October 14, 2016
In 2009 I released my first album, Mirrors. Two days before the big boxes of albums were shipped to my house I had been raped by two men. What followed was years of hellish self destruction, alcoholism, and shame that culminated in a suicide attempt in 2012. I write this now, about to release my first single, Judgement Day off of my new EP next month, four years sober today, the happiest I have ever been. Truly.
What a downward spiral looks like…
RIght after my rape I lost my best friend. She cut off all contact with me and said that my drinking and my problems were too much. Right after that I lost my boyfriend. We’d had a volatile and alcoholic relationship and he could no longer handle me anymore either. Then I lost my manager. Our contract was up and it was clear to both of us that it wasn’t going to continue. Shortly after that my parents could no longer help me financially and let me know that I was now on my own. I had a job bartending at the sort of place where you hang your bra on the ceiling and dance on the bar. By the end of the year I had lost that too.
I still played shows throughout this time. I also finished college at the New School. I didn’t give up, but I couldn’t really move forward. I spent my time tracking down wallets and phones lost during blackouts, apologizing for words I said and things I did that I didn't remember doing. I woke up in strange places with strange people bewildered at best, terrified and ashamed in worse cases. I developed a fascination, an obsession, with prostitution, reading every book, watching every documentary. I eventually went through with it. I was hopeless with bouts of occasional optimism. I found a nice boyfriend that adopted me into his life and I was finally safe and taken care of. I joined his band and I lived in his house and I lived his life. It couldn’t last. My alcoholism was getting worse and I was wreaking havoc on everything around me. I was blacking out and trying to jump off of balconies in hotels on tour. I punched him in the face when I was drunk, I was volatile, I was dishonest, I was a walking crisis. When he broke up with me my world fell apart and I attempted suicide.
On October 13, 2012 I had a cold. I had been broken up with my boyfriend for several months and still couldn’t figure out how to support myself. Scrolling through Facebook I saw that my boyfriend’s band was having a release show and I hadn’t been invited. I hadn’t been invited because the person that he had broken up with me for would be there. That was why, I knew it. I needed a drink. I needed to go out, but I had a cold, I was too sick. I decided that I would drink the beer and go to bed. I drank the beer. I drank another beer. That was all the beers in the fridge so I went across the street and bought a six pack. I drank all of those. I went down the street and got a bottle of Jack Daniels. I drank that too. Then I called my roommate and asked him were his bottle of Xanax was. I took all of them. Then I remember thinking that I finally felt brave enough to do it so I picked up a bottle of NyQuil and drank the whole thing.
I woke up in Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn. I felt relief to feel so empty and tired. I was not happy that it hadn’t worked. All I wanted was for my ex boyfriend to know that I had done. His attention was all that I cared about. That, my phone charger, and getting chicken nuggets. It felt good to not care for a least a moment if I would ever be successful, how I would pay my rent, what I was doing this weekend, all of the things that a person might care about if they cared about anything. What a relief to be excused from caring about life.
My ex boyfriend came and picked me up from the hospital a few days after it happened. I agreed to commit myself to a hospital that was nicer so I went to Columbia Presbyterian. I left New York City the next day in ambulance from the general hospital in Harlem to the psychiatric hospital in Westchester. I remember passing a Cheesecake Factory across the street from the entrance and I assured myself I would have a huge drink there at the day that I got out.
I’ve always lived my life journalistically so my experience at the hospital was short enough that I found it nothing but interesting. I was there for four days. I watched Barack Obama debate Mitt Romney on TV while drinking milk and cookies in a locked mental ward. I liked it. It was a unique life experience. It was there that the psychiatrist diagnosed me as an alcoholic. I thought he was confused and explained that I in fact was a) a musician and b) a resident of NYC both of whichcan look a lot like alcoholism to the untrained eye. He explained to me that he was not confused about those facts and stood by his diagnosis and suggested that I go to rehab.
I think I’ll go to Boston, I think I’ll start a new life…
In the back of mind I had always dreamed that I would go to a fancy rehab so this was not really difficult choice for me to agree to. I went to a facility in New Canaan, CT and I loved it. It was fall and the rehab was beautiful and open like a campus. It was like boarding school. The food was great, I had a rehab crush, and I played music for everyone there. I even sold albums while I was there. But this is where it got real. My counselor suggested that I don’t just go back to real life, that I go and live in a sober house. Images of destitution and basically no fun swirled in my head and I resisted. They told me there were two I could choose from, one in Boston and one in New York. I decided to move to Boston. That song, called Boston, by Augustana actually played big part. Someone was like, you’re like that song where it goes “I think I’ll go to Boston, I think I’ll start a new life..” and I was like yes. That works, let’s do it.
A sober house is basically a sober living home for people in early sobriety. You just sort of live there and it’s like a built in support system for people learning how to be people in the world again. One thing that is very different from the life you are used to besides that you don’t drink anymore, is a curfew. A curfew is something I could not handle in New York City, but I believed that I could handle a curfew in Boston. And I did. Boston didn’t have a nightlife that inspired any sort of longing for me. I was baffled why people were waiting in long lines outside of regular barson a Saturday night.
The weirdest part about quitting drinking is that the quitting of the drinking is the one of the smallest details of the whole endeavor. For me it was about figuring out who I am now. How do you even figure that out? Do you create a new you from scratch? Will it just be revealed after you have been sober long enough? What do I like to do?
I spent a lot of time doing things like making french toast for five days in a row until I got sick of it. Is this who I am now? Someone that loves french toast? I might be. So I’d try it out. Maybe I love cooking and I just never knew. Maybe I will now have the dedication to learn french and piano and make crafts. What is not blacking out every week going to do for my consciousness? I’m just going to be aware now? Like forever?
I had to eventually get a job but anything I did besides music hadbeen bartending and I figured I wouldn’t do that. I got a job teaching music at a preschool. A regular job with a regular paycheck for the first time ever. I got an apartment with a balcony and an elevator. I got a cat and also a crock pot. I made my bed and I cooked dinner and dived head first into wholesomeness. I started going to church. I had a nice boyfriend. I had a band. I had a white couch. This was the high holiness of regular person-ness to me. My couch was fucking white. I was someone who didn’t even trust myself to wear white shirts for many years. I made plans to finish my album with the producer I’d been working with in NYC.
This was all good and fine. A miracle actually. But it was time to go. I felt had achieved a solid pat on the back level of normalcy and I wanted a thrill. I still wasn’t sure who I was. I was wholesome Jess now. This part of me was still there, she was uncovered and now there was more to discover.
I wanted to throw myself into my music. I was ready. I was sober and ready to work. Most of all I was certain. I wanted to move to LA so I booked myself a tour to drive across the country. I packed everything up and put it in storage. I left my cat Winston with some understanding friends and headed out to California.
Wouldn't it be funny if you went all that way just to come back here?
As I was packing the night before leaving one of my best friends said to me ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if you went all the way there and just ended up moving back to New York?’ I told him don’t you dare say that. Don’t even utter that. I would never ever move back to New York. I thought that everything that had happened was partly New York’s fault.
I had booked about 15 shows on my way there and I just crossed my fingers and hoped it would work out. It mostly did. I had a flat tire in Alabama. I needed new brakes in Houston. I got to LA and I realized that I liked Nashville better. I spent three days there and drove to some town in New Mexico and called my therapist while I had a nervous breakdown deciding if I should drive back to LA or Nashville to live. I flipped a coin and decided on Nashville.
There was a point on my way back from LA that I stopped in San Diego because I’d never been. I went swimming in the ocean by myself. My car was full of all of my belongings that had been stirring around in the backseat for a month. Garbage bags of clothes, guitars, books. It dawned on me at this point I was essentially homeless and living in my car, BY CHOICE - so don’t feel bad or anything- but I thought, you could just stay here and be Jewel. That was the dream all along you know. You’re Jewel. But no I wasn’t Jewel, so I kept going.
I got to Nashville and had to have an emergency root canal while finding an apartment within three days because I was running out of money. I prayed to God about it and that same day I found a place, someone lent me a lot of money and the drive thru gave me three tacos instead of two - so I KNEW it was really God.
I drove back to Boston to collect my things in storage and my cat and bring them back to Nashville and as I was parked at a rest stop in New Jersey overlooking Manhattan my real estate agent called me and told me the place in Nashville had fallen through. I WAS CRUSHED. I had been on the road by myself for almost two months at this point and I was just utterly spent.
I went home to family in Montclair, NJ and I was out of resources and out of energy to move anymore, so I got an apartment in Brooklyn. I was extremely depressed for months. I could not believe that I was back in New York, I had sworn I’d never go back. I was confused and disappointed in myself. Nothing was working out how I wanted it to. I was trying so hard and life just felt like it was impossible to move forward.
Be Happy Goddamnit
I decided to commit to being happy. At this point I think that is literally the only way. Some people might be lucky enough to be raised by happy people that teach them to be happy or maybe they are mostly happy by default but for the rest of us I think at some point it becomes a conscious choice. There comes a point when you realize you have always had choice.
I started reading every book about creating your reality and manifesting. I made decisions that the person I wanted to be would make. I moved out of the apartment that I didn’t like and I started to put together my team to make my album.
I make a habit of choosing my thoughts, of meditating, of making gratitude lists, of making choices that thrill me instead of choices I “should” do. Don’t get me wrong, I mess up plenty and when I do I can get miserable pretty fast - anyone who’s gotten a panicked phone call of me crying and eating a salad in my car will tell you.
I feel like it happened over night in April, my therapist says it was a long time coming, but something has shifted. I am now the person that can share this music with you, that can make my music exactly how I want it, that can be proud of herself and stand by it as I send it out into the world. Sober. Happy. Certain.
Hell Yeah and Happy Ever After
I wanted to tell you my story as I begin this blog and release my first single Judgement Day, because it’s the story behind it that makes it so sweet. Anyone who has dealt with difficult shit, whether it’s addiction, trauma, depression, fear, indecision, or feeling not good enough, I wanted to write this for you.
A simple reminder that whatever you are going through will not last forever. That’s a promise. Life is so so good!