By Micko Larkin, professional guitarist and aspiring martial artist
As a musician I had a fair bit of success early on and didn’t look back. I got signed with an indie band called Larrikin Love when I was still a teenager, and although we split after only one album, that led to me getting chosen to play lead guitar with Courtney Love’s band. This was all my boyhood dreams come true, until it all went wrong and almost pushed me over the edge.
When I first moved to L.A. I couldn’t believe my luck. I started recording music with Courtney and then playing these massive stadium gigs. I was making good money, soaking up the applause and to be honest I felt untouchable. I also enjoyed the party lifestyle – I had expected an excess of drink and drugs and I was not disappointed. So of course I got stuck right in. And why not? After all, I thought I was a rock star.
In fact things started unravelling pretty quickly. It soon became obvious that I was a full-blown alcoholic. Well, obvious to other people maybe, but not to me. I was deep into it, dedicating herculean efforts to putting away as much booze as I possibly could, and this led to addictions to an unholy trinity of cocaine, OxyContin and eventually heroin.
It was Courtney who first realised I needed help. She was great, and it was thanks to her that I got into rehab in my early 20s. This really helped. I kept clean fora year and a half, and we worked on a new album. But then we went on tour and I felt myself getting drawn back in. I started drinking again, and taking drugs.I ended up getting really ill with alcoholic hepatitis, hooked up to tubes in hospital, twisted up in the worst pain of my life.
I tried rehab again, and it helped for a bit. I went back a few times in my twenties, and while it made things better temporarily, it never solved anything. Eventually things went wrong in the US and I ended up back in the UK, skint and living with my parents.
This was a terribly low time. I was in my early 30s and I felt like I had nothing left. I had squandered my chances of success, and now I had ruined my health. What else was there to live for?
I had taken a lot of medication to get high, but never to get better. By this point I had realised that my substance abuse had been about masking the depression and anxiety that I had suffered from for years without really admitting it to myself. I thought I was drinking and taking drugs because it was fun, but really I was just trying to numb the pain of depression.
Eventually I went to my doctor and said I need to try something different or I am going to jump off a bridge. The doctor was cautious about prescribing because of my addictions, but he could see how desperate I was and he put me on a drug called fluoxetine.
Within 24 hours I could start to see a glimmer of hope, that perhaps I might be able to find a way through. It didn’t suddenly make everything ok, but it lifted the fog enough that I could see that I needed to take action to get my life back on track.
The next breakthrough was starting martial arts. My brother Rory had been doing jiu-jitsu for a while and was always saying I should give it a go. Sadly I didn’t have a pot to piss in, but the instructor at Elevate Martial Arts & Strength in Richmond told me that I could train for free until I sorted myself out, so long as I turned up at least twice a week.
That was exactly what I needed. I was never into martial arts or anything like that, and my body was not in a great state after the years of abuse. But bit by bit I started getting stronger, and picking up a few techniques. I went from training twice a week to training every day. Last year I got my blue belt, which was a great honour and physically I am a different person to the scrawny waster who walked into the gym a few years ago.
I may never get as good at jiu-jitsu as I am at playing the guitar. But I know that I am in for life. Training has helped steer me back onto a path where I am not throwing my life away. Doing something mentally and physically challenging has got me into a routine where I feel my life is in control. All the energy that I used to put into destructive behaviour, I can now put into training. I am now a martial artist as well as a guitarist, and jiu-jitsu has made me feel alive again in a way I had forgotten was possible.
Micko was talking to Richard Holt