Full disclosure: up until about 12 years ago my body was most definitely a moshpit and I did not stay either healthy nor out of trouble on tour. I wasn’t the worst you’ve ever seen, but I’ve certainly woken up fully clothed with a cigarette stuck to my face and a carnage-laden room full of spilt drinks more times than I care to remember. I’ve talked absolute bollocks with people I don’t know as the sun comes up; and day-off drinking – ‘starting early so we finish early’ – was so frequently only 50% effective that it was a running joke.
Look, I don’t regret most of it. I had a lot of fun, but I also had a lot of hangovers and after a while it just started to hurt too much. I learnt fairly early on that if I was going to do it then day-off eve (aka Roadie Friday) was the time, so that at least my work wasn’t affected. But it ruined days off, and the only compensation was the sheer joy of feeling normal again the next day.
These days I believe I’ve found a good balance. I’m still sociable, but I haven’t broken myself for about 5 years. I get to enjoy days off and feel restored, and I feel good about the way I treat my body. After all, this is where I live.
Feeling the need to make some changes? Here’s what helps me.
1 – Get clear on your why.
Ask yourself WHY you want to make a change. But don’t just ask once, do it 5 times. ‘Why do I want to stop breaking myself?’ Because I feel awful the next day. ‘Why?’ Because I feel like I’ve let myself down and I’m not as good at my job (or whatever). ‘Why?’ Keep going with that little exercise, 5 times – it’s really important to get clear on your why.
2 – Picture who you want to be tomorrow.
Then, when you know danger is approaching, try reminding yourself of that. Remind yourself that the only gap between who you are and who you want to be, is what you do.
3 – Have set AFD’s (alcohol-free days).
On a practical level, what works for me is only drinking on Roadie Friday and day-off dinner. The other days are AFDs. So on a school night I either haven’t had a drink at all, or I’ve had a couple with dinner on a day off and been in bed by 10.
4 – Know your limits.
Compared with 30 year-old me I’m a total lightweight – I’m out of practice and I’m very happy with that! When I do drink I limit myself to a set number of drinks – I generally stick to 2 but never go over 4 or I’ll suffer, but you know what your sensible limit is.
If you’re meeting in the hotel bar before going out for dinner, don’t start drinking immediately. Take the opportunity to hydrate yourself with a softie and postpone the first drink till you’re out.
And NEVER go to the hotel bar for one for the road!! Head straight for that lift like the Terminator is behind you and don’t look back!
5 – Give yourself options
I can’t go straight to bed after a load-out – I’m too revved up and I like being social, and there’s nothing quite like a cold beer at the end of a long day. But there are some great alcohol-free beers around now which still offer that ‘glug glug glug ahhhh’ feeling of reward, so I just stock the bus with something that I like to drink that’s not alcoholic. Coconut water and kombucha also feel like a treat because they’re pricey enough that I don’t drink them all the time. If you don’t make a song and dance about it, most people don’t even notice. And if they do, and they try to pressure you, it’s just because you’re holding a mirror up to their own behaviours – it’s not about you, it’s about them, and they may feel threatened by you making a change they know they could probably use themselves. In my experience the ones who take the piss at first are usually the ones who later quietly ask you how it’s working for you and want to get on board!
6 – Join forces
The odds are good that you’re not the only one who’d like to feel healthier. See if anyone else feels the same about cutting back, and team up to keep each other on track – there’s strength in numbers!
7 – Remember that there’s more to life than touring
Things really started to change for me when I got into yoga and writing. Apart from the practical aspect – I have other things I want to do with my day off than go to the pub or nurse a hangover – it helps me to feel connected with a part of myself that can sometimes get forgotten on tour, and that incentivises me to take care of myself.
8 – Keep your nose clean
Whilst it’s not the 80s any more, drugs still put in a fairly regular appearance on many tours. Along with smoking, there’s only really one sensible line to take (pun intended – pun always intended) and that is: don’t. Like cigarettes, drugs are a monumental waste of money and you just hate yourself the next day. Deplete the bank balance in exchange for a hefty serve of self-loathing and creeping paranoia? Thanks, I’ll pass. But if you’re in that crowd and you know you have a rubber arm that gets twisted all too easily, it’s a tricky one to break out of – however, it can be done. One option is to hang out with the people who don’t get involved. The other is to just pass up the offer – once people realise you’re not going to come up with the goods, they won’t be keen to share anyway. Most people will just accept it as long as you don’t come over all Judgey Judge McJudgepants and make them feel scrutinised. If you get grief of the ‘you’ve changed’ variety (why is this always presented as an insult by the way??), you can always invent a minor heart condition – this usually shuts them up pretty fast.
A great incentive is to get a dedicated cash envelope or a sub-account on your bank and shuffle the exact money you would have spent over to it. At the end of the tour, count it all up and treat yourself to something really cool that you’ve been after.
9 – Think of all of this stuff as FREEDOM. Freedom from being a slave to substances. Freedom from being pressured by others. Freedom to do what’s best for you. It’s hard at times, and at first you might feel a bit boring. But the more you do it the easier it gets, and the feeling of being proud of yourself the next day is more than worth it. Being able to look yourself in the eye and feel good about yourself and your new-found freedom – there’s nothing more rock and roll than that.