Alcoholism, Drugs and Drumming

Robert Lawrence Friedman

At 16 years old, John Scalici, a drummer from Birmingham, Alabama, began using cocaine and alcohol. They enabled him to escape from the pain of his home life where expressing emotions was not an option. He began to lose weight and his health deteriorated as his abuse of drugs turned against him. The one light was his drum set. He would drum his despair out of his body. His drums alone gave him strength.

Four years later, he joined a band and, with the bandmembers, continued his drug and alcohol abuse. “Because of the drugs, we thought we were making good music, but in reality, “I was slowly putting nails into my coffin. The drugs were taking me away from my creativity.” For 14 years, John continued on his path of self-destructive behavior.

When John was 30 years old, he woke up one morning from a vivid nightmare in which he had a car wreck. The dream was so real that he jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. The image that he saw changed his life. John’s car was shredded metal from the front to the rear. John, in a drunken and drugged state, had side-swiped five cars on his way home the prior evening, and he hadn’t even realized it.

At this point, John prayed to God for help. He got clean and sober, and despite an emotional rollercoaster ride of dealing with his father’s death and the dissolution of his marriage, he remained so. The resulting renaissance of his creativity led to a record deal for his band.

A subsequent relapse into drugs and alcohol convinced John that playing in a band was not the life for him. He realized that giving back to his community was the way through his despair, and that his true calling was to help others through the drum.

He began a program for school children in Birmingham, Alabama, called “Get Rhythm”. His goals were to help children use the drum to feel empowered and communicate their emotions, as he had done growing up. Best of all, since beginning his programs three and a half years ago, John is still clean and sober. Now as he works with a variety of populations, John not only gets to remember his strength but helps others to remember theirs, as well.