“I was destined to be an alcoholic”

Amy Ray, left, and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls get brutally honest about addiction, internalized homophobia and how their music still resonates with the queer community. (Photo: Leah Puttkammer/Getty Images)

Amy Ray and Emily Sailers, who form the lesbian folk-rock duo The indigo girlsopen up about addiction, recovery, and how their music continues to be a beacon for the LGBTQ community.

The musicians recently sat down with Glennon Doyle for his podcast We can do hard thingsduring which Saliers, 59, opened up about his years of alcohol addiction and how his drunken antics nearly caused Ray, 58, to quit the band.

“I was destined to be an alcoholic,” Saliers said, acknowledging that alcoholism runs in her family. “I didn’t know that. When we were playing in bars and stuff and doing shots from the stage – that was when we were babies – and drinking was such a social part of what we were doing for the work, and then I had a very social life. I thought I was an extrovert, but I was really just an alcoholic.”

Saliers goes on to explain that due to the overconsumption of alcohol, his behavior eventually became unruly. Soon this began to become a liability for the band.

“Amy can attest to how terrible it was when I was drinking,” she shared. “All the excuses I made, my irresponsibility, not showing up [to work]. But I was terrified. I think all alcoholics are terrified of admitting they’re alcoholics.”

Saliers added: “Everyone knew I was screwed and dying, and Amy was going to leave the band. Everything was falling apart for me and I tried so hard to hide it – and you just can’t.”

After Ray made several attempts at intervention, Saliers’ family and friends eventually staged an intervention that saw her spend three months in rehab. Looking back, she says the experience saved her life.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she says of sobriety. “It’s so hard sometimes, you just want to get out, you know, fast, and you can’t anymore. You have to sit through a lot of discomfort and the other thing I’m learning now is that I lost a whole chunk of my development – ​​intellectual development, my evolution as a human being, I just deprived myself of that back when I was drinking so hard.

“So now I feel a lot of catching up and I feel a lot of unworthiness because I’m late,” she explained. “But being sober, waking up feeling great, knowing you’re not self-destructing, knowing you can be, like, now I’m responsible to Amy, responsible to do we. To everyone and my family. I never would have had my wife [Tristin Chipman]; she would have left me, she was going to do it. Or my child. All the best things in life come from sobriety.”

Ray and Saliers, whose last album Look long came out in April, couldn’t help but acknowledge their contributions to advancing LGBTQ rights and visibility in music as well.

Despite their iconic status in the community, the two admit they still deal with internalized homophobia.

DECATUR, GA - FEBRUARY 15: (Image has been digitally enhanced) Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers return to where they started for a very intimate performance at Eddie's Attic on February 15, 2018 in Decatur, Georgia.  (Photo by R. Diamond/Getty Images)

Ray and Saliers giving an intimate performance at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Georgia in 2018. (Photo: R. Diamond/Getty Images)

“I felt like at some point the bubble burst, I hated myself for being so masculine,” Ray shared of her sexuality when she was younger.

“It’s internalized homophobia,” she added. “It means you’re scared of who you really are and sometimes you don’t want to face it. I think when you’re young you don’t really know what that means.”

For lesbians of her generation, who she says have felt compelled by societal norms to remain cooped up, Ray says shedding that emotional baggage takes work — which she says stands in stark contrast to today’s queer generation who often celebrate the identities rather than deleting them.

“For us, it’s kind of like we just can’t celebrate. [being queer] for so long that we have been conditioned to it,” she said. “We were taught that you don’t celebrate it.

“We didn’t really know what the word gay meant when we were kids,” she continued. “Now when you come out, you understand that there’s sexuality and there’s gender, and that’s different… The thing that helped me the most when I was growing up , is, all of a sudden, having all this language to talk about where I was at.”

Saliers added that the queer community was key not only to her sobriety, but also to her coming out journey.

“People who go out [today] I don’t have to deal with the self-hatred and homophobia that I still deal with,” Saliers says. haven’t done it. I don’t have to fight this internal battle.”

“The influence, the power of these systemic structures that affect us: the church, the social norms, the binary thinking, the fear of fluidity in so many ways, you step back and look at the power of these forces on us That’s why we need community,” she says. “Together we can face it, tackle it and affirm our validity as human beings, our dignity. That’s why we need a community.”

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