Amy Ray and Emily Sailers, who are part of the lesbian folk rock duo the Indigo Girls, talk about addiction, recovery and how their music continues to be a lighthouse for the LGBTQ community.
The musicians recently sat down with Glennon Doyle for her podcast We can do difficult thingsin which Saliers, 59, opened up about her longstanding addiction to alcohol and how her drunken antics nearly led Ray, 58, to leave the band.
“I was destined to become an alcoholic,” Saliers said, recognizing that alcoholism runs in her family. “I didn’t know. When we played in bars and stuff and we took pictures from the stage – this was when we were babies – and drinking was such a social part of what we did for work, and then I had a really social life I thought I was an extrovert, but I was really just an alcoholic.”
Saliers further explains that the overconsumption of alcohol eventually made her behavior unmanageable. It soon became an obligation for the band.
“Amy can confirm how awful it was when I drank,” she said. “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.”
Saliers added: “Everyone knew I was just confused and dying, and Amy was going to leave the band. Everything was falling apart for me and I was trying to hide it so much — and you just can’t.”
After Ray made several attempts to intervene, Saliers’s family and friends eventually intervened, requiring her to spend three months in rehab. Looking back, she says the experience saved her life.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she says of getting sober. “It’s so hard sometimes, you just want to get out, you know, fast, and you can’t anymore. You have to go through a lot of discomfort and the other thing I’m learning now is that I’m learning a lot of my development – intellectual development, my evolution as a human being. I just took that away from myself during the time I was drinking so hard.”
“So now I feel a lot overtaken and I feel a lot of unworthiness because I’m behind,” she explained. “But to be sober, to wake up feeling good, to know you’re not self-destructive, to know you can be, like now I’m answerable to Amy, responsible to do U.S. To all people and to my family. I would never have had my wife [Tristin Chipman]; she would have left me, she would. Or my child. All the most beautiful things in life come from sobriety.”
Ray and Saliers, whose latest album Long look was released in April, could not help but acknowledge their contributions to advancing LGBTQ rights and visibility in music.
Despite their iconic status in the community, both admit they still suffer from internalized homophobia.
“I got the idea that at some point the bubble burst, I felt self-loathing for being so masculine,” Ray explained of accepting her sexuality when she was younger.
“It’s internalized homophobia,” she added. “It means you’re afraid of what you really are and sometimes you don’t want to face it. I guess when you’re young you don’t really know what it means.”
For lesbians of her generation, who she says were pressured by societal norms to remain incarcerated, Ray says losing that emotional baggage takes work—which, she says, is in stark contrast to today’s queer. generation that often celebrates identities instead of suppressing them.
“For us, it’s a bit like we just couldn’t celebrate [being queer] so long that we’re conditioned to it,” she said. “We’ve learned not to celebrate.”
“When we were kids, we didn’t know what the word gay meant,” she continued. “When you come out now, you understand that there’s sexuality and there’s gender, and that’s different … What helped me the most as I got older was that I suddenly had all this language to talk about where I was. was Bee.”
Saliers added that the gay community was key not only to her sobriety, but also to her coming out.
“People coming out [today] don’t have so much to do with the self-hatred and self-homophobia that I still have to deal with,” Saliers says. I don’t have 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 so many ways, you step back and look at the power of those forces on us. That’s why we are community needed,” she says. “Together we can navigate through that, address that and affirm our validity as human beings, our dignity. That’s why we need community.”
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