Rock ’n’ recovery: Celebrating sobriety at Hazelfest

“Recovery stories are the best,” said David Campbell backstage at Hazelfest, the fourth annual Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation-sponsored music and healing bash held on the campus of Hazelden in Center City Saturday. Campbell, the event’s master of ceremonies and an addiction technician at Hazelden’s St. Paul location, wasn’t kidding: The daylong festival offered the chance to hear tales of survivors and thrivers and a bill headlined by Cloud Cult and Hippo Campus (interviewed here and here), all of whom gathered under the guiding philosophy that a good time can be had without drugs and alcohol. Under a bright blue sky pocked with billowy clouds, MinnPost took in the sights and sounds of sobriety and serenity:

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Molly and Johnny Solomon of Communist Daughter (sporting matching T-shirts plugging the new arts and recovery support organization Dissonance): “This is the third time we’ve played Hazelfest,” said Johnny. “Personally, it means so much to me because this is where I came when I was at the lowest point in my life

"Hazelden saved my life, and so to come back now as somebody who can hopefully give back and bring people that are at that place, you know… just letting them know that we’re all still on the other side feeling great so maybe they should consider showing up at Hazelden. [Recovery] is not that scary. I think people think, ‘Oh I’d have to give up all these things and become a completely different person,’ and it’s actually not that scary at all. You have to learn to give up something, but you get so much in return. Stuff you didn’t even know you were missing.” 

“All I know is that if you’re in a relationship with someone who is an alcoholic or abusing drugs, an addict, that you yourself need your own recovery,” said Molly. “If it’s in your life and it’s affecting your life, you need to get your own recovery and always take care of yourself first. And know that it’s not your job or responsibility to fix somebody. It has to be their choice, and they have to be ready for that life change.” 

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Kristin Oppold, Prior Lake: “I’m in the program, I’ve been sober just over 30 years now. I was in a meeting, and I was talking to this woman who was Catholic. I’m not Catholic, but she was telling me about the rosary, and right then I said that I was going to develop a Recovery Rosary. It’s based on your own higher power but it follows all the 12 steps of the AA program, like working on your character defects and praying for others and gratitude. And it worked out and that’s how I started my business.” (For orders and more information, contact Oppold at kristinoppold@gmail.com)

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Campbell introduced the Honeydogs and interviewed bandmates/wise guys Adam Levy and Ryan Paul Plewacki about their own sobriety prior to the fest here:

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

David Campbell: “I think people are really freaked out about it, like, ‘Am I an addict because I drink?’ They’re scared of it, and for me it’s like, if you break your ankle you go to the doctor and you get it fixed. If you’re an addict, you go to the doctor and you get that fixed. You learn how to live differently so you don’t re-break the ankle. [Hazelfest] is a great way for people to hang out and realize, once again, that you can have fun in recovery. You don’t have to stay in your house and be some sort of monk – you can still go out and have tons of fun. I mean, I was shirtless at [Guided By Voices] shows, fist in the air, pouring Budweiser on my head and those were great times. But I had to choose to continue doing that and be sick, or get healthy. So now I do this and I don’t pour as much beer on my head, but I still have a good time.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Taryn Strong and Dawn Nickel, Victoria British Columbia, Canada.She Recovers is basically an on-line community of women that started as a Facebook page in 2011 when I was recovering from a particularly bad case of workaholism. I’ve been in recovery for 29 years. I got the drugs and alcohol thing down pat, so I tried some other [addictions], including workaholism,” said Nickel.

“About five years ago was the first time people could connect online in community. I think it had a lot to do with Facebook allowing private and secret groups, so no one could see that you’re in a group or in recovery. And it’s just become a community of women who want a better life for themselves, recovering from all sorts of things. She Recovers is about recovering from all sorts of life challenges. Most of our community is recovering from addictions including alcoholism, but we also have people who are recovering from grief, from burnout, losing their jobs, losing their homes, divorce, losing children, the whole gamut.”

“We really focus on educating women on self-care,” said Strong, a trauma-informed yoga instructor who started the Hazelfestivities with a yoga session for all early arrivers. “Yoga helps with recovery of the body and with helping release what we call the issues in your tissues. We find that a lot of women in our community are recovering from burnout. A lot of them have this guilt that they need take care of everyone else before they can take care of themselves, so we like to give women permission to make sure they’re filling up their tank first before they’re giving it to others.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Nicki Zeidner:Melrose Center is a treatment center for treating eating disorders. The reason we’re at Hazelfest today is because there’s such a high co-occurrence of eating disorders and substance abuse disorders. We have programs that address both. I use the Whack-a-Mole game as an example: They get sober and they find that their eating disorder symptoms increase. We work with other treatment centers to address it all.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Davina & The Vagabonds 

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

“Recovery is obviously a huge part of my life,” said Davina Sowers, leader of Davina & The Vagabonds. “I’ve been recovering for 12 years. I moved to Minneapolis right after I got clean. Being in the business I’m in, it’s a lonely business. I travel with four guys who are normies – people who aren’t built like me and who are capable of having a drink and being OK. So it’s important to me to realize that I’m not alone and that there’s thousands upon millions of people just like me and that the world is bigger than me. [Hazelfest] puts things in perspective for me, just so I can celebrate the fact that I woke up and I’m not sick. You know, I’m a recovering heroin addict for over a decade, so just to be able to celebrate how far I’ve come … that’s why it’s important for me to do Hazelfest.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Gary Stromberg, Los Angeles: “I spent a lot of time working with some of the biggest bands in the world, like the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, and with that came addiction to alcohol and drugs. I was a full-blown heroin addict and I took up scuba diving. I would shoot up and go sit down on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and watch the fish go by and think I had peace, like I had it all figured out. In the rock and roll world, you know what they say? That it starts out as fun, and then it becomes fun with problems, and then it becomes just problems. That was me.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Ernie Nelson and Pam Zuniga: “Gambling can take over your life to the point where you can’t do anything but gamble, or plan to gamble,” said Nelson. “Even when you’re broke, you’re going to friends, neighbors, relatives … selling, hawking, doing everything you can do to get that little dollar to take back to the casino or the pull-tab box or anything. You just have to gamble in order to feel you’re normal. Recovery for me has in part been discovering old or new hobbies, and gardening has been huge for me.”

“The recovery that happens with Gamblers Anonymous is that we’ve become a big family, and we do a lot of things together,” said Zuniga. “That’s where you get your high now: now you don’t have to search for money anymore to be able to get high. Like any addiction, you’re all striving for the same thing and that’s to overcome that addiction by acknowledging a new way of thinking and living.”  

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Jacqueline and Linda Bowker, Minneapolis: “We both volunteered at the water stand today, and this is my first time at Hazelfest and I’m really enjoying it,” said Linda. “Everybody seems to be having a really good time without drinking.” 

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