‘One day at a time’ is a slogan adopted in the early years of Alcoholics Anonymous. That slogan and other well known phrases came about during the program’s early years. Ever since Alcoholics Anonymous was started in the 30’s, that motto has helped thousands of people achieve sobriety and start living their lives to the fullest again. Blue October’s Justin Furstenfeld has been taking on his alcoholism and recapturing his life with that ‘one day at a time’ mentality for over four hundred days now. Recently, talking with Alternative Addiction, the Blue October front man opened up about his fight, losing control of his life, and then gaining it back. Listening to the new Blue October album, Sway and then listening to the last album, Any Man In America, there’s a clear difference. Even the most oblivious person can hear the changes in Furstenfeld.
“It’s night and day,” said an at ease Furstenfeld comparing the past two albums. “I had that moment in my life where I was rock-bottom. That last album wasn’t made for radio, it wasn’t made for fans, it wasn’t made for labels, it was made for my daughter to know where the hell I was and know what I was doing. It was, to be completely honest, about getting certain things changed in the legal system. Or to at least scream it out loud that this is unfair. I’ve never had something so special as when my daughter was born; then to have that taken away from me with everything that went on... It was so hard to deal with, I didn’t know what else to do other than to make an album about it. I felt that my daughter deserved that if I couldn’t be with her. In the making of it and the insanity of touring and not seeing anything change, I went down a hill. One drink wasn’t enough, two drinks weren’t enough, seventeen drinks weren’t enough, I just went straight downhill.
Justin had a problem. It took an intervention from his friends and family to open his eyes to his state and understand how far he had fallen. Hearing that was hard, but reacting to what his wife specifically told him made Justin realize the gravity of the situation.
“It took my wife looking at me and saying, ‘Nobody grieves like this, you’re a hypocrite. You’re supposed to be a person that people can actually look up to. You need to clean your shit up and pick yourself up off the floor and realize that there’s more important things in life than just what you go through. That really smacked me in the face. I had to take some time to evaluate my situation. I never thought that I was an alcoholic, I thought I could control it. It was when I tried to stop drinking and I couldn’t, that’s when it was a big life changer. I had to get some help, and I did. And when we made this new album, I was a completely different person. I live a completely sober life now. Before, I never realized that alcohol was doing anything to me. I never dealt with life on life’s terms. I always just ran with the ball no matter what it was. I put it out there, and if you didn’t like it, ‘f___ you.’ Life’s not about that. Life’s about getting through things and sticking together through hard times. It felt like with that last album I couldn’t have taken my fans any lower. With this album, I wanted to show people there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a beautiful life and I'm blessed to have it. I wake up now and I can’t believe I took it that far.
“When we started recording this album, it was harder because I had never written anything without a glass of wine, or without a joint for that manner.” Furstenfeld added, “It was tough and thorough work to write. But when I got done with it, I was so much more proud of it than anything else I had done. This was coming from me and I didn’t need anything to cheat my way through it.”
Further talking about his addiction, Furstenfeld added that part of the reason why he spiraled so far out of control and into depression is because of how mad he was with the situation that inspired his last album. WIth Any Man In America, Justin went through a nasty divorce and then a custody battle over his daughter that was even worse than that. This led to him writing the album, not just trying to explain to his oldest daughter what was happening with him, but to vent. He realizes now, that while his intentions were good, the way he was going about them wasn’t healthy and he wasn’t looking at things the right way.
“It destroyed me and it destroyed who I was,” said Furstinfeld referring to the crisis. “I thought to myself that every father should be just as crazy as I was if they’re in my situation. Instead, it should have been every father should check themselves, then give it to God if you can’t change it. Stop banging your head against the wall, walk the walk, and step up. That’s how my life has to be now. I’m 37 years old and music is the one thing in my life that I can control, even that got out of control for awhile. Now that I have control of it, I’m proud of this album and I’m proud of who I am. I live a very professional life now. I won’t let anybody f___ up my sobriety and I won’t let any situation take me to that point again.”
Being a part of a band and out on tour is not the easiest job to have if you’re trying to live a sober life. Almost every venue serves alcohol and temptation stares you in the face everywhere you go. Justin says that he has to have two things when out on the road; a dry bus and an AA meeting.
“I go to meetings every day,” started Justin. “The whole thing on tour is that I have to have a dry bus. I don’t trust anyone to say that they’re not going to do it in front of me anymore. The whole motto on the road is no meeting, no show. I can’t take the stage unless I get a meeting during the day. I have to take it that serious. I know that one drink is not enough for me. If I have one drink, I’ll be going somewhere to do something else. I’ll just start it all back over. Now that I have a year and three months clean, life’s not that hard. It’s amazing actually.
“I’m a listener now. I’ve spent 17 years of my career bitching and whining about how hard life is. There were some appropriate things in there, sure. But I spent so much time screaming, ‘listen to me!’ Now, when I go to different towns I just network. I have hundreds of sober phone numbers all around the country. I know that when I get to Vegas, I know I can call up this guy and go to this meeting. Then, when I go to meetings, I actually don’t talk. I just sit back and learn. It’s a one day at a time program. I make it every day and then it racks up. But I owe it to myself. I owe it to the band. I owe it to my managers. I owe it to my daughters. I owe it to my wife, who saved my life. I owe it to my parents, I owe that to everybody in my life. Because I sure did bring everyone down.”
This is somewhat of a happy Blue October album, it still has it’s depressing moments - and you’d expect them - where Justin writes about something that’s very real and you can tell it was hard living. But there’s so much energy and life to this new material that it’s everything that the people who have known Justin over the years wanted for him. He’s a talented guy, but he’s had his issues. This view of life fits him well. Credit goes to Justin for doing the work and taking things a day at a time but it also belongs to his wife, Sarah.
“This record isn’t all about [Sarah], but it’s all about what she made me realize,” said Justin. “That day when she looked at me, I still get choked up about it. That day changed my life. I respect her. When she said that to me, it was like, ‘you’re f_____ right... let me take care of this. I’ll be back in three months.’”
Now sober and happy, Furstenfeld and Blue October are still releasing music independently. Sway, is a new album for a new life for Justin and he summed up where he was as best as he could.
“I realized that this is all I need. I get done with the show and my wife and daughter are waiting for me. That’s amazing. I have a family. I have a house. I have a car. I have health insurance. What more does anyone need? I’m good, man [laughs.]”
Sway comes out Tuesday, August 20th.