I totally believe that everything in my life has happened for a reason. There’s absolutely a thread throughout the whole experience, from the loss of my parents, loss of my family, to the brief height of success, to the depth of depravity, to where I am today. I think it took all of that to humble me enough to able to be a half-decent human being, which is really all we can be. All of that, it was God doing for me what I wouldn’t do for myself, what I refused to do. That’s how I see everything that’s ever happened to me. It’s always been in the hand of God taking a shiny sharp object away from me and saying, “No, no, Dallas.”
When I experience a loss or I don’t get something that I think I really need or I really want, it sucks. And then looking back I see, “Oh, that’s why. Because I was supposed to be over here.” There has to be some kind of order to the universe, is what I’m saying. There has to be some kind of power that we don’t understand and shouldn’t even pretend to. All the things I’ve done and gone through to come to this place, to be the guy people trust and invite into their home and share their deepest and darkest secrets with—that’s a miracle. Human beings trusting and bringing out that intimacy in another human being, that’s the hand of God. That’s got to be the hand of God because it isn’t me. Me, I’m a weasel dope fiend.
I accidentally discovered heroin while I was on the road with Stephen Stills and Manassas. I was sitting there and complaining, “Man, I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep.” I’m sitting there doing coke, one line after another. I don’t know why I can’t sleep. A guy said, “Here, try this.” I thought, “Just some more cocaine. What the hell,” and I did it. It was China white and it just put me where I wanted to be.
It’s funny because after I got sober, I remembered an incident with my mother. I was kind of a sickly kid. I had stomach problems, some real, some fake when it came to school. “I’ve got a stomach ache. I don’t want to go to school.” I hated school from the first day. I hated myself and I hated my life, for as far back as I can remember. So my mother brought this stuff home called paregoric for stomach pain. I think you could get it over the counter then, even though it has morphine. She literally had to chase me around the house because it smelled so awful. She got me cornered, and I kind of gagged it down—and I swear to God, twenty minutes later, I went back to her and I said, “Mom, can I have some more of that?” I feel normal for the first time. I didn’t equate it with being high. I equated it with finding that missing piece. The space that always seemed to be empty was filled. That’s what it felt like when I did that first line of heroin on the road. “Oh yeah, this is what’s missing. This is what’s missing.” It was a pain reliever when I was in a great deal of pain.
My career was going down the tubes. I got fired from Crosby, Stills and Nash and Young for a bullshit reason, a power play. Nobody stuck up for me, and that gave me a perfect excuse to lock myself up in my big house up on the hill and commit suicide by cocaine and heroin. I went through a million bucks pretty quick and before I knew it I was out of dough, and I signed away all my rights to all those gold and platinum records on the wall in there. Then I was homeless, with my gold and platinum records, basically living off women I’d meet.
And I just couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop. I just wanted to die because my dream, the thing that I’d counted on to make me happy, didn’t make me happy. Success didn’t make me happy. Being rich and famous didn’t make me happy. And when it hit me that none of it was going to work—that’s when I really hit the bottom in depression. I proceeded to commit covert suicide by using as just as much as I could. I remember coming to with paramedics over me and getting up and walking out after and doing some more. My friends were dying, but I couldn’t kill myself. Keith Moon told me, “Dallas, man, you’re just fucking crazy. I can’t be around you. You got to leave.” And so I ended up in the streets of London. He died right around the time I went into rehab. All my peers died and for some reason I’m still here. I just couldn’t die. I tried.
Around Thanksgiving in 1984, I had a moment of clarity. I was smoking freebase with this homeless guy in this garage. Me and my wife at the time, we lived in this little one-room shack. There’s my gold and platinum records on the wall, in the scummiest fucking neighborhood that you can possibly get to. I had two kids that I wasn’t allowed to see and frankly, I didn’t care. I loved them but nothing mattered but getting high. Nothing. I had been on methadone for ten years, and now I was freebasing with a homeless guy. I decided to get some booze and I went to this liquor store my wife’s uncle owned. When I walked in, they were playing one of my songs over the PA. I said, “Do you hear that? That’s Crosby Stills. That’s me. Somebody give me twenty dollars. Give me twenty dollars because I played on that fucking record.” Everybody looked at me like I was crazy. My wife’s uncle said, “Dallas, you got to leave, man. You got to go. You got to get out of here.”
That was when I had this out-of-body experience and saw how far down I had really gone, and that there was no further I could go. I had hit bedrock. It’s not that I wouldn’t have kept digging if I could have but I’d run out of everything. I ran out of money. I ran out of willingness. I ran out of hustle. It was over. There was no way out except for death.
I made a conscious decision to go back to that little shack, and I grabbed the butcher knife and I stabbed myself in the stomach with it. My wife came in. I woke her up. I remember I said something like, “I’ll show you.” You know, that that’s our addict’s battle cry: “I’ll show you. Fuck you.” She came in and I had stabbed myself, right where they used to commit harakiri, and I remember saying, “If I’m still alive in the morning, take me to the hospital.”
I came to the next morning. It was hot, flies everywhere. We had a bunch of cats. You get one cat, then all of a sudden you have nine cats. “Okay, another cat. Let’s call his one Jack.” Well, Jack was a big, kind of Persian-looking cat, and heavy. I remember he stepped on my stomach and I came to. I came to with Jack stepping on my stomach and I was just absolutely horrified that I couldn’t even succeed at killing myself. I was a failure at everything. I was a complete failure.
My wife got me to the emergency room and of course, the police showed up. I was smart enough to know that you don’t tell the police that you just tried to commit suicide so I said, “Oh, I was trying to open a tool kit with my knife and it slipped.” So they went away. The doctor said it looked like a surgeon had operated on me. I missed the main aorta by one centimeter, and took a little nick out of my liver. Once more time, I couldn’t die.
I’m in this hospital and it’s Thanksgiving and there was absolutely nothing to be thankful about. And this little guy kept coming into my room and just sitting there. I knew who he was. He was one of those recovery people. There was a treatment center just down the street and he worked there. He would show up every day and just sit and read the newspaper. One day I finally said, “What the fuck do you want?” He says, “Well, man, I’m here to try to convince you go to treatment.” I said, “I knew it. You’re going to try to indoctrinate me into that cult.”
So even at that point, even after all the shit I had experienced, I wasn’t ready to surrender. They were giving me my methadone and Demerol and all my favorite drugs so why the hell did I want to leave that hospital bed? It was like heaven.
I was in there a couple of weeks before they felt that the knife wound had healed enough that I could be discharged. They tried to do a little intervention on me with my wife, and for some reason I said, “Okay, I’ll go.” Just to get them off my back, I agreed to go. I was so fucked up I couldn’t walk, so I arrived in rehab in an ambulance. I barely remember it. Later on, I worked for a little while with the nurse who did my intake. She said, “Boy, Dallas, you were… we didn’t think you were going to make it.”
Those first few days, I was like an animal. I hunkered down in a corner and nobody could come near me. I wasn’t going to any fucking groups. I wouldn’t do any of that crap. Don’t you know who I am? Where’s my private room? You know, all that ego stuff, that entitlement stuff that I developed through my little stint with success.
And I was medicine motherfucker man. I was up at the nurse’s station every ten minutes: “I’ve got a headache. I’m sick. I need medicine.” Well, no. I’m a dope fiend. I am a hope-to-die, to-the-curb dope fiend. I cannot be trusted with medication. As an example, let me tell you about my little kidney transplant. I had been doing counseling and therapy for almost twenty-two years, so I’m very astute in this disease. But when I had that surgery and got the drugs, the monster woke up. I started clock-watching. I started saying, “I need some more.” The words just came out of my mouth. I had absolutely no control of it. Thank God my wife had been in recovery twenty-eight years, and she’s a nurse. And my daughter was there. They were in charge of the meds because otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Anyway, I had a rough go of it through detox, and then that day came, the most frightening day of my life when they said, “We’re going to take you off your detox meds.” But at some point, I had come to my senses and realized, “Okay, if I can’t die, then I have no choice but to try to live.” I got a sense of hope from somewhere. I started thinking, “Maybe I can do this. I might as well take this train to the end of the station.”
I think it was the experience of being confined with people you wouldn’t normally hang out with, and then discovering that we have this incredible bond, and it’s us against the world. And I remember they took us to a recovery meeting and the people in there were laughing. They were alive and happy, and I thought, “Wow! This is pretty cool. These guys are okay.” I noticed there was a couple of rock and rollers in there and I thought, “This might not be too bad.”
So it wasn’t the thunderbolt for me. It was these little things that started to build up and give me this sense of hope. Plus there was the absolute terror of going back to that night with the knife because I never want to feel like that again. That night was the magic night. After that I was so terrified that I was in three meetings a day, morning, noon and the night. Sometimes four. Sometimes midnight meetings. I jumped into this with both feet because I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t have anything else to do.
I had a sponsor, an old jazz musician. I kept trying to get back into the music business and it just wasn’t happening. They weren’t having me back. I remember calling my sponsor one night and saying, “Buddy, I don’t know what to do.” He said, “Man, you got to get a job.” I said, “What do you mean, get a job? I’ve never had a job in my life. I wouldn’t know what to do in a job.” He said, “I’ll give you two choices. I can get you a job at Pizza Hut or I can get you a job as a tech on the adolescent unit at this treatment center.” I had no idea what a tech was let alone an adolescent unit, but I knew I wasn’t going to work at a Pizza Hut. Sure enough, somebody would come in and say, “Hey! You’re that guy. Crosby Stills and Nash. It’s a long way down, isn’t it?” So I picked the adolescent treatment center and thus was born my middle life of being of service and helping other alcoholics, addicts and families. That’s where the disease really lies, threaded throughout the family. No one person catches this. It’s a family deal.
But I don’t walk in thinking I’m going to do anything. I just walk in and try to be a channel. Either the universe is going help this person, or this person isn’t going to take the offer. It’s out of my hands. I can’t take credit, nor can I take it personally if it doesn’t work.
That might seem like a cold way to handle it but it’s the only way that I know how to do it. You can come aboard the lifeboat but I’m not jumping in after you, because there are sharks out there.
Been there, done that.
If you or a loved one needs help, please call.
I can help.
Dallas W. Taylor
Certified Addiction Therapist
Labels: addiction recovery, bio, drummer, intervention, interventionist