate relationship with Weiland and STP until the early 2000s when I realized they weren’t really worth the trouble. I still love certain songs from them(and him), but I can’t listen to anything of theirs all the way through at this point. Scott Weiland was just a user that spent his free time making music. He’s just another guy that couldn’t kick what was hurting him the most. In the end all the success, thousands of screaming fans, artistic integrity, and creative drive came to a permanent stop in a parking lot on a tour bus in Bloomington, Minnesota.
I don’t think Scott Weiland’s death was any more important than my mother-in-law’s. They were both people with dreams at one point in their lives. For the last 20 years they muddled through life attempting to salvage what was left of themselves as human beings. They both struggled to keep their heads in that tiny air pocket as their ships sank to the bottom over the last five years. But in all of this, regardless of how beaten up, chewed up, and crushed my mother-in-law was, she still sent her grandkids a card on their birthdays. No matter if she didn’t have a pot to piss in and could hardly write because of the shakes, she made it a point to let them know she loved them. Maybe this was a last ditch effort to keep herself remembered. To keep her in the thoughts of future generations that could talk kindly of her long after she was gone.
I wonder if Weiland sent his kids cards in these last couple years. I’d like to think he did. I’d like to think he at least tried. For them. For their sake I hope they have some good memories of their dad. The music alone isn’t enough. Not for them at least.
Death makes angels of us all
and gives us wings
where we had shoulders
smooth as raven’s
claws – Jim Morrison