With a commanding stage presence, breathtaking talent, and devastating quick-witted sense of humor, guitarist Adam Roth was an inescapable part of New York’s punk scene since 1979. He worked with several bands that frequented CBGB and defined the lower eastside underground sound, including Del Fuegos, Hoy Boy and the Doys, and The Liza Colby Sound, as well composing for TV and collaborating with his friend Denis Leary.
Roth died of cancer on December 17, 2015, and his ashes were spread in Prospect Park, but he is fondly remembered by many people taken in by his distinct presence and endless creativity. One other area that benefited from his tireless energy and passion was recovery, both his own and that of many people in his community. Adam Roth worked hard to maintain his sobriety and gave back through the innovative musical-based outreach Road Recovery.
His Own Story:
In a moving tribute published by The Fix, writer Peter Pavia shares the personal story of how he and Adam Roth walked together in the recovery journey. The underground New York punk scene of the 70s and 80s may have been awash in heavy drug and alcohol use, but Adam was able to not only get sober but help and support other people in their recovery journeys.
Peter writes that “Adam was with me every inch of the way,” supporting him, and receiving support in return. Often, these conversations would end with Roth’s unique blend of no-nonsense punk bluster and 12-step wisdom, saying “Sometimes the best you can do is just brush your teeth and go to bed. Tomorrow’s another day, pallie. Alright?”
Sadly, like many passionate people with addictive personalities, prescription drug abuse caused him to spiral back into the habits of addiction. He admitted to doctor shopping, and checked back into rehab, getting better with the help of a sober community that he himself built.
He discovered the importance of community to people in sobriety, and surrounded himself with a circle of recovery, creating one of the hippest and most sharply dressed social support networks ever seen. He remained himself, showing many people that recovery was possible and drawing many people into his circle and the life-saving movement.
If you have made it past the hell of addiction and come back thriving living a free life, then your story has power. Simply by telling the reality of what you have been through, faithful to your own voice, can help someone else realize their need for help and become hopeful that change is possible. Stigma, the fear that someone is alone and will be judged for getting help, is one of the largest reasons people in need of recovery don’t look for the help they need. Telling your honest truth is one-way getting help for addiction can be de-stigmatized.
Adam Roth recognized this central truth, and so threw himself into the work of Road Recovery, an organization that connects creative artists with at-risk youth, using music and other arts to develop unique mentoring relationships that help them pursue recovery from addictions and change their lives for the better. He has helped many kids write, perform, and record their own songs, and in the process help them express their hopes and fears for the future, getting their act together before their tragic death or arrest.
Speaking to kids written off by society, he tells them, “You’re 15, everyone’s told you’re a f***ing a loser, a waste of time. We’re saying you have value. I’m 50 you’re 15 guess what? I can save your ass and you can save mine, we can do this together.” And it’s precisely that message of hope and challenge that helps create change.