Episode 3: Hart Bothwell: Rehab, Recovery, & Redemption

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Hart Bothwell is a singer/songwriter that grew in an upper-middle-class suburb south of San Francisco who now drives for Uber & Lyft driver in North Carolina. After admitting to his family that he had an opioid addiction, Hart bravely and openly walks us through his recovery and how he reestablished his sense of self, his relationships with his family, and love for music.



SEASON 2 // EPISODE 3 TRANSCRIPT

Benjamin:

Hello listeners and welcome back to the final episode of the second season of A Long Road Home Podcast. My name is Ben Shapiro and I'm the host and producer of A Long Road Home. This podcast is a series of real world stories from the people behind the apps that you use every day. To refresh your memory, in this season of our podcast, we tell the story of Hart Bothwell, Hart is a singer, songwriter that grew up in a upper middle class suburb, south of San Francisco. He has dealt with an issue that has touched millions of people across this country, opiod abuse. In our last episode, Hart described to us how his experimentation with drugs, specifically with Oxycontin turned into a full fledged addiction. He tells us what life is like when you're addicted to drugs, about the time he was arrested for buying. And when we left off, Hart told us that his addiction had virtually ruined his work life, his passion for music, and his relationship with his friends and his families.

 

 

In this episode, Hart tells us about how he bought in doubt, his road to recovery, and how his love of music has helped him move on from his addiction. I hope you enjoy the last episode of season two and here's a preview of what we'll discuss. Oh and by the way, the music playing in the background of our preview montage is from Hart's latest album. If you like it, I'll tell you where you can find it at the end of the podcast. Kick it Panos.

 

Hart:

When you go into a drug program, people can see right through you. I always had a kernel of truth in me. I know this is all wrong. I realized the jig is up. You just gotta be honest. This is all you have.

 

 

I was like the weight of the world off my shoulders. Suddenly I just felt like I didn't need to get high anymore, because I surrendered. I'd rather be clean than anything else. That's not easy. It's scary. I was still an emotional mess.

 

 

It was a learning process. I got in a relationship. It's not like overnight you start being able to make good life choices, just because you got clean.

 

 

I did all of that, said all of that. Something about the drug addiction killed my creativity. It was good it got me back into song writing. It's kind of amazing the way your brain heals.

 

 

I'm just trying to do my best to become a better musician. I think I'm making the best music I've ever made.

 

Benjamin:

So, at what point does it start to change?

 

Hart:

I think most addicts go through periods where they try to get clean and fix their life up on their own without having been humbled and go through the humiliation of owning up to your family and friends about your addiction. That's what I did. I tried to get some help through my work's health insurance, and going through a few programs, and it was really horrible because in the back of my mind I knew I didn't really want to do it. I just wanted to get my act together and maybe go back to school or get a better job or something, and then I could really afford to do more drugs. That was kind of my thinking.

 

 

When you go into a drug program with that in mind, people can see right through you. You think you're hiding things from them and they don't know, but they know everything. They've seen this a thousand times before, and so that is what I was doing. It was really awkward, and people resent you for that. When people are really trying to get clean, and you're just faking it, they know, and they resent you, and so it's weird. It just made things worse, so I went back out, and started using again, even more hard core, and I was even less of a person than I was before. You just become more deranged, detached, and cold.

 

 

I always had a kernel of truth in me. Like a kernel of, I know this is all wrong, and I know that one day I have to really change, but you just kind of avoid that fact for a while, and I tried to put it off for as long as possible. But eventually, stars sort of aligned to where I felt like I had no choice but to start being honest.

 

 

What happened was, even my paycheck as a janitor wasn't enough to pay for my drug habits, so I started stealing from my dad in Alameda, and my step dad in [inaudible 00:04:30], from their debit cards, going to the ATM at night, taking out hundreds of dollars. I was doing that, which it felt horrible. It was like the worst feeling I've ever had in my life, because I'd never done anything like that before. That was a really, really horrible feeling. That was happening though, and as long as I was able to do that, I was going to do it, because I needed it.

 

 

And then on, I think the same day, both my dad's debit card and my step dad's debit card got canceled. They became aware of what was happening, aware that somebody was stealing money from their accounts. That happened, and then my car broke down, so I couldn't get to work and they were going to find out about their money, so I basically realized the jig is up. In terms of them knowing about it, there's nothing I could do. They're going to find out because they have cameras on the ATM's. They'll find out that it was me. They'll do investigations, and I was going to get fired from my job because I couldn't make it to work.

 

 

I was so dope sick that I didn't want to go to work. I couldn't make it, so it just occurred to me, it was like a moment of clarity. It was like, "You've just gotta be honest. This is all you have," because the next step in this addiction is just basically getting kicked out of the house, doing a vagrancy, and I didn't want to go there. I didn't want to do that if I didn't have to, and I was just like, "Be honest. Just do it."

 

 

It was terrifying. I remember waiting at my mom's house, for my mom and my step dad to get home from work, and just counting the hours until they got home, because I knew I was going to tell them. They came home, and they were just really, really supportive and nice, and I was really emotional obviously. My mom was very strong and supportive. I'll always remember that, and she was very kind. My step dad was too.

 

 

I called my dad too and he was the exact same. I told them everything. I didn't tell them everything right away in terms of getting arrested and stuff, because I just didn't want to over shock them, but I told them about the stealing and the drug addiction, and it was like the weight of the world off my shoulders, because a lot of times in addiction, what's keeping you in the addiction is not the physical addiction itself. It's the emotional baggage that you're carrying around, whether it's denial, or anger, or fear. For me it was denial. It was like i wasn't owning up to it. And when I owned up to it, and got real about it, it was the best feeling.

 

 

And suddenly I just felt like I didn't need to get high anymore because it was like I gave up, I surrendered. And that's the key. In any drug program, they'll tell you that's the key, surrendering.

 

Benjamin:

What do you mean by surrender?

 

Hart:

It was like ... One was being honest, like stop trying to fight and act ... You're just lying. So, surrender to lying, but also stop acting like you could win this, like you can get your act together on your own, and you can be a normal person, you can win in life. Stop acting like you're somebody you're not. You're a drug addict at this moment. You don't know what the hell's going on. Stop acting like you do. And you don't know anything. I didn't at the time. So just give it up. Stop trying to pretend you're somebody you're not. I'd rather be clean and be nothing, have no success in life. I'd rather just be clean than anything else. I don't need to worry about my reputation. I'd rather be clean, and everyone can think what they want about me, my family, my friends, they can take it however they want. They can think I'm a fuck-up or an idiot. Being clean is more important to me.

 

 

That was surrendering.

 

Benjamin:

Okay. So, you have the conversation with your parents. You let them know that you have an addiction problem, the substance abuse problem, and they're supportive. What happens next?

 

Hart:

Then I check into a 30 day live in rehab program. It's actually like a 75 day program, but for the first 30 days, you live in a house. You eliminate all opportunity to go get high and stuff, and you just kind of recoup.

 

 

So, I go there. It's in Redwood City, and it was really a relief, and I surprised how I didn't feel self conscious about it or embarrassed. I just was relieved. I was still going through withdrawals, so I was in a lot of physical pain. I didn't sleep for 11 days, but again I didn't really care. The hard part was the treatment, group therapy and stuff, and it was like, "Okay, you want to get real, great. You want to admit you're an addict, great. Let's keep doing it. Let's keep getting real."

 

 

It really pushed you to just start being honest about who you are, flaws and all. That's not easy. It's really scary and difficult. It was a challenging time, but it was really beneficial too.

 

Benjamin:

Before you had gone into program, were your fears about getting clean more dealing with the psychological effects, or the physical effects of stopping your behaviors?

 

Hart:

I think it was more psychological effects because the physical effects I could deal with. I mean, it was horrible, like withdrawals are horrible, but it makes it so much harder when you're hiding them from everybody you know, or who cares about you, so you have to go through all this pain alone and no one can help you because they don't know what's going on with you, and you have to act like you're good when you're not. I think the psychological effects were the big thing. With being honest, I didn't have to hide it anymore. The physical things were awful, but I didn't really feel like getting high for the first two or three months that I was getting clean. I don't think I felt the need. I was still a mess. I was an emotional mess, and crazy things happen, like you start to think you know everything once you got clean. It's like, "I did this."

 

 

I started to get an ego about that, and then you get kind of annoying, maybe even preachy. I did, and I thought I had all the answers after being clean for a few months you're like ... I thought I was just A okay, and it's just a learning process and even now it is. More shall be revealed. But it's all good. It's all for the best.

 

Benjamin:

Tell me about after you go through this program, and you're not getting daily and hourly support, how do you get back on your feet? How did you build your life back, put it back together?

 

Hart:

My mom actually split up with my step dad very soon after I went to rehab. She wasn't happy apparently, and so that happened, and she moved. After I went through my program, I moved in with her for a while, and that was great, because she was really nice to me. She kind of just let me be. I didn't really do much. I went to a lot of meetings, AA meetings and stuff, and I started working out.

 

 

After the first year, I didn't even get a job. I just chilled a lot. I took care of myself, and think that's what I needed. I mean, I was lucky that I got to that, but I think it helped me as well, and I just kind of thought about things a lot and wrote about things and tried to meditate, did a lot of reading. It helped and I started becoming aware of all my issues like, my depression and my anxiety because when you can't get high anymore, everything becomes so amplified, all the things that used to bother me a little bit when I was just in high school, seemed intolerable.

 

 

So, it was a learning process. I got in a relationship very soon after I got clean, which made it a lot harder. It was very painful. We were both addicts. We met in rehab, and we were not that nice to each other because we didn't know how to be. I mean, we couldn't escape it. We stayed clean, which I'm proud of that. That was really good, but I learned that relationships are hard. I have my own issues. This person had her issues, and it wasn't a good idea, but we did it. Whatever.

 

 

That's how we lived our lives before. Whatever. Just because we got clean, we're not going to change that much. It's not like overnight you start being able to make good life choices, just because you stopped doing drugs.

 

Benjamin:

I imagine you were also both probably lonely?

 

Hart:

Very lonely. That's true. We had a lot of fun too. The greatest thing about getting clean since then, is learning how to really do the right thing, make the right choice, and learning how to forgive myself. I'm getting better at that because the instinct is just to beat yourself up to now end, and that really gets you nowhere.

 

 

If you do that, you're going to eventually start using again I think, or I would. You have to just be like, "Alright, I did all of that, said all of that, but what am I going to do? Start using drugs again, and then eventually die. I don't deserve that, so I've got to live. I've got to move on."

 

 

Actually for me, that was the only way to start making better decisions is if I forgive myself for the old ones.

 

 

After a year, I think I finally got a job, which I think relieved my parents. I started working for a caterer I knew, who was in the program. He's such a cool dude, and that was a great job because you got to eat good food and got to walk around and stuff. I liked that.

 

 

Then, my friend told me that he was driving for Lyft, and I was like oh that sounds good to me. I like driving around. I started doing that, and I really loved it, like it's weird. It's work. It's not the greatest thing in the world, and people sometimes treat you like really snobby and arrogantly, but I liked driving around. I got to know the city of San Francisco very well.

 

 

I was grateful for that job and how easy it was. I applied and within a week I was driving and making money. It's just like the commercial said, "Apply and within a week, you'll have money in your bank."

 

 

It's true.

 

Benjamin:

Did you start playing music again?

 

Hart:

I did.

 

Benjamin:

When did that start?

 

Hart:

It started after a year of being clean I think, or maybe seven or eight months. And there's a learning curve to getting back into it. Something about the drug addiction killed my creativity, killed my confidence in stuff, and so it took a while.

 

 

I started playing with some old friends, one who was in a ska band from back in the day. He's a great dude. We played rock and stuff, and I started writing songs, a lot about the addiction. Kind of like, let's just be real about it, they were addictive, and they're some songs I'm proud of. They're kind of heavy.

 

Benjamin:

When you say heavy, do you mean it's heavy rock, like they're distorted guitars, or do you mean the topic is a weighty topic?

 

Hart:

The topic is heavy. I think I was still beating myself up a lot so the lyrics reflected that, and you're just trying to be real, talk about the addiction, being honest, but it was good. It got me back into song writing, and I was playing with my friends. I was playing hard rock music. I did a Kickstarter thing to make my own album, and I made that, and I accomplished that. That was awesome, and I've made three total albums since then.

 

 

I've been sober about, coming up on six years. In about a week, I'll be sober six years. Clean and sober. So, I made three albums, and I'm working on my fourth right now, and it's kind of amazing the way your brain heals, because I was like ... My addiction really made me a lot stupider. I was just dumb. My brain just didn't function as well. The cool thing is getting your brain to start working again, and the more you do things, practice music, or write songs, and memorize things, the more capable I become.

 

 

I used to be able to remember five songs. Now I can remember like 30, and that's awesome. Stuff like that. It's just like, seeing the improvement really feels good.

 

Benjamin:

Tell me, what are you doing today? What keeps you busy?

 

Hart:

I'm going harder and harder in music. I'm really passionate about it. Living in North Carolina at my dad's place because I'm really pursuing music, and it's kind of like an out there thing, trying to be an artist. You've got a really beg, borrow and steal type of mentality. It's not the typical sort of life trajectory and that becomes straining on yourself and the people around you sometimes.

 

 

You really have to learn some diplomacy and learn how to express gratitude and that's what I'm trying to do emotionally in my life, with my dad because he's so great. He helps me. I work out here. I'm doing work for him, and stuff to help out. He's really letting me live here so I can pursue music with my girlfriend.

 

 

I'm just trying to do my best and become a better family member and better musician too because I just really care about it. But the type of music I'm trying to go for is just something that will make me happy when I play it, something that I won't cringe to when I listen to it.

 

 

That's the thing about some of my older stuff that I said was heavier. It's like, okay it felt like it was right at the time, but now looking back, it's kind of hard to listen to, and I just want to make something that's just functional. It lives in the moment and always will live in the moment because that's what I want.

 

Benjamin:

What genre of music would you describe the stuff you're making today?

 

Hart:

It's basically pop music. I like songs that are very catchy and you can sing along to. It's electro, like it's like I'm infusing the ability to make beats, which I learned a while ago with rock music. It's like guitar music, with electric beats and stuff. It's cool. I like it. I think I'm making the best music I've ever made this last year. I'm trying to make it catchy and fun. It's pop music.

 

Benjamin:

Where can anybody that's listening find your music, listen to your catalog?

 

Hart:

My website, hartbothwell.com.

 

Benjamin:

Could you spell it, because I know that Hart is missing a letter for some people?

 

Hart:

Yeah, it's H-A-R-T B-O-T-H-W-E-L-L .COM. All lower case. I guess it doesn't matter, but-

 

Benjamin:

You could use upper case. You can mix them up. Can you get it at iTunes or other places?

 

Hart:

You can look me up on Spotify, and iTunes maybe too.

 

Benjamin:

Great.

 

Hart:

Yeah, I have my first three albums on there.

 

Benjamin:

Great. Well Hart, I can't thank you enough for being brave enough to tell the truth about your experiences, and I'm sure what is emotional, and for I think a lot of people, would be incredibly difficult to be this open. I personally have learned a lot about what addiction means and how it works by talking to you over the past few weeks and hopefully if nothing else, people will find your story interesting and be a little bit more aware of what life is like for people that have an addiction and maybe on some level, people that do have an addiction, this will resonate and show them what the other side is like, but on a personal level. I just really appreciate you telling us the story. I think it's really brave of you, and hopefully anybody that ends up listening to this will check out your website. Go to hartbothwell.com or look you up on Spotify, and they're going to go download your albums.

 

Hart:

My pleasure, man. I feel honored that you wanted to interview me, so thanks.

 

Benjamin:

Alright Hart. Well, thank you so much.

 

Hart:

Of course.

 

Benjamin:

Okay. That just about wraps up season two of A Long Road Home. I hope you've gotten as much out of listening to Hart's story as I did recording it. A few house keeping items before we sign off. If you or anyone you know needs help dealing with drugs or alcohol addiction, there are a ton of resources out there. If you're in need and you aren't sure where to turn, one option is to reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at samhsa.com or you can call them at 877-726-4727. Obviously, you have to be at a point to really be ready to recover. If you have a drug or alcohol problem, or are just looking for some information for someone else, that's one resource you can turn to.

 

 

If you'd like to talk about this podcast, you can send us a tweet @longroadhomepod, which is our Twitter handle. Again, that's four words Long Road Home Pod. As always, thanks to our interview subject. Thank you to Hart. Our sponsor, Pulse, our editor Panos Stupis, and of course to you, our listeners. If you're into this podcast and you'd like for us to produce a third season, please take a minute and rate us on iTunes. We read all the feedback and we'd really appreciate it. Thanks for listening to the A Long Road Home podcast. It means the world to me, and don't forget, until we talk again, take care of each other.