On December 3, 2015, Scott Weiland, lead singer of the band Stone Temple Pilots, was found dead, apparently due to cardiac arrest. Weiland has been publicly open about his struggles with addiction, which one could assume led to heart issues down the road. But I’m not here to talk about the perils and pitfalls of addiction or the pity and compassion we should demonstrate toward those who struggle with it. In fact, I wasn’t going to write about it at all until I read the piece written by his ex-wife and the mother of his two children, Mary Forsberg Weiland, published by Rolling Stone on December 7. This is what struck me:
December 3rd, 2015, is not the day Scott Wieland died…
What [our children] truly lost on December 3rd was hope.
She went on to describe how Weiland had “replaced” his family and estranged himself from them. Now, we could all conjecture about how he must have struggled with his demons, felt guilt/shame about the divorce, etc. Whatever his reasons, no matter the explanations and underlying motivations, regardless of how valid those may be, the reality is, he was gone. This is not a judgment; Glob knows I’m in no place to cast stones. I’m just coming from a mindset of working with what is.
Personal demons, drugs, depression? These things can make it functionally impossible for someone to reach out for help or change their behavior. If there’s one thing I hate about western society, it’s the notion of independence. We are mostly tribal–not independent–beings. It’s to be expected in a culture in which dependence is synonymous with weakness that we’d shy away from reaching out to others. This goes both ways: asking for help or giving it. To me, the worse evil is to not reach out to someone you know is struggling; they may not see it. Yes, you might offend the person, but you know what? Being offended is way preferable to leaving your kids without a father and without hope.
Because here’s the thing about people who need help but get angry when you offer it: they don’t like themselves. At least, they don’t like that aspect of themselves. They can’t admit that they’re “that” person. Did Weiland’s band mates, friends, relatives try to talk to him about being a better dad? Probably. It’s also likely that he brushed it off or told them to mind their effing business. Who knows? But when someone who you suspect needs help tells you to f*ck off, they’re confirming your suspicions. Please, please do not, indeed, f*ck off. We talk about people needing to push through and overcome and choose happiness and blah, blah, blah, but we don’t always look at the obstacles to creating that happiness. Most folks don’t want to look at the ugly face of recovery. Not the “just get happy” people, anyway. Not in my experience.
My point is, you’re the one who needs to push through. You and me. We need to push through the “f*ck offs” that are tossed at us with disdain. It’s not about you. The message there is, “You’re right, but I hate that you’re right because it means accepting what I hate about myself, so if you can just see me through this, I’ll appreciate your efforts more than you know.” It’s not easy being dismissed so flippantly. I only know this because I’ve done it to the people I love the most when they only wanted to see me do better.
I don’t know what his band mates and family members said or did to reach out to him, how hard they pushed the issue, or if it even would have made a difference. I just can’t help but wonder what the last several years of his kids’ lives could have looked like with him there. While he was alive, his kids could at least hold onto hope that he would turn things around, spend Father’s Day with them, birthdays, the day-to-day. He missed out on that quality time, but more importantly, his kids missed out. I’m sure they’ll feel that absence–that stark sense of “something missing”–for the rest of their lives.
If you’re struggling to connect with life, to get clean, to forgive yourself, buddy up. Seek professional help. If you suspect someone you know is floundering, toss them a life preserver. Refer them to professional help if necessary. Here are just a few ways to extend a hand if you’re not sure if someone’s OK:
- Ask! But not intrusively. “I’m concerned about you. Are you OK?”
- Make time to get together and commit to it. Take them out for coffee/lunch/drinks.
- Be direct, but kind. “I’d like to see your kids benefit from you being the best dad you can be, and I know you have it in you to do better.” Try to avoid saying things like, “Hey, when are you gonna man up and be a real dad, you loser!” No. Bad. (Although, I suppose it could depend on the kind of relationship you have with that person.)
- Anything on this list by helpguide.org.
Anything else you’d add to the list? Let me know in your comments.
As always, thanks for reading. Please share if you feel so inclined. I’d like to think we can help someone, help someone.
Love and light,
P.S. The album Core was there for me during a frustrating, teenager-angst-y time in my life. The lyrics are more meaningful now as an adult. I will be forever grateful for Scott Weiland’s electric, growling vocals.