Then this happened. Sam Mascha, who was a Good Boy and a Great Drummer but not a Good Man... this is your life...
The first time Sam Mascha relapsed, he’d tried to kill himself but nobody realised.
Comatose on a hotel bed, covered in his own vomit and blood, his band mates rushed to get help and missed his death wish. They just figured he was weak.
The second time he relapsed, Sam dropped out of sight entirely. Once was understandable but twice was pathetic and he didn’t want anyone to see him in his misery, shame and weakness.
For six days he stayed shut away in a motel on the outskirts of Houston, until the stash ran out. Not knowing anyone in Houston to sort him out, he called one of the Shadowlands crew who could get more gear, but Luke and Pete hauled him back to existence instead.
Good Boy Sam Mascha never intended to get a drug problem. He’d been pretty clean-cut at school, much too scared that the coach would find out about any law-breaking and kick him off the football team.
When a rival Defensive Tackle for a rival school crushed Sam’s knee during a game, he also destroyed any hope Sam had of a future in sports. That he then returned to the percussion he’d loved as a kid meant it was hardly a catastrophe, but he’d had plans for his life.
The new plan took him away from home, on a journey he hadn’t quite asked for and never really wanted.
The knee always hurt in damp weather. Those were the excuses he used the first time: pain and homesickness.
He made a spectacular addict, hooked quickly and completely. He liked marijuana but he loved cocaine. Cocaine let him play like a demon no matter how tired or unhappy he might be.
Speed kept him working, heroin blocked the feelings.
Most of his family and friends didn’t understand why he remained with Annie after Regan, how he could still love a girl who’d carried on behind his back, who had someone else’s son.
He didn’t blame Annie for a second; he blamed himself. It was all his own fault. He had brought it all upon himself the moment he went to LA to tempt fate.
He hadn’t expected to succeed. He had expected to return to Akron with a few stories to tell his grandchildren one day.
He loved and adored Regan. How could he not? The child was innocent of wrongdoing and in truth, Sam didn’t blame Annie either. He was brokenhearted but blamed only Sam Mascha.
He should have been there. The opportunity - the need - for other company should not have arisen. The responsibility was his and so the failing was his.
How could he have expected her to stay faithful and alone for almost a year? She was beautiful, vivacious, sociable. Annie had held out for almost a year, she had done far better than he.
If he truly loved her, how could he have stood to be away from her so long? The excuses he rationalised at the time hid the truth that the life of a rock star had been much too enticing to disrupt with faces from home. Even hers.
He felt the same about every single encounter even though they all merged into one long half-remembered dream of random, brief sexual encounters.
They were the stories he could not tell grandchildren, those he would not even admit to himself.
Sam Mascha was a Good Boy, and he could not reconcile his belief in that with the stark, sordid reality.
The third relapse wasn’t suicide but it did nearly kill him. He had tried to go home to Annie and Regan but discovered that some broken things cannot be mended. He fell off the wagon into the gutter and chose to stay there.
The rehab-relapse cycle became habit after that, Good Boy Sam still wishing to be better and the rest of him preferring the temporary euphoria of whatever he could get his hands on.
The addict in him loved the 80s. Cocaine - always, always his favourite - was plentiful, girls were available and he no longer had anyone in his life who tried to stop him.
That he was the punchline to a dozen music industry jokes mattered not a bit, that he had lost his skill and reputation behind the kit hurt but not enough to stop.
That he stabbed one of his few remaining friends, that he lost most of his septum, that he lost almost every cent he’d ever made, did not signify.
Rehab-relapse. Again, again, on and on.
There were marriages he had no memory of, arrests, and two bankruptcies. A son Samuel Herodotus Mascha, with a London socialite who thought throwing money at the problem would solve it.
Not even Hero saved Sam. Rehab-relapse. Not even the resurgence of Shadowlands. Not a Tibetan monastical rehab centre. Not Betty Ford. Not the Priory. Not video of himself spewing racial hatred at a group of black teenagers during a particularly dark phase in the late 90s.
Meeting kind-but-firm Cindy, the death of his father, and retreating to Montana helped, but Sam does not know for sure what finally stopped him. He is not convinced he has really stopped, but five years clean is far and away his personal best.
He found a way to coexist with the shame, but he feels it every day just the same. Sam Mascha was a Good Boy and no matter how bad he got, he never truly blamed anyone but himself.
Five years have been spent meditating and mending those fences not beyond repair. Hero loves him but none of his ex-wives are interested in apologies. He has not seen Regan since the boy was small. He and Annie both returned to the surname Weston after the divorce, but Sam still misses them both, or the dream with them he discarded.
He lives quietly. When the Shadowlands calls come, he answers because he needs the money and because in truth, the band has been the only constant in his life since the day he left Akron, and the only part of his life which forgave him everything, in the end.