Op-Ed: Josh Eppard (Coheed And Cambria) on overcoming his drug problem
A half-decade ago, JOSH EPPARD was flying high as the polyrhythmic drummer of Coheed And Cambria, playing sold-out shows, selling hundreds of thousands of records and appearing on magazine covers (see AP 188 and AP 208 for proof). But behind the scenes, he was caught up in a life of daily drug use that cost him thousands of dollars, his career—and nearly his life. Now sober and playing with TERRIBLE THINGS (as well as rebooting his solo hip-hop project WEERD SCIENCE), Eppard shares his story.
If you had asked me when I was 21 if I would ever try heroin, I would have laughed. At the time, the very thought of using a drug like that was ludicrous. Actually, I recall as a teen giving an admitted heroin user quite the hard time over what a “scumbag” she was and how only “dirty” people used a drug like that. Man, how things can change. So without any further hold up, I ask you to abandon all bullshit and follow me as I air it out and tell you guys what it was like to become a drug addict—and even more important, how to become an ex-drug addict.
Back in 2000-2003, my band, Coheed And Cambria, were gaining national attention. I was walking on air. My dreams were literally coming true and, for some reason, that was not enough for me. I wanted more. I started dabbling with painkillers and other drugs until eventually it spun out of control. It started as a fun thing—a “weekend thing” or an “every now and again thing.” Before I knew it, it was an “everyday thing,” a “three times a day thing,” sometimes more. By the time Coheed were at a level beyond my wildest dreams, and everything could not have been going better, career-wise, I was using about $700 to $1000 worth of drugs a day. I may have been the pride of my hometown, but instead of enjoying it and focusing on my craft, I was sinking further and further down a self- dug hole that would take years to even begin to climb out of.
The thing is, I’ll never get those years back. Right now, there is a kid reading this that thinks it’s cool to pop oxys every now and again. Maybe his friends are doing some blow or some dumb shit. Look what it cost me. I laughed when people said I had a problem. I thought it was hilarious. It took me years to open my eyes and realize the kind of people I was with wouldn’t give a shit if I died.
Once this thing spins out of control, you can’t just decide one day to stop. When you invite this into your life, it corrodes everything you love. For me, getting clean was a long and painful process, and I am still crawling out.
Really, the one major thing that helped more than anything was removing myself from the places I knew where to find trouble. Now, that may sound easy, but I’m talking about saying goodbye to lifelong friends and even your hometown. For me, leaving the city where I grew up—Kingston, New York—was something I dreaded and fought.
Looking back, I have to thank my wonderful fiancée, Tammy, and her daughter, Maggie, for believing in my spirit enough to weather the storm and stick by my side. I know I could not have done it without them, and I truly owe them the world.
That said, I still had to face myself in the mirror and stop lying to myself. There were countless times I would halfheartedly try to stop using drugs, but this is a battle that will take every ounce of courage you can muster. Ultimately, the decision has got to come from your heart. Quitting heroin is maybe the hardest thing to do in the world. Feel the anger. Look what drugs have taken from you and those around you. That’s what I did. I finally got real with myself and said, “Okay, this is a problem.” It takes courage to stand up for yourself.
Once you’re ready to quit, find a doctor in your area that prescribes suboxone, by going to suboxone.com. A lot of people abuse the suboxone program, but I know from personal experience it works, and it has saved my ass countless times. After that, find something you’re passionate about. Without music, I wouldn’t be alive. I know that for a fact. When you’re addicted to drugs, you’re not passionate about anything except drugs! Try to remember what it was you loved when you were young and full of life, before the darkness.
So if you’re out there and you bear this burden, please know you’re not alone. This isn’t some marketing campaign trying to capitalize on an angle. I was as far gone as anyone. I’ll have the marks on my arm forever to remind me of how awful those years were. I never thought I would get clean. But here I am, almost two years clean—not very long, really, so I am not gonna sit here and preach like I’ve got this thing all figured out—but if I can do it, anyone can do it.