A big part of my life and the person I am today is due to the decision I made to get sober.
I had in fact spent most of my childhood being very anti drink and drugs and focused a great deal of my time and energy attempting to get family members to give up smoking.
As I got a little older I got privy to the fact that my parents, out of the kindness of their hearts which of course were in the right place, had been hiding the full truth surrounding their own habits which led 13 year old, hormonal Xander to revolt in disgust to the hypocrisy and find out what all the fuss was about.
It was around this time that I met Craig who became one of my best friends and like a brother to me. He was adventurous, curious and very well read. He is the kind of person that will relentlessly research every minuscule detail about something and then jump head first into his own practical “research” so to speak. Together we began experimenting with alcohol, music, girls, Satanism, travel and smoking pot.
Throughout my teen years my experimentation stretched to other areas such as raves, parties, entrepreneurship and spirituality – Meaning new substances and higher risk.
My personal favourites were Ketamine – a heavy anaesthetic often used as horse tranquilliser, MDMA – the love drug, commonly known as ecstasy in its purest most potent form and LSD – A drug developed by the US military to be used as truth serum and later found to have psychedelic effects and became popularised in the hippy and music cultures and used by many of my own heroes such as Jimi’s Hendrix and Morrison as well as the Beatles and of course the Dead Kennedys.
For me it was about finding myself, finding my place in the world, finding my tribe and my purpose.
I remember the moment where it escalated and began to form me as vividly as if it were yesterday. I was 15 years old and my passions were playing guitar and skateboarding. My life goals were to become a rock n roll millionaire skateboarder with my own show to continue carrying the torch after Bam Margera and the Jackass crew. I had just finished Upper School and it was time to apply to 6th form college. I was living in Stockholm at the time and applied to skateboard school – and I got in.
My father subsequently proceeded to explain that if I decided to go to skateboard school that I was no longer welcome to live under his roof. So I moved back to the UK to live with my mum.
We spent the summer applying to colleges around our area and by the luck of the quota I was accepted into our “Lets apply for fun” dream school as a foreign student. It was a fresh start for me and an amazing opportunity. I double majored in Media Studies and Music Technology with a minor in business. My aim was to buckle down, focus and get an amazing education at an amazing institution.
I would spend my days studying and working hard in class. In between classes I would keep to myself and read, write and listen to music.
One day a guy from my music tech. class came up to me in the cafeteria and straight up asked
“Hey man, do you smoke weed?”
I was faced with a dilemma. Do I lie and say no and stay on track focusing on my loner image or do I tell the truth? I went with the latter
“Yeah man, and I can smoke you under the table!”
“Come on then.” He replied.
So I got up and followed him to a field round the back of the school where we were met with a group of kids hanging out in a circle – One of the girls was attempting to roll a joint unsuccessfully
“My hands are too cold, can someone finish this for me?”
I offered to help and rolled a fat cone which I passed to her and offered to light with my Zippo lighter.
The joint was passed around as we smoked and chatted. After a while the guy from my class pulled out a big smiley face bong. He challenged me to a smoke off and I had no choice but to inhale till my lungs felt like they were going to explode, hold back the ever growing urge to cough and then blow out a huge cloud of smoke while hiding the sigh of relief that followed.
I was in. I was part of the gang, I was popular.
Things continued from there and I was hooked, not to the drugs, but to the feeling of being “The Guy” – the party guy, the guy with the connections, the guy that could get a hold of anything, the guy with the blue eyes, the guy from Sweden, the guy you can rely on, The Guy!
My addiction led to one very large and scary incident in my mother’s house which ended with me being hospitalised. That experience changed me and my perspective on life and the universe forever.
After that I decided to make a change and began refocusing my efforts in a more positive direction. Shortly thereafter I moved back to Sweden to do my military service and then started working in the financial sector.
That was when I started drinking again. The after work drinks, the Friday night parties, the client dinners and conference trips.
It was also around this time that Our Untold Story began touring and entered the studio to make our first record.
The pre-show drinks, the on stage drinks, the after parties – my life became one big blur again and the people around me were not the people I wanted and the ones I wanted were no longer around.
I was a diva, an asshole and an alcoholic. I had pushed everyone I loved away and was literally killing myself.
So exactly 6 and a half years ago today, on Christmas Eve 2012, I made the decision to be sober.