Amy Ray and Emily Sailers, who make up the lesbian folk-rock duo Indigo Girls, open 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 her podcast We Can Do Hard Thingsduring which Saliers, 59, opened up about her long-standing alcohol addiction and how her drunken antics nearly caused Ray, 58, to quit the band.
“I was destined to be an alcoholic,” Salyers said, acknowledging that alcoholism runs in her family. “I didn’t know that. When we were playing bars and stuff and doing stage shots—back then it was babies—and drinking was such a social part of what we did for work, and then I had a very social life. I thought I was an extrovert, but in I was actually just an alcoholic.”
Saliers goes on to explain that due to her excessive drinking, her behavior eventually became unruly. Soon, he began to become a liability for the band.
“Amy can attest to how terrible it was when I was drinking,” he shared. “All the excuses I made, my irresponsibility, not showing up [to work]. But I was terrified. I think all alcoholics are terrified to admit they are alcoholics.”
Added Salyers: “Everybody knew I’d just broken up and was 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 to intervene, Salyers’ family and friends finally made an intervention that led to her spending three months in rehab. Looking back, she says the experience saved her life.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she says to keep me sober. “It’s so hard sometimes, you just want to go away, you know, quickly, and you can’t anymore. You have to sit through a lot of suffering, and the other thing I’m learning now is that I lost a whole piece of my own growth — spiritual growth , my growth as a person. I just took that away from myself all this time drinking so much.”
“So now I feel like I’m way ahead and I feel a lot of unworthiness because I’m behind,” she explained. “But to be sober, to wake up feeling good, to know that you’re not self-destructing, to know that you can be, like now, I’m accountable to Amy, accountable to us. To the whole world and to my family. I would never have my wife [Tristin Chipman]; he would have left me, he would have gone. Or my child. All the most beautiful things in life come from sobriety.”
Ray and Saliers, whose last album Look away released in April, he couldn’t help but acknowledge their contribution to advancing LGBTQ rights and visibility in music as well.
Despite their iconic status in the community, both admit they still deal with internalized homophobia.
“I thought I felt, at some point, the bubble was bursting, I felt self-loathing for being so masculine,” Ray explained of coming to terms with her sexuality when she was younger.
“It’s internalized homophobia,” he added. “It means you’re afraid 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 felt pressured by social norms to remain closeted, Ray says shedding that emotional baggage takes work — which she says is in stark contrast to today’s queer generation who often it celebrates identities rather than suppressing them.
“For us, it’s like we didn’t get to celebrate [being queer] for so long we’ve depended on it,” he said. “We were taught that you don’t celebrate.”
“We didn’t know what the word gay meant, really, when we were kids,” he continued. “Now when you come out, you understand that there’s sexuality and gender, and that’s different… What helped me the most growing up was, suddenly, having all this language to talk about where I was. in the.”
Saliers added that the queer community was key not only to her sobriety but also to her journey.
“People coming out [today] I don’t have to deal so much with the self-hatred and auto-homophobia that I still deal with,” says Saliers. we don’t need to fight this internal battle.”
“The influence, the power of these systemic structures that affect us: the church, social norms, binary thinking, fear of fluidity in many ways, you step back and look at the power of these forces on us. That’s why we need community,” he says. “Together we can navigate this, face it and affirm our validity as human beings, our dignity. That’s why we need community.”
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