Thank You, Chris Cornell: Death by Default in Detroit.
Chris Cornell’s suicide wasn’t just another typical Generation X rock star suicide.
Chris was delivering a message that I could hear just 40 miles away from where he hanged himself. The echo was strong in the depressed Detroit suburbs. Becoming sober late in age is not a cakewalk. Once an addict for the latter portion of your life, one is considered always an addict. “Sobriety and addiction really are a life or death matter, “ Chris once said.
An addict will seek anything from heroin to alcohol to as a coping mechanism, and once those pacifiers are taken away, being sober doesn’t feel that great. One has to go through the anger stage of why they started at a young age in the first place, and then accept that they may still be in a 19-year-old mentality because the substances stunted their emotional development.
They have to face PTSD, bipolar disorder, or whatever mental affliction they were born with. A chemical imbalance is not always cured by receiving a pat on the back or not for being sober. It’s a constant battle if one doesn’t have the right tools to cope.
The root of the problem should be identified in order for one to continue this path of life, and addiction is just like any other disease. Music is a major trigger for inducing drug habits, but only few can go back and listen to music without the intoxicant in the other hand. Relationships are hard to forge, and sometimes feel contrived after years of feeling good and connecting with others while being high.
One becomes reticent and standoffish because of shame and not knowing whether relationships are authentic or not. Some walk the sobriety lane all by themselves and stick to a regimen. However, Chris had to fill Chris Cornell from Soundgarden’s shoes as an older sober man, and the spark and energy wasn’t there. The drugs had masked his severe depression.
He had to be a performer and wear a mask that could not be loosened up by substances, and the pain was unbearable. Chris once said, in order to become sober, “You have to really want to be sober.” Perhaps he was just sober for his kids and his wife?
September was Suicide Health Awareness Month, and I think Chris’ actions spoke volumes to all of us Generation Xers who are walking around aimlessly sober. Is substance so bad if it grounds you? What do you do if you have no support group? I’m talking about those of us who are 35 and up, of course. We forget how to connect to the world around us.
Some of us are lucky and have serendipitously found healing modalities in the holistic arena. However, without a support group or people knowing what you’re struggling with, you’re bound to think thoughts of not wanting to be here without chemicals.
Personally, I decided to be sober at the age of 33 because by default I had to. I was newly pregnant. It has been the hardest part of my life: learning to relax without an elixir. Regressing back to my 17-year-old adolescent self, and having flashbacks of why I used in the first place, is no fun while you’re raising a toddler by yourself, without support or extended family.
People walk away because they have their own lives and affiliations. They don’t care, nor do they understand the cravings and the nostalgia to feel good again. We don’t know what and who is authentic or not. We’re still teenagers, maybe in our early twenties emotionally.
Chris didn’t pass out of this world for selfish reasons. He ran out of coping options. Default sobriety. Default suicide. Generation X may have the highest suicide rate out of all the generations. We were born into grunge, and then we learned how to be happy on synthetic drugs.
We are very apathetic compared to the millennials, and I can’t just sit here and not say anything because sobriety is a big deal to some people and a life or death matter to all of us addicts. Thank you for spelling that out, Chris. Your life matters. Your music matters. Your statement matters.
Personally, I’ve been sober for six years now, so that would make me 23 in mainstream years. Add 6 to 17, the year I began using everything on the Erowid spectrum, and you still have a young adult in there. Again, the theme here is becoming sober after 15-20 years of continuous dependency. It’s not a prize we wear.
It is the most unbearable reality if you don’t have a set of tools, and we are still those Generation X kids growing up, maturing into the best version of ourselves. Chris had a lot of emotions to experience and impulses to defeat, and death may have won the battle, but 52 is a pretty good lifespan for a Generation X addict/musician.
Brieanne Tanner is a spontaneous poet, curious yogi, and Yoga mama of one. She’s been practicing Yoga since 2007, and registered as a RYT 200 teacher since 2010. In 2016, she published her first book, PurgeAtory.