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Interview With Jim Adkins Of Jimmy Eat World

Jim Adkins, lead singer of Jimmy Eat World talks about addiction and recovery.

Estil Wallace:

He was actually in the office when we moved in here, when there was no furniture in the office.

Jim Adkins:

So basically he started the whole thing?

Estil Wallace:

He’s the one who founded Cornerstone.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. The ninja was found by my four … She’s almost five. When she was three I guess at the time. She found it. But I was like, “Where did you get that?” She’s like pointed. She just found it on the floor. It was the only thing in this office and so he stayed. He used to sit on top of the TV and then we got this sign. He just went on top of the sign and he’s sort of like an elf on the shelf.

Jim Adkins:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

We just kind of move him around from time to time.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, spice things up.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, I move him around. So per our last conversation, we have decided to name this The Nameless Recovery Show.

Jim Adkins:

Okay.

Estil Wallace:

So hello and welcome to The Nameless Recovery Show.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. Thanks for having me on The Nameless Recovery Show Estil.

Estil Wallace:

You guys are getting ready to go out of town and go tour some more. Where you’re touring? You’re going to Europe?

Jim Adkins:

We’re going to start off going to Australia.

Estil Wallace:

Australia.

Jim Adkins:

Maybe.

Estil Wallace:

Maybe.

Jim Adkins:

Maybe. We’ll see. We’re going until we’re not. It’s sort of a day-by-day kind of assessment at this point.

Estil Wallace:

And are you guys going to be playing a lot of the new album?

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. Yeah, we’ll be playing stuff from the new album. It’ll be the new album Weighted because that’s kind of what we’re … that’s the reason we’re going on tour.

Estil Wallace:

Sure.

Jim Adkins:

But I know it’s always kind of a bummer when you go see a band play and you …

Estil Wallace:

And you don’t hear your favorite song?

Jim Adkins:

You don’t hear the things that you know from them. So we take that into account when we’re making our set lists. Sure.

Estil Wallace:

Sure. Sure. So in the 555 video which is my new favorite from you, are you going to wear any of the makeup on stage?

Jim Adkins:

Probably not.

Estil Wallace:

Okay.

Jim Adkins:

I sweat a lot. So that would be like a … By maybe the fourth song, it wouldn’t look anything like it’s supposed to.

Estil Wallace:

[crosstalk 00:02:07]

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. I’ll leave the makeup and prosthetics to the professionals.

Estil Wallace:

Oh, that’s fun. I don’t have any written down questions. I do have some questions in my mind, and I really just want to see where this conversation goes.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah man, totally.

Estil Wallace:

My first question is really what was your perception of recovery before you got into recovery? Or better yet, what was your perception of addicts or alcoholics? In your mind, what did a drug addict or an alcoholic look like and were you it?

Jim Adkins:

Well, I mean I don’t think … I mean, I think in the back of my mind I knew that I had the ism of alcoholism going on, but it’s just not anything that I was willing to bring to the forefront of my mind or let alone say out loud.

Estil Wallace:

Sure.

Jim Adkins:

Because then that was real and that would mean change of some kind would be necessary.

Estil Wallace:

Eek.

Jim Adkins:

Because I didn’t want to … I certainly didn’t consider myself an alcoholic or an addict. And if I were to admit that, that would mean that, okay, I’m that. And I guess I had a really vague idea of what an addict might be, as in maybe portrayals of Sid Vicious.

Estil Wallace:

There we go. That’s what I want to hear.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

I want to know what was in your mind’s eye?

Jim Adkins:

Kurt Cobain, like just …

Estil Wallace:

All stage performers naturally.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, stage … My world, you see people getting, like take … There’s no shortage of stories of people ruining their careers and professional lives and passions in the music industry with drugs or alcohol or any combination of …

Estil Wallace:

Tons.

Jim Adkins:

Of bad things. So to admit that would mean that I’m on that road. I didn’t want to be on that road. I wanted to not think that I’m on that road. So it was kind of related to the industry and people around me.

Estil Wallace:

You managed to live and keep partying beyond the age of 27. That’s good. It’s a win.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. Yeah. So it’s like, of course, I might not be an alcoholic because I’m still alive past 27. Like I got this. That’s not me.

Estil Wallace:

What’s with that? Why 27? Why do you rock stars die of drug and alcohol overdoses at 27?

Jim Adkins:

Maybe you think you’re the most invulnerable.

Estil Wallace:

At 27?

Jim Adkins:

And that you got a little bit of knowledge, like, “Yeah, I know what it’s all about,” but you don’t.

Estil Wallace:

And you’re still young enough you could probably recover from most things.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. It’s like that might be your late 20s is kind of where you really got to start watching what you eat and your metabolism slowing down, your body isn’t like … You’re not the invincible 18-year-old on all fronts anymore. So maybe you take more than you can handle.

Estil Wallace:

It’s interesting. I remember over the years growing up and seeing different musical acts, different musicians and artists die around in their late 20s, and I still never equated myself like with that. To me that was what other people did.

Jim Adkins:

Oh, of course. I mean, that’s the whole ego taking over. It’s like the ego trying to protect itself. You’re not like … You’re looking for the differences.

Estil Wallace:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Adkins:

You’re not at all concerned about the similarities. It’s just about the differences and protecting that kind of … Even though you might have absolutely no sense of self-worth, you still think that you’re better than everybody in a weird way or you’re not like them.

Estil Wallace:

I thought I wasn’t as cool as them. To me there was like a mystique around those guys, the Jim Morrisons and all these guys that died in their late 20s.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, I couldn’t possibly be a rock star because they’re all dead at 27 and here I am at 35 chugging along. Yeah, definitely not as cool.

Estil Wallace:

I know I wasn’t, at least not in my mind. So then, prior to getting into recovery, did you know anybody in recovery? Did you know anybody that you knew had carried the same type burden you had, had known the same type of pain and loneliness that actually had turned it around?

Jim Adkins:

Well, I wasn’t sure about their whole story, but I definitely knew some people who were able to stop through taking action and going headfirst into recovery. So it was like I did have that kind of personal example around me in my periphery of friends. But that’s all I knew. I don’t know anything about like … I knew a little bit about what recovery sort of from listening to just Marc Maron because he talked about his experience a lot and has guests on who are like talk about their experience a lot and that-

Estil Wallace:

Are you talking about that podcast?

Jim Adkins:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

The one where the guy dies?

Jim Adkins:

No, not Dopey. I didn’t get into Dopey until like years into doing this thing.

Estil Wallace:

Gotcha.

Jim Adkins:

But like, yeah, especially listening to Marc Maron talk to Michael Keaton about his role in Clean and Sober.

Estil Wallace:

Oh yeah. I saw that movie when I was a kid. My dad made me watch that movie when I was a kid.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. And it’s just sort of like, oh, you know. I mean definitely helped plant the seed a little bit of … There’s always like little seeds that get planted along the way on your active alcoholism path. And that was definitely one of them, was like opened the door to thinking like, “Well, this sounds like they’re better.”

Estil Wallace:

I’m going to look at that interview. I’m super curious now. Yeah, my dad made me watch that movie, that Michael Keaton movie when I was a kid. I don’t know if that was supposed to be some type of diversion tactic. It did not have the effect he was hoping. I was like 13 or something.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. None of the …

Estil Wallace:

I was like this is weird old people.

Jim Adkins:

None of those things like … None of those things kind of quite do it if you’re not ready to hear it. I remember in Cub Scouts having like the DARE officer come in, with their display case of all these drugs. And I don’t know what the point of that was, like to scare you into think, “Oh if you see one of these, you need to tell a teacher, you need to find an adult, you need to say no. Here’s what hash looks like. Here’s like … ” And I was just thinking like, “Oh man, I wonder what those would do.”

Estil Wallace:

Right.

Jim Adkins:

“I wonder what all those would feel like.” I was like, “Oh man. Cool.” It wasn’t be scared of these. It was kind of the opposite.

Estil Wallace:

It’s interesting because DARE I think was a well-intentioned attempt at drug use prevention, but god, they really screwed the pooch on that one. I remember DARE coming into our school, and we were already messing around with weed by the time I encountered DARE and this officer gets up and is like, “Marijuana will shrink your balls,” and I then didn’t hear anything else he said because I was like, “You’re wrong.”

Jim Adkins:

Oh man.

Estil Wallace:

“You’re lying.” Like, “You don’t know.” What else don’t you know about? Basically everything. In our minds, there’s a little group of us that were all little pot heads and we were like, “Yeah, that’s not true.”

Jim Adkins:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

Instant credibility lost. It’s just gone.

Jim Adkins:

It’s kind of like people sitting you down to watch Hell’s Bell: The Dangers of Rock and Roll. Like really? If you took the people that produced Hell’s Bells and put them into the world now, they would instantly have a heart attack and die probably if they saw what …

Estil Wallace:

Just at Target, shopping for shampoo.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, yeah, like listening to what gets played in Target, they have a conniption fit and die.

Estil Wallace:

It’s so funny.

Jim Adkins:

What do you think would be like the … Okay, so it was just like a credibility issue with them, you think the DARE officer and …

Estil Wallace:

That seemed to be the problem in the school I went to with the [crosstalk 00:11:17]

Jim Adkins:

It’s almost like you have an authority figure telling you what to do. A 14-year-old boy is not going to respond well to an authority figure coming in and saying, “You need to do this or you’re going to have tiny balls.”

Estil Wallace:

It stands out.

Jim Adkins:

That’s kind of like an alcoholic or an addict sitting you down and telling you what’s up that’s a lot more relatable when you have that shared experience like-

Estil Wallace:

Yes-

Jim Adkins:

… a police officer coming in is like, you’re kind of on edge anyway. You’re not going to-

Estil Wallace:

“Don’t do drugs, okay?”

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, exactly. It’s like … I wonder what would the actual tools be that you could give kids to have some kind of sense of … It’s a lot bigger of a conversation that you can have in a 30, a 15 minute school program with a guest lecturer person.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, it would be very difficult. I’ve been thinking about prevention measures lately and it is a complicated issue. I’ve got ideas. I’ve got ideas on how it could be presented in a way that could be heard because it’s not the message so much as it is the way it’s presented.

Jim Adkins:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

Because you got to connect with kids.

Jim Adkins:

I think there is some success when you talk about bullying.

Estil Wallace:

Sure.

Jim Adkins:

Like you definitely see kids watching out for other kids and noticing bullying behavior and calling them out on that, and they all, there’s a stigma to that so they all kind of like, “Oh wait, I don’t want to be a bully,” or like, “Oh wait, that is bullying. I shouldn’t do that,” or, “Don’t bully him.” There is that sort of awareness there. So kind of incentivizing behavior that could lead to a sense of self-worth that’s sustainable is possible. I just don’t know. There’s got to be many ways to get there.

Estil Wallace:

How do we teach-

Jim Adkins:

People are probably much better and qualified than me or thinking about it already I’m sure.

Estil Wallace:

But it’s a valid question. How do we teach young people who are just starting to experiment with drugs and alcohol that like, “Hey, getting fucked up his fun, but that you might find it so fun that you won’t live the rest of your life.”

Jim Adkins:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

How do we tell kids that?

Jim Adkins:

I don’t know man. Because it is something that all kids are going to do. They’re all going to be curious about it. They’re all going to have a phase where they might try something. And yeah, it’s going to feel really good. But the thing … But yeah-

Estil Wallace:

I think that’s the problem with the big scared-straight idea. It’s like you tell a bunch of kids that all this stuff is poison with skull and crossbones and then they smoke a little weed with their friends and they’re, “Those grown-ups don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Jim Adkins:

“This is the best day ever.”

Estil Wallace:

“Seriously. Seriously. All these adults are fucking wrong.”

Jim Adkins:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

Drugs are awesome. And they’re sneaking around and now we’re teaching them to keep secrets. And then if they buy drugs on the street, now they’re learning how to commit felonies.

Jim Adkins:

I think, I mean, my thesis is it’s the same fundamentals that you tell adults because adults addicts are kind of arrested development kids when it comes down to it.

Estil Wallace:

Yes, they are.

Jim Adkins:

And it’s really just life fundamentals about where you get your sense of self-worth, the this that really matters is what you’re trying to fill the hole with, with unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs or gambling or pornography or whatever, sex or whatever it is that you’re trying to fill the hole with isn’t doing it. So it’s like that. That’s kind of what you need to … That’s the thing that you need to help people turn the lights on and see. But it’s …

Estil Wallace:

Well that’s at the core of the issue, is these things make it possible for me to live. And that’s the wrong message. And people can take even money, people can take any one of those things, sex, money, drugs and alcohol, gambling. They can take these things, which for the average dude or gal might be a risky sort of dubious fun thing. Like, “Oh, this is kind of a … ” It’s like going to Vegas for a weekend.

Estil Wallace:

But for 15% to 20% of the population who’s got a predisposition for alcoholism, for addiction, it could be a death sentence. You could be finding like you hear so many times in the rooms of recovery and people that write about recovery and sing about it, they’re finding a way to stake their place in the world, they’re finding their identity, they are finding a way to cope with daily life. It’s like, “All right, yeah, getting fucked up is fun sometimes I guess, but do I need to get fucked up? Do I need to drink? Do I need to do drugs?”

Jim Adkins:

Some people have the disposition to take it all all the way and some people can just can drink like a gentleman. Some people … I am not that person. I have friends that’ll pour half a beer out because it got warm.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Jim Adkins:

I don’t understand that, at all. I don’t understand that at all. That’s not me. I never do that.

Estil Wallace:

Nope. I don’t use the little cup with cough medicine. Never in my life, never, never. Yeah, order a drink and not finish it, that doesn’t make … I don’t even understand. It doesn’t make sense.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. You have half a martini left. I’m good. Not. I don’t get it.

Estil Wallace:

No. That seems wasteful. And I’m like that with food too. I got to be careful with portions just that. It’s weird how it’s so similar. I get ice cream in pints for a very simple reason. That’s the serving size. I’m going to eat the pint.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Frustrates me when they-

Jim Adkins:

No, I get you-

Estil Wallace:

… tell you that the pint is five servings. It’s now I got to do math. Why don’t you just tell me how many calories are in this, because I’m going to eat the whole thing.

Jim Adkins:

Right. Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

But that’s-

Jim Adkins:

No, no, true,

Estil Wallace:

That’s how I eat sugar alcoholically. Is the same with drugs and alcohol. Yeah, if we got a bottle of vodka, I don’t know that I’m going to drink the whole thing-

Jim Adkins:

That’s the serving size. But that’s the bottle.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, that’s the serving size. I mean, there’s not some goal in mind. I’m just going to … I want to get fucked up. That’s how much we’ve got.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, no, totally. I’m right there with that.

Estil Wallace:

What do you think got you willing to commit to living a new life in recovery because it’s, like you already said it’s scary.

Jim Adkins:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

There’s a lot of fear around it for many different angles. You’ve got the fear of stigma. Will this harm my reputation? You’ve got the fear of what if this actually works and my whole life changes? You’ve got the fear of what if I try and fail.

Jim Adkins:

I don’t think it was any of those things. There wasn’t necessarily a fear of a stigma because musicians all the time come out as addicts or alcoholics, and that doesn’t really affect your perception.

Estil Wallace:

That’s good. You’re in the safe zone there.

Jim Adkins:

People sort of expect that you’re complete wasted away anyway.

Estil Wallace:

That you might want to party backstage after this.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. So it’s like a … You’re guilty until proven innocent as far as being a wasted away worthless party animal person. So it wasn’t necessarily that. I think it was just fear of what happens because that’s totally unknown. It’s like I control this. And if I take that away, yeah, I’m driving the ship into the ground but I’m the captain.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Jim Adkins:

It’s the letting go of control. What happens on the other side of that if I do have to admit to myself and really breathe that in, sit in that bathtub full of admission that I’m an alcoholic. That’s an entire life encompassing thing to admit.

Estil Wallace:

So what got you over the edge?

Jim Adkins:

The seriousness of it wasn’t lost on me leading up to it, and that was kind of scary to think that after that if I’m willing to … But I guess I kind of did know that. I just wasn’t really ready to do anything about it.

Estil Wallace:

Right. Well, so then what pushed you? What was the straw that broke the camel’s back? What was it that finally got you to say, “Fuck it. I’ll try this. I’ll try and get sober”?

Jim Adkins:

Everything I wanted wasn’t coming my way anymore, and it was is the happiness, it was no longer a party, it was no longer … When you’re drinking a six pack to get started for your day, it’s not fun, it’s not glamorous, it’s not a party. It’s Wednesday.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Jim Adkins:

And it’s 10 a.m. And really? That’s how you’re going to … I mean, I guess I just kind of stopped believing my own lies about it that this was okay, that this was something normal or even sustainable. My relationships in my life were suffering. I wasn’t really … I mean, I knew that my parenting was definitely nowhere to be seen and my work itself was starting to suffer.

Jim Adkins:

The one thing that was kind of keeping me going through all of it is like I was having, it was less and less reliable, being able to perform, being able to sing, being able to write. It’s like if you actually do listen back to some wonderful idea you have when you’re wasted and then listen back to it later like, “What?” It’s like some scat thing, Oh, in my head I hear this … And I listen to that later on, it just sounds like an insane person on the bus. But yeah, so I mean, nothing … It wasn’t doing what it once did and it was just the parent that if I wanted anything different I’d have to do something different. I was just kind of in a state of willingness that I was ready to admit to strangers that I had a problem and that I wanted to do something about it.

Jim Adkins:

And also, the example of people around me who had changed was definitely like a, “Okay, I don’t know what to do anymore because I can’t stop. I don’t know what to do. But they’ve done something. So what did they do? I’ll do that.” It’s sort of that simple. And then I got clued … I got introduced to you and introduced to really strong fellowship group of people in the Phoenix area to take it seriously and do the work and just kind of follow along with what they’re doing.

Estil Wallace:

And it works.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, I got results. I did some work, got some results.

Estil Wallace:

Then fast forward a little ways. Early recovery, as I’ve gone back and listened to your music pre sobriety and then in early stages of sobriety because I think you released an album somewhere in your first year or so.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

And then subsequent albums. I think you’re a great lyricist and you’ve done a good job of …

Jim Adkins:

Oh thanks.

Estil Wallace:

Of poetically putting out the stuff that’s going on your head. And I guess that’s what it’s all about as a rock star, is to make art out of this stuff that’s going on. But as I listen to it, I can hear, I can hear your journey progressing.

Jim Adkins:

Oh sure.

Estil Wallace:

How did it feel that first album in recovery, writing that down? Did it just flow out? Was that pent-up energy waiting to come out? Were you like, “I’m going to make this about recovery”? Because it’s not a recovery album, but I can hear recovery in it just because I know you and I listen to the music and I’m like, “Oh, I see what you did there.”

Jim Adkins:

Right, yeah.

Estil Wallace:

How intentional was it or did it just come out like all the other albums?

Jim Adkins:

It’s just about … Every record that we do, it takes us about three years to put out a record. And that hasn’t been an intentional plan of ours but it just seems to work that way.

Estil Wallace:

It’s just that’s your cycle?

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, yeah. So there’s a decent amount of life to talk about or to think about in between those things. And that’s just kind of like what was going on with me. It’s like this is just … The process itself wasn’t much different than how we’d approached any other record.

Estil Wallace:

Sure.

Jim Adkins:

I mean we’re talking about Integrity Blues. It was the first record that we wrote where I was totally sober.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, I mean that’s what was going on. It’s sort of a document of what’s happening in the years between the last record, the last thing I wrote. I mean really is, and that could go in any number of directions, but really it was tough to think about anything other than just the fundamentals of recovery. Everything else seems sort of like I just saw instantly through my own complaining, and then I couldn’t write about that. It’s like get going on something like, “Oh man, this is so messed up. I feel so bad about this. Wait a minute. Here’s what’s wrong with that, and here’s where … Really? Here’s where you’re wrong in that.”

Jim Adkins:

It’s like I saw through it instantly, so it was, “All right, well then what do I want to say?” It’s like, “Well, what’s behind that?” That was what was interesting to me, and that kind of got to really the fundamentals. In a way it’s not that different from some of the earlier things that I was working on, but just didn’t have the intentionality to address it head-on.

Estil Wallace:

And you’ve had greater insight as you’ve aged, right?

Jim Adkins:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

So in each album there’s … it’s a little bit … It’s got a layer of sophistication that’s added with age and you become a better storyteller as time goes on. You get your points across in a more simple fashion.

Jim Adkins:

It’s a combination of just the things I’ve learned through taking that kind of somewhat scary willingness to look at my life honestly mixed with just what happens when you get older. I think it’s a confluence of both of those things. And building on what I’ve learned through my experience of just working out music.

Estil Wallace:

Sure.

Jim Adkins:

Every time you write, you learn something about writing no matter what you’re writing about. Any time you look for something to write about, you learn about yourself. So it’s like that’s just what happens with time and experience and keeping doing this. So it’s like combining all those things together, you get whatever, you get our last two albums really.

Estil Wallace:

The last time you and I sat down and talked, we were talking about, I can’t think of the name of the song. You have this line in the new album talking about preparing for a title fight with only montage training.

Jim Adkins:

Oh, yeah, yeah. It’s a song called Diamond.

Estil Wallace:

Diamond. Excellent piece of music. All compliments aside, I love that line. It’s really, really good. I found myself feeling. If I look back through my life, I’ve felt that a bunch of different times. It’s not a feeling I have constantly, but when I heard you say it, I was like, “Wow, I really identify with that.” I’ve got a title fight and I’m barely ready if I could even say I’m ready.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. Yeah, I mean it’s … That song is about the … It’s about a couple things but it’s basically about the … This is all just a process over time. That’s how anything changes, that’s how anything gets better. And it’s about the small victories kind of building and building a building, and letting that in. We have such a problem. I still have such a hard time letting the small victories in.

Estil Wallace:

Because you wanted to be a Facebook type success.

Jim Adkins:

No, I mean because …

Estil Wallace:

Looking for big moments.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, you want the finish line, but it’s really not … I mean so much more of your time is spent working really hard with no one clapping and no one else around and no one even knowing that you’re putting the work in.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Jim Adkins:

So it’s like that is where you’ve got to find the reward in what you’re doing because that’s going to be 99% of your time. It’s like your finish line, your finish line comes. You’re done. That’s it.

Estil Wallace:

It’s the beginning of-

Jim Adkins:

That’s it? No.

Estil Wallace:

End of the game is the beginning of the next thing.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. So it’s all you really have is your effort and time. That’s where you have to find the reward in doing anything at all.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. And I don’t know what produces that mind frame of if I don’t win right out of the gate, then I suck at life. I don’t what produces that mindset, but I feel a lot of people are probably guilty of that.

Jim Adkins:

Oh, it’s like self-

Estil Wallace:

Are handicapped by it.

Jim Adkins:

Self-sabotage.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Jim Adkins:

I mean, it’s because of your … It’s just a lack of self-worth and a fear of rejection.

Estil Wallace:

And fear of failure.

Jim Adkins:

But no. I mean, really? Who cares? So you didn’t accomplish that. If there’s anything I’ve learned in doing music for 26 years somewhat professionally now, it’s however many people you think care more, don’t. Really. Taylor Swift selling out stadiums. More people don’t care. However big you are, more people don’t care. And it’s this weight you’re putting on yourself to be flawless right away and then seizing that ambition or goal because you’re not flawless right away. And worse, taking-

Estil Wallace:

That’s dangerous-

Jim Adkins:

… taking that, basically encountering, and this is really a tricky thing no matter what stage you’re at, but taking that first sign of resistance as a sign of worthlessness or a sign of failure or a sign of, “Yeah, I guess, no one’s going to like this anyway,” or, “I guess, I just can’t do this anyway.” At the first sign of resistance when something feels hard, like …

Estil Wallace:

And as you say that, I’m transposing that over relationships, I’m transposing it over entrepreneurship, I’m transposing it over fitness. Hiding anything. It’s like, “Oh, I suck at this, I just suck at life.” And it just goes straight from minor speed bump to total nosedive.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, yeah. It’s like, “Oh man, I ate that whole pint. I guess I’ll eat this tray of brownies too while I’m at it.” It’s like, “No.”

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, that type of mentality.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, or …

Estil Wallace:

Super self-defeating.

Jim Adkins:

Like, “I drank last night. Well, I guess I’m going to the bar first thing right now.” It’s like if every single moment is a unique opportunity and you forget that, that at any point you have a choice, you can do something that’s … You could do anything you want at any moment. It’s like you’re not stuck in what has happened before. You’re never. And that’s no matter what kind of lies you’ll tell yourself. You can do … I mean, you might not exactly meet the expectations you’re setting, but you can move in that direction.

Estil Wallace:

And I think that’s the takeaway. Even from that song, that’s what I’m taking away from it. It’s like, “You know what man? Sometimes life’s fucking hard and the things that I’m aspiring to are difficult.”

Jim Adkins:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

“And I will take time and I’m not going to be great at everything I try the first time. In fact, I’m going to suck at a lot of stuff until I practice.”

Jim Adkins:

You might never. You might never play flawless, sight-reading flawless piano. But you can get better.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. I can get better.

Jim Adkins:

That’s everything. You’re never going to be Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime or you might not be, but you can get better. You can definitely. Being satisfied with incremental progress is so important, and letting that in and letting that build your resolve to take on the next incremental challenge.

Estil Wallace:

It has so much to do with being right sized. I think a lot of people, maybe more alcoholics fanatics than others, but maybe not. Maybe it’s just a thing with humans. But it seems we have such a hard time being right-size where it’s, “Oh, I’m either more than, I either overvalue what I bring to the table or I drastically undervalue what I bring to the table.” It’s this balance of finding where I am right now in this current state and knowing that things can improve incrementally if I put in the effort. And I don’t know how much. And not hitting myself over the head with a club if I fail or if I don’t win as much as I think I should.

Jim Adkins:

I think these thoughts and these impediments to feeling a sense of self-worth, they are universal I mean. But I think it’s especially, it’s life and death for an addict or an alcoholic, but the underlying theme to that, even for the normal person will pour out half a beer, they still struggle with the exact same thing. I was kind of struck once I started really feeling like recovery was clicking for me, like I got it.

Estil Wallace:

How long were you sober when you felt like that?

Jim Adkins:

Almost right away. Almost right away. We can talk about that in a minute, but I started looking at the things that the self-help industry were saying were basically paraphrasing stuff that I would hear at every meeting. It’s the same thing. The fundamentals are exactly the same, except it’s free. To invest fully in recovery is free. It doesn’t cost anything. You could get any … I think it could help anybody, but it’ll save your life if you’re an alcoholic. That’s just where it’s at.

Jim Adkins:

For me, it didn’t click early on because I think I had such a great initial acceptance of my situation. I was like, “Okay, this is what I’m doing, then this is what’s real.” I really heard myself when I would say it out loud. My threshold between in control and out of control is going from zero to one. What’s that mean? That means that it’s just not an option for me anymore. It just really isn’t. So what am I going to do? What am I going to do about that? What am I going to put in that place? What am I going to do? So it’s like here’s what I have to do.

Jim Adkins:

And I got that sense of incremental progress, that reward from incremental progress right away, in just making that step of admitting and conceding that I was an alcoholic, and everything that that meant is like that’s me. Doesn’t have to mean that … It just means you have to do different things. It doesn’t mean that you’re less of a person or you have intrinsically less self-worth. But it means you do have to do some different things than what you’re doing.

Estil Wallace:

Well, yeah, it means you have a disease that needs to be treated.

Jim Adkins:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

It sounds like you surrendered totally. There was a page turned and you were like, “All right, this is … I’m going to deal with this now.”

Jim Adkins:

Right, right. And I think also from songwriting, what you do is you ask yourself. I mean, how I approach songwriting it’s you ask yourself. Something pops in your head and it’s interesting in a way or you walk past it and back up and have to look at it again because it’s interesting. Something catches your attention. And then you ask yourself a question about that. And that leads to maybe one or two different answers which you ask yourself more questions about, and then you have this, carry that on for a while and you end up with a giant tree of your thoughts, your feelings, your whatever is going on with you. And that leads to creating something.

Jim Adkins:

So I have been kind of conditioned to that sense of reward from self-examination. And the rewards I got from admitting that I was an alcoholic and taking action were I could see that reward immediately in how I felt. First off, I wasn’t like I was instantly rewarded with the physical separation between alcohol of not feeling a waste away in the morning and having to drink. That felt better. And I had something to do in its place. And doing that thing led to feeling even better. So it’s like I was able to take in the incremental reward from taking the incrementally hard tasks, and that kept me going, it kept me going. “What’s next? Oh, this is so cool. Oh, yeah, this is great. This is interesting. This is adventure.” Saying yes to this is brand-new. And what comes on the other side of that is something that I would never have experienced before, and that was a reward in itself, just a new experience.

Estil Wallace:

That’s interesting when you say it that way because when I look back at my recovery journey, I feel similar, like it really was an adventure and it still is in many ways. There was so much fear behind it. But as I continued, I started to have some faith that the outcome of whatever this next thing is I’m up to is probably going to be positive. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but it’s probably going to be better than what I am doing.

Jim Adkins:

Right. And even if it’s not, it’s going to be entertaining. It’ll be entertaining. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but who knows? “Hey, no one showed up to speak today. Do you want to speak at this meeting?” Like, “Okay. Yeah.” And then you do it and you don’t die and you learn something about yourself and you think. And maybe someone comes up to after you say, “Man, I really liked what you said there. I was totally thinking the same thing.” That’s rewards. Is like, “Oh well, I did this thing that I never thought I would be able to do, and I didn’t only accomplish that, but I got … I helped somebody with it,” or I-

Estil Wallace:

[inaudible 00:41:01]

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. It’s like this is something I didn’t even know that I valued, and now, “Oh. Wow. I’m that guy?” Like, “Whoa. I’ve never thought I would be that.” And that was a reward.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. And there’s so many ways that those rewards come, and a lot of them come in the form of connection like that example you just gave where we connect with people, people that we otherwise wouldn’t in ways that we otherwise wouldn’t. And then likewise with our family, friends, colleagues, people we work with. We can connect with them in a deeper way, in a more meaningful way.

Jim Adkins:

Right. One of the first things, one of the things that I did in early recovery to kind of … I mean, I also kind of understood it right away that recovery is about what you’re going to do, not what you’re trying to avoid, because I’d spent a long time trying to avoid and it wasn’t working too well. Like, “Don’t drink. Don’t drink. Don’t drink. Don’t drink. Don’t drink. Don’t drink. Don’t drink.” That doesn’t work.

Jim Adkins:

What works is like, “Okay, so you’re in a situation where there’s drinking. What are you going to do?” “Okay, well, I am going to order a club soda and I am going to just be … ” I mean one of the things that really was an eye-opener that I hadn’t really done before is everybody I come in contact with, I’m going to be as present as possible, I’m going to make it the interaction not really about me but just be as present as possible with everybody I come in contact with. And that was an intentional thing that I would do. Instead of trying to avoid drinking, I would be as present as possible with everybody I came in contact with. And that was such a crazy rewarding experience like, “Oh.”

Jim Adkins:

And when you’re present with people, it makes them feel good and you get that feedback from them immediately. It’s kind of like, “Oh, man. This is different. I never thought that this would … This feels good being able to do that.”

Estil Wallace:

It’s a huge insight and helps deepen your connection with other people.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. I mean, and that’s kind of like …

Estil Wallace:

As you say it, I’m already reviewing my own behavior and I’m like, “I suck at that. I should do that more.”

Jim Adkins:

I mean, it’s sort of like, “Yeah.” And even the very first meeting I went to in recovery was like, it really … You can walk up to anybody and say your name and hi and they’re totally cool, right back at you. It’s really … I mean, that’s kind of what the connection is what it’s all about. And building that connection in different ways that you’re able to in your life.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t connect with people in a meaningful way prior to recovery. Not that I didn’t want to because I did. I think I told myself because I was so bad at it. Like, I told myself I didn’t want to, that I would rather be alone, that I would rather be by myself, but it’s not true.

Jim Adkins:

Right, because you can control isolating.

Estil Wallace:

Right.

Jim Adkins:

You’re driving that ship into the ground when you’re isolating.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Jim Adkins:

Like I’m in control. It’s a control power grab to isolate.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Jim Adkins:

But the thing is you don’t have … It’s not, again, like failing to meet your own expectations and the negative reward cycle that comes in with that. It’s like forget about that. Your only goal is just to be present. Forget about what happens. Forget about the outcome. Just listen to somebody. Look them in the eyes, listen to what they have to say. Maybe follow up on a thing or two that they say, and just try to really understand where they are right now. That’s good.

Estil Wallace:

It’s huge.

Jim Adkins:

That’s how you get good at connecting with people, is you just listen. You take your side of it out of the picture entirely.

Estil Wallace:

I don’t know about all of England but definitely in London, they look at you and go, “You all right?” And it took me a week to be like, to get it. They’re not asking me if I’m physically okay. They’re just doing the US version of how are you.

Jim Adkins:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

Which …

Jim Adkins:

You start breaking down, “No, man.”

Estil Wallace:

The first time somebody’s like, “You all right,” I was, “I think so. I mean, yeah, I’m good. I’m all right.” And then after a week I was like, “Yeah, good. How are you?” They’re like, “Good.” And I got it. And it was one of those reminding moments for me that it’s just a salutation and how often we say that, we ask each other how we are, and I don’t fucking care how you are. I’m just saying hi. And …

Jim Adkins:

It’s an automated kind of thing.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. And taking the time to actually ask someone how they’re doing and here’s … All right, so here’s a weird thing. I will sometimes ask someone how they’re doing and with the intention of actually being present, hold the space and finding out how their day was. And their knee-jerk reaction is, “I’m great. How are you?” It’s like …

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, it’s the 14-year-old coming home from school. “How was school?” “Good.”

Estil Wallace:

But I think we’re all so conditioned to that.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Shit, somebody asked me how I’m doing. I just, I respond with what I expect they expect, which is, “I’m good. How are you?”

Jim Adkins:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

And I’m always surprised, and they’re like, “No, seriously, how was your day?” And I’m like, “Oh, you actually want to know what my day was like? Wow. Okay. We could talk about that I suppose. How was your day?”

Jim Adkins:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

“Did you work? Did you have the day off? Did you hang out with the kids?”

Estil Wallace:

Now that you’re years, many years into your journey, how do you, and you spend a lot of time on the road. How do you take this new life with you when you travel?

Jim Adkins:

Look, it’s kind of the same thing as it was early on. I guess I quit drinking a month into … like a month before we went on a year-and-a-half of touring.

Estil Wallace:

It’s perfect timing.

Jim Adkins:

I know. It’s great. Yeah. But it worked because there’s no shortage of new places to look to that adventure exists. Every day you’re in a new city. Every day you’re around completely different people. It’s like there’s all this experience you’ve never really had before that is waiting for you to just be present and take it. So it was really easy to not drink that early on, because I had that plan in place of like of what I was going to do, not what I was going to avoid.

Jim Adkins:

If you’re doing this thing right, you’re just so busy with what you’re doing, you don’t have time for that negative voice to come in and start telling you what you shouldn’t do and how you’ll never actually really be able not to do it, so you might as well do it.

Estil Wallace:

How easy was it to find other people in recovery abroad?

Jim Adkins:

Oh, that’s super easy. I’ve been to meetings all over the world now. It’s kind of like a new form of tourism in a way.

Estil Wallace:

Let’s see what the drunks are like in this town.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. No really, because it’s everywhere. If you have a smartphone, you can find a fellowship that specifically addresses almost any ism that might be expressing itself in your life anywhere in the world.

Estil Wallace:

It’s pretty rad.

Jim Adkins:

Multiple times a day usually and in different languages. So if you’re willing to look, there’s a lot of … I’ve been on a lot of adventurous runs looking for meetings. Sometimes not-

Estil Wallace:

Likewise.

Jim Adkins:

Sometimes not in the best part of town and probably not ending up with people I would hang out with normally, but that’s …

Estil Wallace:

That’s the adventure.

Jim Adkins:

That’s completely the reward of going into the unknown. And whatever comes on the other side of that is awesome. It’s really not … I mean, and it’s fearful at first, but no one asks you to do everything right away. It’s something you build on and you take a little bit that you, like I said before, everything builds on itself until you are taking gigantic leaps and success or a negative outcome at the end of that you’re okay. But no one’s going to ask you to do that at first.

Estil Wallace:

No.

Jim Adkins:

If you’re thinking about … You might be thinking about looking more into anything that we’re talking about here.

Estil Wallace:

There are a lot of people out there in the world that are not getting into recovery even though they desperately need it and desperately want it for a number of reasons. If there’s somebody that’s watching this and they’re teetering on the edge, maybe they have been for days, maybe they have been for years, but somebody’s watching this and they’re going, “Fuck man, one of these days I need to do this too,” what would you say to somebody that’s struggling right now?

Jim Adkins:

I would say I get it. It took me a real long time to take any meaningful action. There’s a lot of fear about what would be on the other side of that. I totally understand.

Jim Adkins:

No one’s perfect. No one’s going to do this thing perfectly. It’s not about being perfect though. It’s about a reduction in self-harm. If you could be happy with things getting just a little bit better, you’ll probably like it and you’ll probably take … you’ll probably see what happens if things can get a lot better. But it just starts with a willingness what the most insurmountable problem can always be broken down to what you have willingness to do.

Jim Adkins:

I’ve been on the phone with people before who are like, “Man, I’m not getting out of bed today. I don’t know what to do. I’m just kind of … I’m totally lost. I don’t … I’m not leaving my house.” It’s like, “Well, do you have the willingness to … ” Okay, maybe they don’t even have the willingness to get out of bed. Do you have the willingness to close your eyes for a second and maybe just breathe and make a promise to yourself that you’re not going to think about how you’re not willing to get out of bed? Can you breathe with your eyes closed for 10 minutes? Can you do that? Okay, all right. Then okay, then maybe do you have the willingness to get out of bed? Maybe they do. Do you have the willingness to make your bed now? Do you have the willingness to brush your teeth? Maybe take a shower?

Jim Adkins:

It’s like there’s always a place you can break it down to where you do have willingness to move in the direction of progress. And that’s just a person-by-person thing and no one’s going to judge you for if it’s just a little bit or if it’s a lot. Because everyone’s starting at different places and everyone has a different set of what they’re willing to do and what they aren’t. And that’s okay.

Jim Adkins:

Maybe you’ll go to a meeting but you’re not willing to stand up and tell strangers that you’re an alcoholic. But maybe you’ll go and you’ll see someone stand up and that will say … And watch them stand up and then sit back down again and stay alive, then that will give you some sort of-

Estil Wallace:

Not burst into flames.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. Yeah. I think that if you are feeling that way, when you are able to take that step of willingness no matter how small, there’s somebody else that isn’t. And by your example you can show them it’s okay that they can. And if you’re willing to look at life that way, then I mean that’s what they … To me that’s what the psychic change that comes with working recovery is all about.

Jim Adkins:

Start looking at things for where you can contribute rather than what you can get out of it, and you’d be surprised at how much you actually get.

Estil Wallace:

Speaking of psychic change, how much different if you could quantify, how much different is your life? Granted you still play guitar for living, but how much different is your perspective in your life now that you’ve had a psychic change?

Jim Adkins:

Oh man. It’s 100% different.

Estil Wallace:

It’s not like 10%.

Jim Adkins:

I mean yeah, I do … It’s like 9000% different. No, I mean it’s like … I’m able to really take in a sense of gratefulness for being able to have the opportunity to do what I do. And smaller and smaller things mean more. Smaller and smaller things are bigger and bigger rewards to continue to do what I’m doing. I’m definitely able to see that especially now there’s so much competition for your time. Anybody taking the time to sit down and really digest something that I’ve worked on is a huge compliment. I don’t expect that, but I’m definitely grateful for it.

Estil Wallace:

Well, it’s good music so.

Jim Adkins:

Oh thanks. Well, I work hard at it.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, it’s good music. Well, my hope is that talks these will help people like us out there that have not found their way to the sunshine yet, have not found their way in out of the rain yet. So I deeply, deeply appreciate not just the music that you make, the countless hours and years that you’ve put into service to others for free and for fun, but I just appreciate you being here today and just talking about real shit with me. I really do.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

And thank you for the t-shirt.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, yeah, of course. Yeah. It’s kind of like … It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time because really it’s like this is the only thing that means anything to me anymore now. It’s like what’s behind the problem, what’s the real solution. It’s kind of all I can think of. I reframe everything that comes in my life through the lens of recovery now.

Estil Wallace:

It’s wild, right?

Jim Adkins:

It’s totally wild. But I’m always rewarded by that presence of mind and that intentionality behind the actions.

Estil Wallace:

In my view it was this ancillary thing I was going to try that probably wasn’t going to work. I didn’t know it was going to change everything and become the focal point of my existence.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah. Well, it’s like you hear people with some time in recovery talk about how the whatever program they’re in has given them a “life beyond their wildest imagination.” And it’s sort of like, it makes sense on a real practical level because you’re doing things that weren’t your idea. You’re going to end up in a place that is beyond your imagination. And the shocking thing is, is I think for me anyway when you really get on the other side of that, you discover that you value things that you had no idea that were important, you discover that the reward from spending time in the unknown and your sense of fear diminishing and it’s just, it’s really incomprehensible if you’re on the other side of that looking up at it and being in a paralyzation from fear.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Jim Adkins:

It’s a wild ride. It’s crazy but it’s like, it feels like truly living.

Estil Wallace:

It does.

Jim Adkins:

I was a passenger in my own body for 36 years and now I’m awake.

Estil Wallace:

That’s why they call it a spiritual awakening.

Jim Adkins:

I guess so. You should write that down. That’s a good one.

Estil Wallace:

You should write that down. You should write a book about it. It’s pretty awesome. Like I said, you’re of service to a ton of people. In addition to the wonderful music you write and play, you help people all the time, and just want to say thank you for all that you do man.

Jim Adkins:

Yeah, yeah, thanks a lot man. Likewise, thanks for having me on.

Estil Wallace:

Should we hug? Should there be music?

Jim Adkins:

I don’t know. What’s going to happen underneath this?

Estil Wallace:

I don’t know.

Jim Adkins:

Surprise me when it comes out. We’ll see.

Estil Wallace:

Okay.