Celebrating LGBTQ+ Artists in Recovery 2023
In the music industry, creativity and self-expression intertwine. And there’s a vibrant community of LGBTQ+ musicians who have triumphed over mental health and substance abuse challenges.
We’re shining a light on some musicians in recovery to inspire others and foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals in the music industry and beyond.
While our list of sober LGBTQ+ artists may not be exhaustive, it symbolizes the growing presence of remarkable creative minds and is a testament to their strength and determination.
Indie-folk rock musician Melissa Ferrick has been sober since 1996, when she realized that alcohol had taken over her life; she was 26 at the time.
Ferrick was dropped from Atlantic Records after her first two albums and began drinking heavily. “Booze was making choices for me now,” she said in an interview with The Wayfarer.
Ferrick labeled the year she got sober as “a year of complete change—transformation both inside and out.” She emphasizes the importance of community and daily commitment to sobriety which recovery requires.
Ferrick came out as a lesbian in 1995 and has been open about her struggles with panic disorder. She opened up about dealing with her mental health in a 2001 interview with Curve Magazine, “I’m very excited about the prospect that there is hope and help for me. I’m thrilled. I’m seeking outside help for it.”
Chris Conde is a rapper who identifies as bi-gender and is based in Austin, Texas. The half-Mexican, half-Eastern European artist began using music to channel their emotions after they got sober. They started making music in the punk rock and rock and roll genres.
From a young age, they knew they were different. Their Catholic upbringing forced them to believe they were straight, but they knew they liked men and didn’t feel like a cisgender man or a woman.
In an attempt to suppress their true identity and live life as a straight man, they were also dealing with several childhood sexual traumas. They began abusing alcohol to drown out their identity and struggled with addiction before getting sober in 2014.
In a rap released in 2019 from their first record, “Growing Up Gay,” the lyrics tell about their struggle growing up: “I think I’m queer so maybe beer is the answer and the more that I drink the more I think I’m less of a cancer what kind of 12-year-old thinks that.”
In 2020 they came out as bi-gender on Facebook, posting: “Hi. I’m bigender. I identify as male and female; sometimes at the same time and sometimes male and sometimes female.”
Country singer Sarah Shook came out as bi in 2005. Recently, they came out as non-binary and have been sober since July 2019. “It was destroying my health and scaring the hell out of my bandmates,” they told Relix magazine in 2022.
Their regular drinking and drugging became dangerous, and they were blacking out nightly. Once they started therapy and took sobriety seriously, everything changed.
In a 2022 interview with KOSU Radio, they said, “It’s such an individual thing, and I feel like if you’re questioning if you should get sober, just try drying out for a little while.”
Today with their band, the Disarmers, they perform songs they wrote in sobriety and ones during their more reckless days. But they own it and aren’t ashamed of their past.
The Los Angeles-based multidisciplinary artist has been writing music since childhood and said his favorite band growing up was Dream Street. As a kid, he began rewriting lyrics; the rest is history.
He told Out Front Magazine he used drugs to run away. After coming out as a lesbian in high school, he started using substances to numb himself. He said he knew something was off but couldn’t describe it, as there was no language for being transgender at the time.
“I was in the dark, hiding, binding my chest at two in the morning, looking in the mirror, crying, and writing songs. That was the vibe I was going through,” he said.
Michel often writes about his trans experience and hopes to increase trans masculine representation. He’s been open about his transition and sexuality and jokes with his partner Elle Deran on Instagram. He launched his designer clothing brand, PUSSYBOY APPAREL, in 2022.
Judas Priest’s vocalist Rob Halford got sober in 1986 after a suicide attempt and a month of rehab. Since getting sober, he has spoken out against the issues with drugs and alcohol in the rock ‘n’ roll industry. “We’re losing beautiful people,” he told NBC News. Halford refers to his sobriety as a gift and says it allows him to look back on some wilder times throughout his life.
Halford kept his sexuality a secret for many years and was advised to be discreet about it due to the stigma associated with metal music. On MTV in 1998, Halford was the first metal icon to come out as gay.
The singer told Fox News Digital that although he’s been sober for over 30 years, the battle is ongoing, “You have to work hard at it yourself. You can’t let others do it for you because firstly, it’s not their responsibility. You have to take, not control because we are powerless, but you have to make the right adjustments when you need to do so.”
He also acknowledges that there are triggers everywhere, and he still gets the urge to have a beer after seeing a commercial for one on TV, “Whenever I get these temptations, they don’t last very long. But it really drives home the fact that you literally are an alcoholic for life. And thank God I still have my life.”
The singer has been open about her issues with substance abuse, and her struggles have continuously made headlines in the media. She came out as non-binary in 2021 and identified as gay and pansexual. Lovato recently decided to adopt her former pronouns, she/her.
Shortly before being hospitalized for a drug overdose in 2018, Lovato talked about her substance abuse issues in her song “Sober.” The singer was open about her choice to live the California-sober lifestyle in the March 2021 documentary Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil. She said not drinking or smoking marijuana felt like setting herself up for failure.
Later in 2021, she announced on Instagram that she no longer favored the Cali-sober lifestyle choice and said that “sober sober is the only way to be.” A source told Entertainment Tonight that Lovato is doing well and has supportive, like-minded people around her.
The “Old Town Road” artist told Variety he used marijuana to cope with loss and coming out to his family. He says his self-medicating made him feel “connected with the universe.” In the interview, he spoke about his poor relationship with his mother, who has addiction issues.
He doesn’t drink alcohol but has been open about using magic mushrooms while working on his debut album, and he called it a “pivotal moment” during an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
The rapper came out as gay with a post on Twitter in 2019. Before he came out publicly, he told his father. And since then, he says they’ve become closer.
He told Variety, “I hope my actions are enough to inspire other young LGBTQ+ children coming up to not be afraid to be themselves, but I feel pressure to be a role model for the community.”
The Americana-folk solo artist, Julien Baker, was raised in a religious home in Tennesee and discussed the fear of coming out as a child in an interview with Billboard.
She recalled growing up with friends forced into gay conversion therapy and was thankful that her family was supportive when she came out. “Seeing my dad model that love despite not being socialized in a particularly aware cultural environment, his instinct was to accept and to love.”
The Nashville-based singer identifies as sober and discussed how recovery looks different for everyone. She told Billboard, “To ever portray something in a black and white or a linear way is ultimately going to lead you to alienate folks and not understand other people’s journeys.”
L.A.-based singer-songwriter Kat Hamilton’s debut indie rock album “Recovery Songs” highlights her redemption from addiction.
She describes drinking in her younger years as “average” in an interview with The Ties That Bind Us. She said the real issue with alcohol started seeing the drink as her sole companion. Her drinking worsened, and she started drinking alone. Using substances led to a mental health break, and she entered a relational recovery center in 2017.
“You’ve got to figure out, what does sober feel like to you? What is your relationship to medicine and healing? And to me, drinking didn’t feel like I had a healthy relationship,” she said.
Hamilton released a remix album with all proceeds going to The Trevor Project, which aims to end suicide among LGBTQ+ youth.
The indie artist was originally in the Minnesotan punk rock band Hüsker Dü. Mould has been sober since 1986. Listen to Bob Mould on Spotify
Alternative singer-songwriter D’Arcy is an advocate for both sobriety and LGBTQ+ rights. Listen to D’Arcy on Spotify.
Sober since the summer of 2020, the singer-songwriter, who identifies as queer and bisexual, says when they came out as a lesbian, their family wasn’t surprised. “The closet was glass,” they joked. Listen to Kehlani on Spotify.
Smith identifies as non-binary and gave up alcohol in 2018 to improve his mental health. He’s been open about his struggles with anxiety and said that meditation has helped immensely. Listen to Sam Smith on Spotify.
The recovery journey for LGBTQ+ music artists in recovery is a testament to the power of resilience, self-acceptance, and the healing force of music itself. These musicians have defied the odds to overcome their addiction or made the choice to live substance-free, and their success proves there is a better way.
For many, addiction and mental health issues can be lifelong battles. At Recovery Unplugged, we believe in the profound healing power of music. This is precisely why our programs are infused with it.
For more about our music-assisted treatment programs or to talk to someone today, call us at 1 (855)-954-1194. We’re ready to help you heal.
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