But rock n’ rollers do, all the time, and often from drug use. This rocker survived, luckily.

Mark Lanegan, a veteran of the “Grunge” music scene in 1990’s Seattle, has written a book about the era which includes, not surprisingly, a whole lot of drinking, dope, and addiction.

‘Heroin stopped me dying of alcoholism’: Mark Lanegan, rock’s great survivor

What caught my attention: the relationship between addiction and what sure sounds like a personality disorder – in this case, the antisocial type.

I’ve run into plenty of clients with similar histories. Most of them have been involved with the criminal justice system. For those who aren’t that familiar with it, here’s a brief summary.

A history of conduct problems as a child, continuing into adulthood, with at least two or more of the following:

  • Failure to obey laws; pattern that results in arrest, or would have warranted arrest if it had been discovered (important as folks are adept at not getting caught).
  • Lying, deception, and manipulation, either for profit or just, y’know, “amusement”
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Irritability and aggression (frequent assaults, fighting)
  • Blatant disregard for safety of self and others
  • Pattern of irresponsible behavior towards others
  • Absence of remorse for own actions

As usual with the DSM, the greater the number of symptoms, the more severe the disorder. No surprise it’s often associated with childhood trauma. Lanegan’s dad was alcoholic, his mother abusive – a double dose of risk.

By his late teens, he was already far out of control. At 12, he claims, he was a “compulsive gambler, a fledgling alcoholic, a thief, a porno fiend”. Six years on, he’d accumulated a host of criminal charges – breaking and entering, theft, vandalism, “26 counts of underage drinking.” I thought of a former client, a 14 year old boy whose social worker admitted she wasn’t sure if “Johnny had been corrupted by his older brothers, or if he corrupted them.”

Lanegan’s fate would have been fairly easy to predict if he hadn’t found music. Prison, or a premature death. He moved on from alcohol to heroin, which he claims may actually have saved his life (more on that later).

Is this sounding familiar? I’ve run into many clinicians who regard such clients as so disturbed and resistant to change as to be virtually immune to therapy. I’ve also learned that’s not invariably the case.  There’s a path into recovery for such folks – not an easy one, but plenty others have blazed a trail to follow.

Most (not all) required extended stays in structured residential programs, including long-term therapeutic communities. Lanegan spent a year in one. At that point, I doubt anything less rigorous would have worked.

Another alum of corrections-based treatment admitted, “they kept telling me to be honest. Who did they think I was? I had never in my whole life been honest with anybody. Left me stumbling around like a fourth-grader with an advanced calculus problem.”

Even today, with longtime sobriety, Lanegan says this of himself:

“I wish I could say I’m a perfect example of transformation, and transcendence, but I’m basically still a guy who considers himself a breakfast cook who’s been singing for a while… a deeply flawed person.”

“The difference is, I’m aware of it.”