I’m Molly, and I’m an alcoholic.
Today I am 1519 days sober. That’s four years, 1 month, 28 days, 3 hours, and 8 minutes…but who’s counting? I am a recovering alcoholic who suffers from chronic anxiety. I’ve had my on and off battles with depression. Recently, I have developed minor PTSD after watching my mother pass away in front of my eyes. What does mental health mean to me? It means waking up and living every day life.
We live in a society that stigmatizes the very phrase. You’re an alcoholic? You must drink cheap vodka every morning from a brown paper bag. You’re an addict? You must live on the streets and beg people for money to get your next fix. I grew up in a gorgeous and wealthy area North Shore of Boston. I grew up in a country club setting; went to a private college, I volunteered abroad three times in Tanzania, I’ve been nationally and internationally published through my photography. From the outside I’m deemed “normal” and “successful.” Yes, I am successful but it’s because I work at it daily. I don’t consider my achievements in life successes, I consider them rewards for paying constant attention to my mental health. I may be 1519 days sober, but the demons are still there, lurking behind a corner waiting for their next attack. I’m not living on the street but I am just as sick as the next alcoholic. We all share that same gene. I was fortunate, I was able to go to rehab, it saved my life. My anxiety has escalated the last few months with the loss of my best friend- my mom. Grieving in sobriety is a different realm. Every emotion, every craving, every feeling is blasting through an amplifier on the highest watt. Most days I feel numb, my body is a vessel just carrying me throughout the day. Other days I’m incredibly excited, happy, and non-stop. It’s a challenge, but I’m facing it head on. When I was active in my addiction I would drink over the most insignificant things. Now, in 2019, I lost the most significant thing in my life, and I know I don’t have to drink over it. That’s incredible, THAT is a success.
I remember my first concert sober. I was absolutely terrified, I tried to get out of going. What the heck am I gonna do sober at a show? I remember seeing those small groups of sober folk “pre-gaming” in parking lots thinking I never, ever want to be that person. My anxiety was off the wall, and I could barely hold a conversation with my friends. Everything almost went blank until the band started playing, and I remembered why I am absolutely head over heels for live music. I was hearing one of my favorite bands, sober. I knew that not all concerts were going to be like this, I needed something more. That’s where my love of photography played in. What if I could take photos, of my favorite musicians, while being sober, and maybe even get paid? Flash forward four years later and now I’m working with some of the best musicians in the business, and I’m still sober. The first few shows were intimidating, and my anxiety fed off that. Backstage is a candy store to a recovering alcoholic. What happens when someone offers me a drink? I did not want to seem better than anyone else, or to be honest, I didn’t want them to think I wasn’t cool. That’s when I made a promise with myself, to be upfront and honest. If I can’t tell people that I don’t drink and that I’m in recovery I’m doing a disservice to myself. Yes, I’ve had a few awkward moments but nothing I can’t shake off later. Plus, when that camera is in my hand, I have a job. I want to produce the best, most epic, and emotional memory shots I can get and I know I cannot do that while using.
I’m open and honest with my story because I know there are millions of people suffering out there, with zero resources or support. It does not have to be that way. I’ve seen too many incredible people lose their battle to mental health. I actively fight against that stigma, and I challenge you do the same. If my story can help one person, then that’s a win. If you know of someone who is suffering, it does get better, I am walking evidence of that.
Being sober in the music industry is one of the best things in the world, but it’s also one of the hardest. The temptation is always there, and as someone who thrives off community and social settings, there’s days where it’s really hard to say no. There’s days where the anxiety is so crippling it’s almost impossible to take one photo. How can we change that? How can we have open and honest conversations about it? I haven’t found a great deal of resources that speak up towards mental health awareness. I’m lucky to have co-workers and friends in the industry who I know I can count on, but that’s not the norm. I truly believe Backline is going to change the industry for the better, and I’m beyond excited to be a part of it.