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Stories from Backstage

Processing Mental Health and Addiction With Music

AC Aftermath’s new album “Kintsugi” is out now. Listen on Spotify and iTunes and keep up with her on her website, Facebook and Instagram.


My name is AC Aftermath. People think of “aftermath” as a negative thing but I feel like aftermath can change who you are if you use it in a positive way. In the aftermath of a bad situation, you can make it so you grow and do better, or you can make it so you go deeper down the hole.

I’m 29 now. I do hip hop. I’ve made music since I was 15. But with age comes wisdom. When I was a drug user, I would listen to songs that were pro-drug, pro-objectification, pro-violence. So I stayed in that mindset. But then as I shifted, I started listening to different artists, and now my content has shifted to the opposite of that.

The content of what you listen to has a big effect on your attitude.

My History

I went to an inpatient rehab for Oxycontin and cocaine when I was younger and lived at home. I got out of rehab and detoxed, but still used. I never got back to the point where I was as dependent, but then I got a prescription for Adderall. Between that and coke, that was bad. I was still addicted when I lived in Denver. My mom passed from cancer when I was 21, and I got to Austin in 2011 when I was 23.

Now I live on a farm. I work with horses and cattle. I got that job about two weeks after I moved to Austin. I didn’t grow up with horses, I didn’t grow up on a farm; it changed my perspective.

Starting Recovery

I had been court-ordered to go to AA and NA meetings when I was younger. So in Austin, I went and stuck with it, and eventually became sober. I’m not 100 percent sober; I still drink occasionally, but I’m not at the point where I was before.

AA and NA worked for me up until a certain point. Part of my recovery came with me getting older, saying to myself, “you’re an adult, you can make these decisions.” Mentally maturing. I found God, I went to church.

I still have an addictive personality. You see all my tattoos. Relationships. It’s definitely part of who I am. But now, I can drink on the weekends with my friends and my sisters.


The thing I have in me more than anything is fear. I know if I use substances, what I’m capable of doing. So, I practice self-control. [I go to] DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) and CBT (cognitive behavior therapy).

With music, performing, going to the studio, it gives you purpose. Taking being creative seriously, writing lyrics, it’s processing.

I think in the hip hop and rap community, maybe more so than other sectors of music, mental health and emotional health isn’t on the forefront. It’s a big problem; mental health awareness and being able to say “it’s okay that I’m not okay”.

A lot of the rap and hip hop community, the whole music industry really, is predominantly male. That’s another hurdle to jump over. As a man especially, [it’s difficult] to talk about problems and emotions. Mental health and emotional health and well-being are crucial and it’s not spoken about. A lot of the people that I work with are really good; they talk about it, they’re open. I’m very happy with that.

There are people who don’t know that SIMS exists, but I’ll definitely tell everyone I know.

This story was told to Kayleigh Hughes and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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