Connecticut musician and songwriter Sal Annunziato has a congenial, friendly and decidedly “every-man” way of speaking; that is, however, where all traces of “common” in his life cease to exist. The more you listen to his tale of family dysfunction, addiction, and recovery, the less you can believe that he delivers it in such a matter-of-fact tone. Perhaps it takes this level of emotional distance and positivity to endure what Sal has and come out ok on the other end. In any case, Recovery Unplugged was more than happy to have the opportunity to speak with him about his recovery, his music, the relationship between the two and a host of other different topics.
He opens the conversation with a little bit of family history: “My grandfather was actually in the mafia in Connecticut. I was named after him so it was a pretty crazy childhood. His son, my dad, became a drug addict [because] he couldn’t deal with it. A typical day for me, at ten years old, involved guys up in my attic with guns. They were booting heroin but they were also involved in a gang war.” Sal began playing guitar at ten years old through the influence of his father who Sal describes as a hippy whose father wanted to arm and indoctrinate into organized crime. This pressure ultimately proved to be too much for Sal’s father, and he died at 40 from drugs and alcohol. Despite generations of alcoholism, Sal now maintains the support of his family in recovery and has finally managed to break the cycle.
By the time he lost his father, Sal had already begun to follow in his self-destructive footsteps: “I was drinking and drugging hard. I ended up, at 28 years old, waking up one morning with a distended stomach, just like [my father] had. I knew what it was from. I was going to into the emergency room and I saw the same doctor that performed all the surgeries on my dad [when he was drinking]. A month later, I went to rehab.” Since completing treatment, Sal has had what he says, in very colorful terms, is a great life. He is now a successful entrepreneur, prolific musician and bandleader and an active part of the Connecticut recovery community. A year into Sal’s recovery, he started a computer company that was valued at $15 million by the time it closed its doors. Today he and his business partners supply the software for practically all of Connecticut’s police departments, a rather ironic twist, given his family history.
So where exactly does music fit in to this tale? Sal credits writing and the creative process with strengthening and enriching his recovery, and said that it has always been part of this life. “It saved my life. Being able to create music, especially after I got sober was very healing for me and it continues to be.” He just released a new record entitled Own Trip and has also penned an introspective recovery book called “Let’s Love and Be Real”. He also maintains a busy performance schedule, sometimes as a solo act and sometimes with accompaniment. After 28 years of uninterrupted recovery, it would appear that he has put the demons of his past safely in his rearview. “I just get off on spreading the message of hope. That’s what it’s all about for me.”
Also a yoga and meditation instructor, Sal attributes his eternally fresh outlook on the recovery process to the diversity of his life: “One day I can be in a meeting with the state police [for work], then at night I can be teaching yoga, and the next night I could be playing rock and roll or recording in the studio. I believe that every day you don’t drink or use drugs is a gift. So dream big and go for it.” Sal’s yoga classes are often focused on recovery and he utilizes the same behavioral tools that helped him achieve and maintain sobriety: “One thing I found from being in recovery is that a lot of people feel alone. They don’t know what to do because they’re just isolated. I try to tell the people in my class they can use the same tools that helped me in my recovery. There are behavioral tools available and people to whom you can reach out for help; but if you stay alone, you’re screwed.
Four years ago, Sal started a sort of movement that he has labeled the Love Tribe to spread positive energy and the philosophy of an open heart as far as it can go. The movement has sparked worldwide support and now has a following of over 40,000 people and counting.