Alone Again: Spilled Milk #18
The hotel is a lonely place for addicts and alcoholics.
There is much to be said about the joys of taking a trip by yourself.
I have taken a few in the last decade, emotional and spiritual rechargers are a must if you are prioritizing self-care. Parental respites, the solo fishing trip, a charitable service trip, a visit to a spa or care community are all things we need to do more of. I have been a vocal proponent for solo travel of those sorts for years. However, most of my solo time on the road is for work.
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That’s why I was so gutted when I learned of the death of the great drummer, Taylor Hawkins.
Moments after the news was public, I read these words:
“FooFighters drummer Taylor Hawkins was found dead in his hotel room in Bogota, Colombia. He was 50 years old.”
I checked out the official statement from the band. And well before any statements came out regarding the tox screening and the rehashing of Hawkins’ previous public statements about his own struggles with addiction, I made a very personal IG post— as a recovering person, a fan, and frequent traveler. Some people asked why hotel deaths are so horrific to me.
Everyone should understand this:
1. The hotel is a lonely place for addicts and alcoholics.
Using in hotels, dealing in hotels, all of the sordid nonsense that goes on in cheap, run-down room for rent places is triggering for me and for many others. Many of us have hotel room PTSD, even years into sobriety. When you solo travel for purpose (see above) or stay in communal surroundings those feelings are mitigated or absent. But as someone who 30 years and just over two months ago checked into a flop house hotel with the idea to drink himself to death, I can tell you that hotels don’t always inspire happy memories— no matter what precautions I take to keep myself even keeled. And I am not alone.
2. There is no official cause of death at the time of this writing.
Last Saturday, the cause of death was not disclosed in a preliminary study conducted by the Colombian AG’s office. There was a report issued which said a urine toxicology test found 10 substances, including THC, tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines and opioids in Hawkins system. Yesterday, it was reported that Hawkins suffered a 'cardiovascular collapse' after binging on a cocktail of drugs including heroin, marijuana, and opioids, according to investigators. There is no official cause of death at the time of this writing.
Combined with the rest of Hawkins admitted history, I can feel the pain of his addiction, the loneliness of the road despite the crowds around you, the effects of the impostor syndrome. My unending love goes out to his friends, fans and most importantly, his family.
3. The Impostor Syndrome…it happens to everyone.
You fight with your family, yell at your kid in a tone you regret, head to work and your teammates introduce you to a new co-worker as the ‘best, most patient human’ in the company. Your inner voice says, “if they only knew…”
In the entertainment business, sports, government, etc., any public facing work, the feelings are amplified. And for active addicts/alcoholics, it’s even worse. The fans screaming “we love you! You’re the best ever…”, at their favorite athlete or movie star, don’t know what’s going on with them privately. The dissonance of public and private life can be a driving force for acting, and a big hurdle to be crossed in recovery from any type of mental health illness.
4. The words ‘hotel room’ scared the shit out of me when I read them for the first time.
Not for any other reason that it’s a room for rent in a distant location on another continent. That really hit me hard. What was my sensitivity all about?
Well, there is my own story that I barely lived through…and Saget, Bourdain, Whitney, John Candy, Gandolfini, Anna Nicole Smith, Belushi, David Carradine, Jimi and Janis… And that’s just off the top of my head. While circumstances for all were different, and most were hotels in the USA, it’s still the road… and unless you are on it a lot, it’s hard to explain what effect being away from the regular swing and sway of life has. You need a plan for staying connected, and travel makes that harder.
5. There is the good, the bad, and the ugly side to repetitive work travel.
You have to be open about it. I can’t speak for anyone but myself. Some years it’s easier than others. And I have it pretty darn good. My heart aches even more, not just for those with “isms” and issues, not just for well-known public personae per se, but for the anonymous road warriors. All the men and women I see with multi million mile tags on their roll aboards. All of them on zoom meetings and sales calls in airport lounges and gates. The hotels aren’t fancy, the life isn’t glamorous, the hours are brutal and the distance from friends and family is so hard. I see their faces when they hang up the phone with their families and I know what it feels like, doing the job you love or just the job you have, under difficult circumstances, that has contributed to the deaths of so many beloved public figures and of people who’s names we will never know.
So, travel comes with many caveats, and yet I still seek it out and celebrate it. It’s the ultimate vehicle for human understanding, personal transformation, and cultural awareness. We need it now more than ever. And knowing all sides of it hopefully will keep more people safe and sound on the road.