Ten years ago, I knew nothing about addiction. In the past decade, I have absorbed an abundant swirl of information, much of it rooted in out-of-date convictions and inaccurate science. And in my need to find both explanations and hope along the way, I often grabbed onto misinformation and held it close--until it was clear that things still made no sense.
Having said that, better information 10 years ago doesn't mean that the outcomes would have necessarily been different for either Charles or our marriage; at least, however, we might have been saner, healthier, and wiser people. Frankly, it would have helped if someone had said this one simple truth: our understanding of addiction and treatment is still in its infancy.
First, when I speak of addiction, I’m speaking of both drugs and alcohol. Second, these remarks are based on personal experience as a layperson and ultimately as an honest-to-goodness student of the subject. I figured if I was going to talk about the subject I’d better study it for real. Third, at the end of the day we are each responsible for our own health. It’s ultimately up to the individual to seek and accept treatment for any illness, including addiction.
There are four things I’d like to share in this audio:
Addiction is incredibly misunderstood, we still have much to learn, and there is a lot of misinformation out there. I know because I used to believe some of it.
Addiction is a public health issue.
Addicts, and those at risk for addiction, deserve a better continuum of physical and behavioral care at the first signs of trouble that extend beyond the traditional 12 step model.
For the rest of us, until we shift our personal biases and stop endorsing shaming cultural paradigms around addiction, we’re screwed.
Hit play and putter around the house while you listen. I welcome your comments and any dialogue that furthers our collective understanding and treatment of addiction.
more on addiction, treatment, & policy
Clean: Overcoming Addiction and America's Greatest Tragedy by David Scheff
Russell Brand interview with The Guardian. Sometimes I think Mr. Brand would've been the only person who could have helped Charles. He is a 12-stepper, but his perspective astounds.
Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong, TED Talk from Johann Hari
The Addicted Brain, free online course from Emory University offered through Coursera
A few treatment alternatives:
National registry of evidence-based programs and practices from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
jean's thoughts on the disease of addiction
The background music includes only artists who have agreed to share their work through a Creative Commons license. They include: "Summer Days" & "Curtains are Drawn" (Kai Engel), "5 AM" (Peter Rudenko), "Lightless Dawn" (Kevin MacLeod), "Rowing-Haint" (James Beaudreau)
the songs & the art
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
love & blood began as a standard collection of "end-of-the-relationship" songs, written between 2011-2014. They took on another dimension entirely after the death of Jean's husband and collaborator of almost a decade, Charles Rieser. They divorced in January 2014 after almost 9 years of marriage; he died of alcoholism before the year's end, 20 days before she began recording this album.
"Love was never our problem," says Jean. "I think we did the best we could by each other, but all the love in the world doesn't make it easy, sane, or rational to live with dysfunction day in and out. Still, it was love that allowed us to divorce without acrimony, and it was love that allowed us to remain very close until the end."
She continues: "Charles heard all of the songs on love & blood, at least in draft form, and he thought they were true and good. For my part, I think they're an honest reflection of my experience in those last years of our life together, and I hope they read, at least in part, as a final love letter to a man who was fully overwhelmed by a terrible disease that robbed him--and us--of his gifts, his kindness, his relationships, and his life."
Since the album's release, several songs have received particular accolades, including: a First Place win in the 2016 International SongDoor Competition for Picture and Finalist status in the 2016 Great American Song Competition for both "Picture" and "This Morning."
Album credits: Produced and engineered by Daniel Barrett at Rubicon Studios in Austin, TX. Mastered by Mark Hallman at Congress House Studios, Austin, TX. Kindly look at each song for specifics on players. Design for the limited run of physical promotional CDs designed by Deann Rene.
The paintings associated with love & blood were created between 2013-2015. They emerged from a simple need to express herself when Jean was no longer able to find words.
She didn't know what she was doing when she picked up her first brush, she didn't know if she could, and she didn't care. Jean simply woke up one morning and decided to do it. No judgment at all. She believes painting is a primal joy, and she can't imagine ever stopping. She highly recommends it to everyone. Seriously.
Jean Synodinos* delivers grit, grace and acoustic soul with a voice that's been hailed by critics as “big league” and "show-stopping." Her award-winning writing digs deep, moving from large affirmations to little ironies, giving pain, honesty, and love equal footing. Her intellect and strength course through love & blood in lyric, melody, and color, and it's no wonder she was a Top 10 Finalist in 2015's Austin Music Awards Best Songwriter and Best Folk Act categories.
Jean's third studio disc, Girls, Good & Otherwise, received a 2012 Texas Music Award for Artistic Excellence, and her previous releases, Breathe and Lucky, received their share of critical acclaim. Third Coast Music wrote, "There's no mistaking that marvelous voice, but if that alone gives her a decided advantage in the massed ranks of Austin's Girls with Guitars, she piles it on by writing songs that are extraordinarly inventive and distinctive... she writes poetry that can be sung." Visit Jean's primary music site to stream tracks from previous releases.
She has performed coast-to-coast as a solo artist at premier listening rooms, house concerts, and coffee houses across the country. In her adopted hometown of Austin, TX, she's played many notable venues, including the Cactus Cafe and Saxon Pub. Her trio held down an 18-month residency at Flipnotics until, like so many other venues in Austin, it was consumed by the city's expansion.
Jean is immensely proud to work with Jail Guitar Doors, bringing guitar and songwriting classes each week to incarcerated women at the Travis County Correctional Complex. Now a prolific painter, Jean and her superior dog Freida live in a little house with with a big yard and modest garden. A breast cancer survivor, she appreciates all opportunities to remind women (and the men who love them), that early detection not only saves lives--it saves the quality of lives.
This site scratches an itch Jean has had for years, prompted by the question, "Isn't there some way to use available technology and tools to modernize the awesomeness of the old school album experience?" Missing that experience as both a musician and a music fan, Jean isn't saying this kind of site is the answer, but it's one answer. Maybe the video below explains it better...
support this project
love & blood is free to the world for download, but all contributions help defray final production costs and make it possible to keep creating new music and art.
Ten percent of your support will go directly to the Sims Foundation which provides free and low-cost mental health and substance abuse services to working musicians in Austin, TX.
other ways to show support
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Purchase the interactive iBook for love & blood (coming this winter)
© 2016 by Jean Synodinos
Photo by Valerie Fremin
*say it like this: sin-uh-DEE-nus