The Healing Power of Karaoke

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This two-part article was written by Anna David and comes from her blog After Party Chat. A best-selling author and active participant in the health and addiction media circuit, Anna writes about her moving experience with karaoke and it's critical role in her road to sobriety.

I really sucked at karaoke before I got sober. And when I say I really sucked, I mean I really sucked. Unfortunately, I also really liked to do karaoke.

I had friends back then who had genuinely good voices – genuinely great voices, in some cases – but who were, like me, drowning out their every last thought and feeling with alcohol and cocaine. And though the senses of these people were dulled to the point that it made perfect sense to them to hang around me, a person who was literally killing herself with drugs and alcohol, their voices still sounded great when they sang.

I know my ears were drug-addled so I shouldn’t be considered a reliable narrator here but in this particular case I can be because these people were good.

Singing our Lives Away

We liked to go to a dive bar that’s famous in LA for basically being a dive bar that’s been in West Hollywood – a town which wears its gaydom proudly – long enough to have had a sign out front that said, “No faggots.” I pretty much only hung around gay men and other women who loved gay men back then but we were so fucked up all the time and the karaoke selection there was so good and the bathrooms so easy to do coke in (you didn’t even have to go in a stall but could just bust it out above the sink) that we basically ignored the sign and went about our drinking and singing and snorting.

The saddest part of all of this is that one of the guys I hung around then was a genuinely amazing singer – like had-a-record-deal kind of amazing. His voice was angelic and resonant but his dedication to chopping up and snorting lines of coke so extreme that rather than pursuing a dream that he was inarguably put on this planet to pursue, he spent his time hanging around us and then bringing the house down on the karaoke mic at Barneys Beanery.

I knew, even back then, that this was sad. I knew that he should have been in a studio or on a tour bus and not wowing all of us with his Stevie Wonder renditions at 1:30 am on a Wednesday. I knew that being close, personal friends with the Karaoke Jockey, or KJ as those of us in the inner circle liked to call him, was not where someone like him – or any of us – should be. But this was a hard thought to face and I often had bindles of cocaine to distract me from it.

My singing, like I said, was atrocious. But as my addiction got worse – as I forgot all the healthy ways I’d once known of getting esteem and attention and love – I increasingly turned toward things like karaoke to remind myself that I was worth something. That was, of course, before the years when I just sat there in my apartment alone, with no karaoke mic or friends around at all.

Click here to read Part II.

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