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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.


I do hip hop, and the Austin music scene for hip hop is growing but it’s not as big as other genres of music.

I’m 29 now. 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 totally shifted to the opposite of that.

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

My History of Addiction

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

Now I live on a farm. I work with horses, cattle. I got that job like two weeks after I moved to Austin. I didn’t grow up with horses or anything, I didn’t grow up on a farm. It changed my perspective.

Starting Recovery

I had been court-ordered to or on my own gone 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.

The AA and NA worked for me up until a certain point. And part of my recovery came with me getting older. Me saying to myself, “you’re an adult, you can make these decisions.” Mentally maturing.

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.

I found God, I went to church.

Resources and Purpose

There needs to be healthcare, people who can give solution-based therapy. [In the past] I had somebody that I saw on and off, and she did not accept my insurance so it was a ticket.

The thing I have more in me than anything is fear. I know if I do [use substances], I know what I’m capable of doing. So I practice self-control. 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. My name, 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. The aftermath of a bad situation or something, you can make it so you grow and do better, or you can make it so you go deeper down the hole.

I think in the hip hop and rap community, maybe more so than other sectors of music, mental health and emotional health is not on the forefront of everything. It’s a big problem: mental health awareness and being able to say it’s okay that I’m not okay. As a man especially, to talk about problems and emotions. A lot of the rap and hip community, the whole music industry really, is predominantly male. That’s another hurdle to jump over. Mental health and emotional health and well-being is crucial and there isn’t a big community and it’s not spoken about.

A lot of the people that I work with are really good, they’re down, they talk about it, they’re open. I’m very happy with that.

People 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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