Geoff Rickly, best known as the frontman for post-hardcore/emo band Thursday, spoke out about recovering from his addiction to heroin and other opiates during an interview with The Ties that Bind Us. Rickly is also the frontman for hardcore outfit United Nations as well as No Devotion, his collaboration with refugees from Lostprophets.
Rickly had first been introduced to opiates after he had broken his arm as a teenager. “They gave me heavy opiate painkillers, and I had a moment with my family while we were watching Malcolm X, the Spike Lee movie, and I was so high I started saying, ‘I want to be a Black Panther!’” he explains to The Ties that Bind Us. “My parents were just laughing, because I was obviously messed up, but I just felt so connected to everyone. I felt like I was in the brotherhood of man, like, ‘This is what other people feel — that connection. They love each other!’ And that never stopped for me with opiates until I was deep into a $300 a day heroin habit and still didn’t feel that.”
He had grown up going to shows and played in a band throughout high school. By 1997, he found the guys that became Thursday with him, and convinced them to take a year off from school to go on tour. The release of their sophomore LP Full Collapse caught the attention of the major labels thanks to the success of “Understanding in a Car Crash” on MTV.
Rickly says the band wasn’t as big on partying as one might expect. “When we really blew up, everybody wanted to come by and bring eight balls of cocaine, and a couple of nights every tour, I would get drunk and do a bunch of coke,” Rickly continues the interview. “But that wasn’t generally how I used. I was more solitary. If we had a long ride on the bus, I would get in my bunk, take an 80mg Oxycontin or whatever I could get and ride it out, maybe read some Thomas Pynchon. I wanted to be alone and read.”
Thursday disbanded in 2012, but the other guys kept in touch with Rickly and encouraged him to get help. According to the interview, girlfriends also played a part in encouraging him to sober up. He began trying to get clean, making it 20 or 30 days at a time when he could. Rickly commented, “By the time I had crossed the line, I realized I was miles over it, just way out over the cliff. My marriage fell apart around the same time the band broke up (around 2012), and I just kind of got in a real dark place and got real depressed for a while. I kept using, and then one day I got held up at gunpoint, and one of the things the guy got was a huge bottle of opiates.”
Rickly tweeted about the mugging when that happened, referring to the opiates as “my medicine for intense medical treatments.” After that, he switched to heroin, “I knew a guy who would front me some heroin, and I thought, ‘I’ll do it long enough to get straight and then get out of it.’ So I did it, but it wasn’t as strong. The heroin wasn’t as strong. That’s when I realized that every day, I had been taking more than enough opiates to equal several bags of heroin.”
“I was a low-bottom addict,” he tells The Ties that Bind Us. “I wasn’t just a cool guy in a band who used drugs; I was a low-bottom, losing-everything, strung-the-fuck-out junkie. It was harsh to see myself that way, but in some ways, it was helpful, because it was extremely humbling, ego-death type of experience. I just knew that after that, I was going to try every meeting, whether it was 12 Step, SMART Recovery or whatever. If there was somebody who swore by it, I was going to try it.”
It’s one thing to plan to quit and another to go through with it. He says he found someone to sponsor him and worked the 12 Step program among other methods. Recovery also took a lot of support from family and friends. The Ties that Bind Us’ interview reported Rickly saying, “I went from being so filled with anger and hate and hurt to feeling like the sun was shining on me wherever I was. I was filled with this warm idea of, ‘What if I could actually do this, for real?’ And from that moment on, I was willing to do whatever.”
Since recovering around 2016, Thursday went on a reunion tour and Rickly was able to find more meaningful ways to connect with people. One such way to connect is through Thursday’s live stream series that began on January 1, 2021. He also mentioned that No Devotion has a second record on the way and he’s really proud of it.
Photo credit: Marv Watson