We all know Ozzy as the wild man of rock, who bit the heads off bats and consumed enough booze and drugs to kill a small town. The man is a legend. More recently, after cleaning up his life and getting off the booze and drugs, we have come to know the family man through the reality show. It is most definitely not your run of the mill family but clearly there is love between the members.
Ozzy is a survivor. Many musicians of that era, some very talented, have disappeared without trace. Some died, look at the death roll – Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison and more recently Amy Whitehouse. But Ozzy not only survived, he even thrived and went on to be a star of the reality age. The public took him to their heart in that strange way we seem to cherish reformed characters. We love their notoriety as it brings colour and edginess, just as long as they have left the wild behaviour behind and are safe now. It is a bit like the thrill of viewing a lion up close provided it is restrained or behind bars.
So despite, or perhaps because of, his past Ozzy is a beloved character. He seems to have it all, the loving wife, family, fame and wealth. So why would he risk all of that for a drink or to take drugs? It does not make sense. It is the craziest thing he has ever done, biting the head off a bat seems tame compared to this. That is unless you are an addict and then you can understand.
Recently Russell Brand wrote an article where he described the desire to buy and consume drugs. He was not talking about the past when he was in the throws of addiction, no he was talking about a couple of weeks before. He was trying to explain that, even although he was 10 years away from drugs, the same length of time as Ozzy, the desire to use again could still be very strong.
All addicts know that feeling. It comes on you like a wave and if you are not careful it can overwhelm your will and before you know it you are behaving on autopilot. There is a part of you screaming this is not right, I should not be doing this. But that voice can find itself relegated to the role of the goody two shoes kid that no one likes because he is afraid to do anything that entails any kind of risk.
What is even worse, and more powerful, is when your drug of choice is used to plug up the holes in your personality. In fact you may even fear that you have no personality without that drug. As a former addict myself I know that feeling only too well. I know the terrible fear that can consume me when my inner demons start to accuse me. It feels like being dragged into court and being accused of living a lie, that everything that you think you are, that other people think you are is all a sham, that you are a phoney. Unfortunately in these moments the prosecution seems to have an open and shut case. There is no appeal.
It is at these times, regardless of how long we are clean and sober, the allure of drugs or alcohol is so strong. Imagine being enfolded in the arms of the most beautiful feeling of safety, stroked by an unshakeable certainty, being secure in how wonderful you are and convinced that everyone loves you. An incredible warm glow surrounds you as the fear of being a phoney is replaced by the sure knowledge that you are clever, witty, interesting, sexy and just great fun to be around.
If you can imagine what that feels like then you can start to understand the dilemma that the addict faces when the craving hits. Of course this neither excuses nor condones what Ozzy did, or why any addict relapses. However what it does highlight is that getting clean and sober is not just about stopping drinking or taking drugs, although obviously it needs to start there. Mark Twain was famously quoted as saying “Giving up (smoking) is easy, I’ve done it hundreds of times”. Getting clean and/or sober is about maintaining that state and in order to achieve that the addict needs to change how he/she thinks and behaves. The addict needs to clean up their act, make peace with their self and with the past and avoid situations that increase the temptation.
At times, even though I am 29 years clean and sober, substances can still have an appeal, especially if I am not taking care of myself properly. The demons can still tell me I’m a phoney and no one could possibly like someone like me and that it would be great to get the ‘drug hug’ again, just for a little while. But over time the voice has lost much of its power and I can hear the lies quite clearly.
I have no idea what it must feel like to live in the goldfish bowl of publicity that is Ozzy’s life. The sense of unreality must be overwhelming at times and maybe Ozzy couldn’t hear the lies his demons told him anymore. I am glad that he has climbed back on the wagon and, as a fellow traveller along the addiction road, I just hope and pray for his and his family’s sake he stays there.