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Ep 62 Adam Schubert of ULNA and Cafe Racer Talks Addiction Recovery and Staying Sober in the Music Scene
Episode 62:

Adam Schubert (ULNA, Cafe Racer) Talks Addiction, Recovery, and Staying Sober in the Music Scene

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Session Notes

In this episode of Music Therapy, I talk with Chicago musician Adam Schubert of Ulna and Cafe Racer

Adam talks openly and candidly in detail about his journey of alcohol and cocaine abuse, starting at age 13, to hitting rock bottom, to coming to terms with his addiction, and to his present-day ongoing journey of recovery.  We discuss AA, not counting days sober, and taking it one day at a time.  He shares what it's like to remain sober while being an active musician, and his latest album OEA.  Finally, we discover our shared love of all things Beck!

Songs featured on episode:

"I Was A Monster" by ULNA on OEA via Born Yesterday Records

"Niacin" by Jessica Risker



Conversation has been lightly edited for clarity

Jessica Risker:

Welcome to Music Therapy. I'm Jessica Risker and I'm a musician based here in Chicago, Illinois. I'm also a licensed clinical professional counselor. Music therapy is a show where I dive deep into the psyche of musicians. We talk about music, that creative process, music, careers, mental health, the music, business, touring, recording, balancing life and music, and anything else me and my guests want to talk about. If you want to learn more about music therapy and see upcoming guests events, please visit music You can also visit to learn more about me and my own music. And if you're a fan of the show, please consider leaving us a review on apple podcasts. Every review helps us reach more listeners.

Today, I'm so excited to talk with Adam Schubert of ULNA. Adam is a multi-instrumentalist living in Chicago and has been playing music for over 10 years.  He has his own music project ULNA, and he also plays in the Chicago band Cafe Racer.

ULNA has a new album out called OEA. It's a “bar rock getting sober record” out now on Born Yesterday Records. The first full length solo record of ulna OEA was created right as Schubert reconfigured his life without drugs or alcohol, with the exception of the final track "Dead Friends".  The whole album was written while in a recovery program. Schubert’s songs are ambling and full of pit Dar and retro harmonies, a stylistic sensibility he attributes to a love for the Beatles and acoustic rock with a weird punk edge. OEA explores the range of emotions experienced in the transition to sobriety from fear to backsliding, to self doubt.

We're going to listen to my conversation with Adam in just a moment, but first here's one of my songs. This is “Niacin” off my album, the basement tracks: free under my band DEADBEAT.

And now let's turn to my conversation with Adam Schubert.

Jessica Risker:

Thank you for being on the show! How are you feeling today?

Adam Schubert (00:06:20):

Good. I hurt myself skateboarding today. But other than that, I'm doing okay.

Jessica Risker (00:06:29):

I start every show off the same way, which is by asking, what does a typical week look like for you these days?

Adam Schubert (00:06:47):

Oh, on weekdays I have class cause I'm in school now, so I have class and then I skate for awhile and then sometimes I'll just write a song or hang out with Alexa.

I write a lot. Yeah.  I'll pretty much write a song at least every day.  I got new stuff for recording, so I just have been like wanting to mess with that a lot. And so that's kind of been like, why I do it?

Jessica Risker:

What are you going to school for?

Adam Schubert:

I'm just doing prerequisites at Harold Washington. And hopefully I want to do a social work eventually, that'd be ideal. What kind of social work or addiction,

Jessica Risker: (00:07:51):

Well that's a great segue. I mean, that's something that we want to talk about today. So you have a new album. How do you pronounce the name of your new album? Is it OEA?

Adam Schubert (00:08:04):

It's OEA? Yeah. it means opposite to emotion action, a DBT term.

Jessica Risker: (00:08:11):

Okay. Well whatever you're comfortable sharing, but my understanding is this album was influenced by when you were in a recovery program - you were writing while you were in the program?

Adam Schubert (00:08:30):

Yeah. I wrote it in the program and I wrote like maybe one song just before I got sober. Like maybe like a week before. Yeah. so I basically wrote it in that whole time and then also after like about three months after, but I recorded the whole thing during COVID though.

Jessica Risker (00:09:01):

Well, let me ask you some questions, but if you don’t feel like talking about it just say let's move on, and no problem. But I'm curious, what substance or substances were you using and how did you get started?

Adam Schubert (00:09:26):

I started drinking when I was really young. I don't even really remember. I was probably like, I feel weird with my grandma listening to this. I probably like 13 or 14 and all my friends drank pretty hard and that's pretty young. Yeah. And like basically I was drinking a lot. That was like my main thing. And I did cocaine a lot before I went to THE program, that was like my other substance that I used.

Jessica Risker (00:10:12):

Did you feel like one of those was more of an issue than the other or was it both together?

Adam Schubert (00:10:20):

I think alcohol is like the main issue, but they were both becoming major issues.

Adam Schubert (00:10:29):

Just using it every day, you know, using coke a lot. And just like dipping into that kind of a habit. So I would do it like every day. I mean, I was using a lot.

Jessica Risker:

So how, how old are you now?

Adam Schubert:

I'm 32

Jessica Risker:

When did it start becoming daily at a certain point? Can you kind of remember that?

Adam Schubert (00:11:16):

Well, it would kind of go through phases. And since I was a kid to four years ago, I would take breaks, you know, which is like a common thing. I hear a lot from people that you take  breaks from drinking and that break is supposed to somehow, you know, absolve you.

Jessica Risker: (00:11:37):

A “Sober January” kind of thing?

Adam Schubert (00:11:40):

Something like that, just to prove that you can.   Validation that if I just stopped for a little bit, that'll be okay. Like I could just go right back to it. And that's what I would do most, I did that a lot, I'll stop drinking for a month. And I was in programs. I went to programs when I was young and I was in programs even at college age. So I've been in and out of that for a long time, since I was at least 16. So it's kind of like, I had to make the decision on my own to admit my situation and especially admit that I can't drink ever again. I think that's the most important thing.

Jessica Risker: (00:12:34):

Yeah. I know some people do a month sober to kind of prove to themselves. I can stop if I want to, you know, this shows that I have this control, even if that may not be the case in the long term sense.

Adam Schubert (00:12:50):

Yeah. I think that's definitely something I've noticed too. And some people can do that. I mean, there are people who I know that can party really hard and then stop, and they just don't have the bug in them, you know, they don't have that thing. And it's certainly hard to see that.   There is a jealousy in that, definitely. But it's just like something that you have to come to terms with on your own. That's really the big thing that you have to go through all of that in order to get clean.  You can't force anyone really.

Jessica Risker: (00:13:33):

So if you are doing programs as early as 16, it sounds like the issues really happened very quickly for you. It wasn't something that grew over time - if you're starting at 13 and then by age 16 going to programs, you use the word, they have the bug. It makes me feel like you became addicted very quickly.

Adam Schubert (00:13:59):

Kind of an interesting point because, my dad is an alcoholic too, so it's maybe partly genetic, his dad was an alcoholic and, you know, et cetera. And I think that it’s maybe a genetic thing. But yeah, it's hard to remember any of those moments from that age. I was just trying stuff to feel good. Like not feel angry, basically. And I think that’s what punk rock music was for me too, you know, it was just like something that was kind of spoke to how I felt and that really changed like how I view the world in a lot of ways, but so did using drugs and they kinda went hand in hand, at least where I lived. So people who were into that stuff more than likely also smoked weed and  drank

Jessica Risker: (00:15:14):

Are you comfortable sharing what your anger is about or was about?

Adam Schubert (00:15:19):

It's just  kind of a dad anger, like dad issue stuff. And you're just so angry when you're young and some people just have that in them. So it's not always like something happened to you.  For me, something did happen to me, which made me feel like that. But when you're young and like a punk you want to rebel and kind of live in that feeling.

Jessica Risker: (00:16:12):

Yeah.  Hearing your story, maybe if somebody else hears it and they've, been wondering about their use or thinking about how things have gone over the years that maybe it would help them to connect with somebody who has moved through the process, or maybe even a little bit further in your acceptance of where you are in your recovery.   So that's where I'm coming from when I'm asking you about these questions.

So you said you've been doing programs since 16 or so. Was that, was that your choice, or were people at that time putting you in the programs?

Adam Schubert (00:17:04):

I guess there was one that was by choice, kinda.  It was always like someone else putting me in. Yeah. Except for the last time, you know, the last time was all me.

Jessica Risker: (00:17:47):

Were there times earlier in your twenties where somebody else persuaded you to go when you to recovery?

Adam Schubert (00:17:56):

I mean, no one was able to persuade me to go, but people definitely suggested something. I mean, I wasn't even in therapy for, I mean, I've been in therapy since I was really young, but I stopped going to therapy when I was like 26 years old.. And so there's just been times when someone would be like, you should go to therapy or you should try this or try that. And I just never would do it. So it's kind of, it was just one of those situations where I had to hit like a bottom for myself to really like actually go through with something. Everybody has to hit a bottom, but it doesn't have to be anything like insane or dramatic, but something for them that feels like their bottom is kind of important.

Jessica Risker: (00:18:46):

I want to talk to you about what that was for you, but first I want to lead up to it with a little bit more details. So you started using around 13, and around 16, your parents were putting you in recovery programs. So my assumption is that some behaviors were happening or things were going on at home that was disruptive or causing issues. Is that right?

Adam Schubert (00:19:14):

That's definitely right. I was not going to school. I was in Saturday detentions for like over a year. And I had got kicked out and went off campus and it was just not going to school, not trying, drinking, doing drugs. And then I went to the program pretty much. That kind of how it happened.

Jessica Risker: (00:19:46):

Okay. And were these inpatient programs?

Adam Schubert (00:19:50):

Yeah. Yeah, the first one was a wilderness program. I had like a hospital experience and then let's see. I went to one in Galveston, Texas, and it got shut down. They lost all their money and I went to one in Boulder, Colorado.

Jessica Risker: (00:20:19):

That must have been tough to go if you didn't want to go.

Adam Schubert (00:20:22):

Yeah, it was. And I stayed with a friend of mine who was living in Galveston for a couple of weeks. Cause I was going to move to Austin with one of the people who worked at the program who was like 40, which at the time,  I was 19 maybe. And he was going to take me in and I was going to live in Austin with him and his family. And I ended up just, I don't know, listening to reason really. And then going to the program in Boulder.

Jessica Risker: (00:21:03):

Did you ever try to run away from the program?

Adam Schubert (00:21:06):

No,  I tried to run away at wilderness, but I didn't even really try. I just like walked off because it's not even worth it or possible. It's just like, it's just too much of a pain in the ass. It would just be like so much to do to try to actually leave. I knew a couple of people who did it. But they didn't get very far, you know, that's the thing. You're a kid, so you don't really know what you're doing.

Jessica Risker: (00:21:39):

Yeah. I guess that's why they make them remote sometimes.

Adam Schubert (00:21:43):

Oh yeah. I mean, wilderness, I knew someone who successfully ran away at night and got to a road. And when he always told the story, I remember thinking it was so wild, but it's not really, that someone from the program picked them up  by accident. But the thing is, of course, I'm sure they operate in this, you know, essentially in like this 20, 30 mile radius. So that road is like, you know, just probably going right through it. So the odds of someone picking them out that works there or knows who like this random kid, like Ballou, thermals is like probably in the program. So he got taken back like immediately, but people definitely said, oh, it's definitely possible. I just didn't care enough to really try that out and to do that. Like most of the people that I knew we would just sneak in things we would just use in the program. Like when I lived in Galveston, we used in the program all the time.

Jessica Risker: (00:22:55):

There, were there any special, this was all kind of for the same age range as programs were, was there anybody there who was into it who was trying to do work the program at that age? I mean, I guess

Adam Schubert (00:23:08):

Like when I was in Boulder, I worked the program pretty hard.

Jessica Risker:  And how old were you at that one?

Adam Schubert:

I was 19. Yeah. And I was there for a year and I worked the whole program. I mean, you know that you have to work the program to leave.  You know it'll be a lot easier if you just do it and you can go.  But a lot of people, in the back of your mind, you know that you're just going to use again later one day, you know, it's not going to last, like the sobriety won't last.

Jessica Risker: (00:23:50):

So that was your mindset. It was like, I'll work the program. That'll help me get out of here, but I'm not like committed to...

Adam Schubert (00:23:55):

...sobriety at that point.

Jessica Risker: (00:24:01):

Looking back, do you feel like you got anything out of those experiences?

Adam Schubert (00:24:06):

Oh yeah. I mean, I met a lot of people that I really liked and cared about and shared intimacies with. And we knew everything about each other in such extreme ways .  When you're in the program with someone you know every secret of theirs and it's very personal and a most of the time you never see them again. And it's really difficult to deal with, like the way you act and talk in program is not how you act or talk outside of it. Well, the difference is that you're way more open - you share things that maybe other people don't want to hear. You overshare really. And how you talk to people in the program,  is not how people talk. So it's really difficult for a lot of people to make that transition out of the program into the real world. That's probably the hardest thing.

Jessica Risker: (00:25:14):

Did it take you any time to be willing to share in the program?

Adam Schubert (00:25:20):

No, not really. Honestly. I was pretty open to sharing with people. Yeah.

Jessica Risker:

Did you like that part?

Adam Schubert:

Okay. Yeah. I mean, like the connection was really nice that I would make with people there andI didn't mind being honest with the people there and talking about stuff.

Jessica Risker: (00:25:45):

So you went through a few programs, and then can you give us a timeline, like a broad strokes timeline -  at 16 was your first program and then you were also in one at 19? That was the Boulder one?

Adam Schubert (00:26:02):

Yeah. Yeah. And then that's it. And then I wasn't in anything really until I was in a place called Compass four years ago. That's where I went.

Jessica Risker: (00:26:21):

Okay. So what was it like when you left them? That's a long time to be in the program, in this world. You're saying that feels really different from when you exited and go back to interacting in the world - What was that like for you? What did you, after that?

Adam Schubert (00:26:42):

I went to school at Columbia. So I had left Boulder, went to Columbia College in Chicago for a semester and I hated living here and I moved back to Colorado and I lived in Colorado for God, I can't even remember how long, a long time, and then worked at a resale store and drank a lot and partied and moved back to Chicago. And then basically just continued the same behavior until like four years ago. Like, there'd be these breaks where I would stop. I wouldn't do Coke anymore, or I would stop drinking for like 30 days.

Jessica Risker:  (00:27:38):

If you can, can you remember a time where you were like, okay, that's it, I'm taking a break?

Adam Schubert (00:27:42):

I think it was mainly because I saw how it was affecting my partner at the time. I think it was mainly to appease other people.

Jessica Risker: (00:27:58):

Your partner, urging you to make changes.

Adam Schubert (00:28:02):

I don't remember them urging me, but  I could recognize that it was becoming an issue. Yeah. And I think that was me  trying to appease them by stopping drinking for a month.

Jessica Risker (00:28:17):

So where was music in all of this for you during, during this time period?

Adam Schubert (00:28:22):

Oh, like from 16 to now.

Jessica Risker (00:28:26):

Were you playing when you were in Boulder in the program where you were? Was that was just sort of a steady thing the whole time?

Adam Schubert (00:28:34):

Yeah. I've been playing in bands the entire time and recording too. Like I recorded a ton when I lived in Boulder. I was in  a noise band in Boulder with my roommate at the time. And I guess I just like recording all the time. Just like to write songs. I pretty much have been writing songs, like recording at least two or three a week since that time.

But this is the first time I ever owned real gear.  I recorded my first EP as Ruins with my phone using the headphone Jack to record it. So this is the first time I've really ever owned gear that I can record something that sounds  not like garbage. Honestly for me, it was like if I stopped drinking and doing drugs, my songs were going to suck. Like that's what I used to think. Like I won't be able to write lyrics anymore and because I would remember, I would always think like, oh, when I drink really hard, I write really good songs because the lyrics are really good. And then I think a lot of people think that if they stopped using, the creativity output would die. The well would dry up. Yeah. I thought that at least for sure.

Jessica Risker (00:30:17):

One concept of addiction that I think is really interesting is the idea of positive gains.  Let's say smoking, you know, you think about your lungs and cancer and looking older, whatever it is that seems bad. But there's also things about it that worked for people. You know, some people make friends cause they go out and have a cigarette or they get a break from their work.

Adam Schubert (00:30:46):

All you can do is smoke. You know, it's like, for me, that's like, all I can do is smoke. You know? It's just funny that you said that because that's what I've been thinking about lately. It's like, I don’t want to get cancer, but it's my ultimate crutch.

Jessica Risker (00:31:03):

So what are the positive gains for you for smoking?

Adam Schubert (00:31:07):

First off, when I play a show, I really feel alone after the show for a minute and just like to be with myself and that'll be like the perfect seeds to have cigarettes. I do not like being around really drunk people.  I get angry inside if I have a bad show. I mean, I certainly don't want to be around anyone. And the Empty Bottle has always been a place for me where, you know, I smoke in the basement and I can just stay there and drink my Coca-Cola and smoke. And I'm free from the social contract for awhile. Yeah. And that's always been really nice.

Jessica Risker (00:32:02):

No, I mean, that's exactly, that's exactly what I'm talking about. I feel like if you're going to quit something, you have to recognize that it is doing something for you and acknowledge that you can't just take that away. You're still going to need alone time after show, even if you quit smoking.

Adam Schubert (00:32:18):

Probably. Yeah. Right. It's just a lot easier to say I need to have a cigarette in a conversation with someone like at a show.

Jessica Risker (00:32:26):

I thought of that because you were just talking about how -  I know this is true of a lot of people, and it's even romanticized - the idea of substance use and creativity being really linked, and people worrying maybe they would lose that inspiration or that ability to create, or maybe they find it romantic in some way to be that tragic figure or something like that.

Adam Schubert (00:32:50):

Yeah. Yeah. I think that's certainly a part of it. I mean, especially if you're in the punk music scene.  And you want to be this devil may care dude. And Chicago was just so much of that like six, seven years ago when it was the garage rock scene and yeah, it was just like throw beer cans at the bands and stuff like that because you liked them.

Adam Schubert (00:33:26):

I mean, it was really fun, you know, and that's the thing.  Without a doubt or  being crazy, you know, like the Van Gogh thing, right. Or it's like, you have to have bipolar disorder to be a good artist.

Jessica Risker (00:33:50):

That makes you special in some way or another layer of why it would be hard to change that kind of behavior. If you're feeling like this is really connected with my music, even if I see maybe negative things coming off of drinking or using cocaine or whatever, that would create a tension. Yeah.

Adam Schubert (00:34:09):

Yeah. And it's also, I mean, you're the character of the drunk person, you know? I mean, that's also a part of it too, there's a personality within that, you're afraid of losing, who am I?   If I'm not doing this, being this person, what am I going to do at night? What am I going to talk about? How am I going to talk to people at all? You know, it's all of the shyness or fear that you have of being around other people or what to say, how to act obviously goes away when you're drinking. It goes away if you're doing cocaine, so that's the positive you see? You're like, oh, I'll be more outgoing. So if I stop, how am I even going to play a show, not drunk? How can I even get up there and perform in front of people? That was so hard for me. I was really lucky that Cafe Racer, my other band, had a lot of shows. Like the first month I was sober. So I just had to do it. I just had to deal with it and get through it. And obviously it's if you have people who care about you, they'll respect what triggers you.

Jessica Risker (00:35:31):

Yeah. What about other people? I mean, if you're in the scene, or even bandmates, I'm trying to get you to name names or anything, but we see that  adjustment to go from using to not using, and being around people that you used to use with.

Adam Schubert (00:35:49):

Yeah. It's definitely really hard. Also people tend to, when you get sober, people don't know what to say to you. That's also a thing. Sometimes I've noticed they don't know how to act. You know?  Sometimes, like they don't know  the appropriate thing they can do around you. So they just want to be around having a beer, and don’t know if this is bothering you.  And then of course, a lot of times, you get people really drunk who are talking about wanting to be sober. That was a thing that happened to me a lot when I first got sober, which I was always really grateful to have people come up to me and  want to talk about that as far as their sobriety is concerned.

And  a lot of the time it didn't mean anything because they were so drunk.  And it's like, they want you to save them maybe in that moment. And then you reach out and maybe they're not ready. They're not ready at all. Which is like, fine. But it's hard when you're first getting sober and you don't even know how to manage your own sobriety right now. And that's just something that happens.

Jessica Risker (00:37:16):

So going back to people don't necessarily know what to say or how to act around you.   What  - and I know this answer would be different for different people - but for you, what would you want people to say or ask about?

Adam Schubert (00:37:29):

I don't know. I mean, whatever they think, whatever they want really. I mean,  they don't have to ask anything, you know, they could just do whatever they want to do. And it'll be fine. Like now, I'm certainly comfortable enough in my sobriety that nothing bothers me anymore. Really been sober for years around that.  I mean, sometimes I get triggered for sure. There's been certain shows I've played that it just comes and goes. Sometimes you're just  triggered and you know, if you do certain things that you do, like if you do certain drugs, they say that our memory of the feeling stays with you for really forever. So it's always kind of on your mind. And I feel like that's why I write songs about it all the time.

Jessica Risker (00:38:43):

Maybe do you have an example of a recent time that you're comfortable sharing when you felt triggered?

Adam Schubert (00:38:49):

Yeah. I mean I think that most intense feeling of being triggered was when I played with White Fence. And everybody ordered a shot in the green room. And it was the first time in a long time that I wanted to take that drink. I felt like I was going to reach for it. It was really bizarre.

Jessica Risker (00:39:20):

What do you think it was about that moment? That particular time?

Adam Schubert (00:39:25):

I don't even know.  It's just the habit of doing it and the motion of, there's shots there and everyone goes to grab one,  but I'm the one who isn't and it's that feeling of, you know, you're kind of left out, but it's more like a muscle memory. It was kind of like, oh, I have to do that. And then when I didn't do it, I got that itch that like, I remember if like, if you don't, if you can't get when you're young or, or if you do drugs or something and you can't get things you're trying to get, and you feel like angry, you know, you're like, Ugh, Goddamn it. I really want to do that. Yeah. But it was like, it came out of nowhere, you know, that's the thing I don't really know. There is no why; it just happens. Yeah. It just will happen. And, you know, he's just showing not to actually do it.

Jessica Risker (00:40:24):

How do you do that? How do you, I mean, that would be really hard. I think, especially being in a band and playing music and being in that environment so frequently. How, how do you work through those moments?

Adam Schubert (00:40:36):

Well, you just, I dunno, it's just like that willpower, you just try not to, you know, I just kind of try not do that right now.  Or you walk away, sometimes it's the easiest, if you can, but sometimes you can't - there's been times I've camped and stuff like that. There's booze around and I can't go anywhere. So you just have to deal with it. And smoking is how I get away with it. Honestly. Like usually I smoke and then I feel a lot better. I dunno, you just try not to do it. And  the feeling’s going to go away, it'll pass as you sit and wait it out, you kind of remind yourself of that. Yeah.

That's really the big thing, but sometimes it might not work. That's a reality that I think people need to come to terms with, it's just the way it goes. Like there's going to be moments that maybe you do take that drink. It's possible. You're only a person. I think having such a high standard for yourself where you're gonna feel like you're going to die if you did it, you know, that's not helpful. It's just knowing that you can probably not do it right now

Jessica Risker (00:42:05):

Like one day at a time.

Adam Schubert (00:42:06):

I'm not going to do that right now. You know? It's like, I can't do that. And then you just try to stop yourself.

Jessica Risker (00:42:15):

And that's a big tenant of 12-step, right? Is that it's just one day at a time.

Adam Schubert (00:42:18):

Yeah.  I think that’s the most important way to go about it. I don't count my days though, like in AA or anything like I'm in.  I'm pretty sure it's been four years, but I know I don't really count my days.

Jessica Risker  (00:42:36):

So, okay. I want to talk about what your bottom was, but also want to in that talk about  the stages of readiness for change, and it feels like you, over the course of many years have reached a point where you were really ready to change and really ready to commit, but that took awhile.

Adam Schubert (00:43:03):

Yeah, it did. So my bottom was basically - I just started developing severe anxiety, like panic disorder which I never had before. The first time I had a panic attack that was severe, where, what happens to me is my hands clench up and  get stiff. And of course  feel like I'm having a heart attack and the first time that happens, I was drinking after  I had gotten strep throat. I was on antibiotics, I was drinking and I was doing cocaine and I got the panic attack like that. And I've done like a lot of Coke and I thought I was having an overdose. And so I just kind of walked around and was just trying to get rid of it or thinking it would go away.

Adam Schubert (00:44:14):

But then that started happening more frequently, where I would get panic attacks like that. And then if iI had a drink, I’d have a panic attack like that. And then I just got them every day and I would call the ER, I'd call an ambulance or walk to the hospital. And I was going to the hospital three times a week.

Jessica Risker (00:44:47):

Oh man. Did you know that it was? I mean, did you recognize after a while that they were panic attacks, or did you not know what was going on?

Adam Schubert (00:44:55):

Well they told me they were panic attacks, but they felt like heart attacks. Like they were so terrifying that I thought I was going to die. And so I basically would just go there to get an Ativan and  go home. And I kept getting them all the time and it was like, I couldn't sleep and I wasn't even using, cause I was so scared that if I drank even a sip of something, I would get a panic attack like that. So then I was just basically sober out of fear and I was just in and out of the hospital basically for a while.

Jessica Risker (00:45:37):

Oh man. How long did that period last?

Adam Schubert (00:45:39):

That was a couple of weeks. Give or take.  The last week was the worst where I went in and the people there knew me which was really embarrassing. And were definitely annoyed I was there.

Jessica Risker (00:46:04):

How did that lead to you making the change, or being ready to change?

Adam Schubert (00:46:11):

I think it was just because it was debilitating. It was  getting to the point where I wouldn't leave my apartment at all. It was just getting out of hand. Like, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I don't know if anyone out there knows what that is, but that's a reference, but that's literally what I felt.

Jessica Risker (00:46:41):

So, okay. So did you take your last drink and not know it was your last drink, or did you make a decision at one point? When did you go to the program in relation to when that happened?

Adam Schubert (00:46:52):

Well, I wasn't really drinking then but you know, there were some moments like in the program, like when I started, that's why it's not completely been four years, that I slipped, while in the program. I remember before I went to the program, I was at a bar. I had one shot of something. And then I got a severe panic attack. And that was probably the last time I drank because I was so scared. And then I went into the program pretty soon after that.

Jessica Risker (00:47:38):

I think you said towards the beginning that you have come to a place where you recognize that you can't use anymore, is that correct?

Adam Schubert (00:47:50):

Oh yeah. Definitely. There's no way I'll ever be able to drink ever. That's just like a fact, I just can't do it. I mean, I can't handle it. It not even can't handle it, but like my brain won't allow me to drink normally.

Jessica Risker (00:48:12):

It sounds like part of what in a weird way helped you to get here was this was this very direct cause and effect.  Some people’s performance at work slowly suffers, you know, but  it's a little less clear over time that maybe alcohol is at cause, and some can be in some denial about it for a while in that sense. But if you're having a drink and then have a panic attack, that's a pretty clear cause and effect, that would be pretty powerful, I would think.

Adam Schubert (00:48:41):

Yeah. Yeah. And then of course it was a lot of other mania and depression stuff going on too. And that definitely helped to want to be in the program for sure. And I think it wasn't  as severe as some people have gone through. For sure.

Jessica Risker (00:49:13):

What are you referring to?

Adam Schubert (00:49:16):

It's just like, you know, some, some people's bottoms are like being homeless, you know, and  worse. You hear that in meetings, or  being in the hospital. But I mean, just being in the hospital a lot was definitely  my wake up. And there were like a couple of other things in there that made me want to get clean too. I don't know. It's hard to describe. It's just like, you just know it when it's your time. Yeah. That's really it.

Jessica Risker (00:49:50):

This is 20 years of history we're trying to cram into an hour here. So obviously there's so much more, but I want to ask, just being mindful of the time, I definitely want to talk about your album more specifically. But, is there any other part of your experience that you would want to share? And is there anything that you would want to say to someone who might be watching this or listening to this who maybe is struggling with something similar or wondering should I make a change?  What would you say to them?

Adam Schubert (00:50:32):

I would say that they should be honest with themselves and which they probably are already, but at least honest with other people, maybe as the extent of their problem and like being open and then knowing that it's not something to be embarrassed about or guilty about.I don't really subscribe to the disease module of AA, but  there is something in you that makes it much harder to  live without those things. I was just like, try to quit, you know,  just give it a shot. That's my only suggestion to people - just give it a chance to see if you could do it now. Or  maybe it will be happier and, but it comes from the person. So I guess really it's when you feel you're ready to do it, and if you don't feel ready to do it, that's also your decision

Jessica Risker (00:51:38):

Is there anything else about your experience with using and your recovery that you want to put out there?

Adam Schubert (00:51:47):

I mean, if anyone is trying to get sober  it is really hard to be sober in Chicago. That's a fact, and the beauty is that a lot of places are becoming maybe  hip to that, that people are trying to not drink as much. So if some venues have more options. To get the feeling,  what I used to do is I would get bitters and soda. That's my drink for a long time. That was easy so you feel kind of still connected to everything, you know, and not so left out. I mean,I drink Coca-Cola, which is probably not really the best thing. But I think like, you know, like Topo Chico,  cause it's in a bottle, you know,  anything that makes you feel you're part of it and you have something in your hand and you're still connected and people really will understand and, and some might not, but it's the people that you want around will.

Jessica Risker (00:52:55):

That's important. Yeah.

Adam Schubert (00:52:59):

And not to give up, just  keep going for it, you know? And if you mess up, it's okay. That's really the big thing to me, I guess that's really what I want to say to anyone. Is it's okay if you mess up, you are not at zero. And I don't know if anyone out there understands that, but you're still  learning things and everything you learned while sober. So there suddenly you're automatically at square one that that's not true with that at all. So that's, I guess my big thing, it's like, it's okay if you mess up, you can get back on it.

Jessica Risker (00:53:37):

Yeah. I mean going through a relapse can be a learning moment, you know - what happened? What led to that? What might you do next time?

Adam Schubert (00:53:52):


I think there's a lot of beautiful things about  AA, for some people it’s  good for them to have that accountability. If that, if they mess up, it's like, they're back at zero again, if that works for you. That's great. Butfor me, at least, if I thought that way I would, if my left, like lapses would have been like, like a month long, probably. Yeah. Like it would have been way longer than just a day or night of drinking. It would have been like, I would've been like, it. I'm just going to do it every day. You know? It's like the shame part comes in. Yeah. So I think that's kind of my big thing for people is like, it's okay if you have that happen, it's like, you can just stop. It's the morning, you're in the morning, you're sober. So you can just keep being sober that day.

Jessica Risker (00:54:52):

Yeah. Yeah. I think that's good. I really do like your album a lot. I've been listening to it. I'm not quite sure what to ask about. I mean,  you said you wrote most of it while you were in recovery. What would you like to share about the songs or the album or the sound of the album?

Adam Schubert (00:55:21):

Well, I mean the sound I don't know. I think that I wrote the album, just like I had a lot of bad memories, I guess, you know? And I think that was why I wrote that record. And there's a lot of guilt. I feel guilty a lot. I still feel guilty all the time. There's you know, the band crack loud.  You ever heard of them? They were like a punk band from Calgary and they're all sober. They talk about being sober and the story a lot. And they have a lyric in there. One of their songs goes “guilt is a word I hear in my mind all the time”, which is so real. I mean, that's  so perfect. Andwhen I started writing this album, I wrote one song that ended up being about getting sober, but it was  about using, you know,  about  how it felt using and lhow I feel now at the same time and how guilty and ashamed you are.

Adam Schubert (00:56:31):

Like, I think that's really how I felt it was, but it was also  super painful because I felt like it was impossible to stop talking about. And I still feel that way to a degree, this stuff I'm working on right now. I was like, I'm just going to make an album about growing up in my hometown. And then now I have something else to focus on, but I find myself, I've writing songs about, you know, moments that have witnessed an experience a lot because it's just like always there. And I think that's a really common thing. I've noticed that in other people who are sober, who play me and that their songs are mainly, it's hard to forget.

Jessica Risker (00:57:23):

How does it feel to when you perform those songs?

Adam Schubert (00:57:29):

It feels good. I mean, I like playing live. Like it just depends, if the sound is good, then I guess I feel what I felt. That's the goal. Maybe I feel what I felt while singing it, like when I was writing it. And I don't know, but I move on from things really quickly. And as music way, at least in my songs, like I like them. And then sometimes I just, I'm just kind of over it in a way, like those songs feel really old to me now. But I think “Borrowed Time” is the song I liked the most because of just the chord changes and the melody. So it's, if I like the melody, it feels good, singing it all the time.

Jessica Risker (00:58:24):

Let me just peek at my was last year for you with the shutdown? I imagine for a lot of people that was very hard for sobriety, and for using, and some people developed habits last year.

Adam Schubert (00:58:41):

Yeah. Some people also got clean during it, which is like, I mean, good for you. I mean, I don't know how the hell anyone could do that. I know  a few people who got sober at the beginning and stayed sober all the way. And I think they're just heroes. Like, I don't know how they did that. There's no way I could do that. But I mean, I already had  three years under my belt by then and I felt totally fine. And I had my old roommates, one of them is sober and for  almost 11 years. So it's kind of like he was real easy to talk to. And Alexa, these people had my back in that way. So it was easy. Plus I basically got to do the thing that I should never do, which is isolate.

Adam Schubert (00:59:40):

And I was allowed to do that. And so I wrote a song a day for over a month and it was awesome. And I mean,obviously so many terrible things happen to so many people, but for my own mental health, it really wasn't, it was bad for a little bit. Cause I was living in Alexis studio with her and it was very close quarters. But other than that, it really wasn't like at that. Yeah. I mean,  the fear of dying was obviously  intense, but my habits were, I felt like I could go crazy. Like I was like, oh, I could record every second. And it's fine and I don't have to talk to anybody ever again. And I think that was definitely part partially in my mind for sure.

Jessica Risker (01:00:32):

Speaking of Alexa. So I did, - I can't not ask you this before we end. We just have a couple more minutes, but I did a photo shoot with her recently. This is great. And do you have a cat?

Adam Schubert (01:00:46):


Jessica Risker (01:00:48):

So she told me that you were a big Beck fan. Beck's my favorite artist ever. So I guess I wanted to ask you, what's your favorite Beck album or song?

Adam Schubert (01:01:02):

I have my favorite things by Beck, his singles that he did in the nineties. I have a few of them, my good friend, Tommy showed me this one. It's called Steve Threw Up. Yeah. It's probably like my favorite Beck song. It's not easy to find, you could find it on Discogs. But it's certainly like the best song of his, in my opinion. Yes. It looks like that. And has the band that dog doing background vocals and it's insane because it's basically like a really typical, pretty folk song until the very last seconds. And it turns absolutely insane, like noise and just screaming and analog synth noise. It's amazing. And it's funny cause people don't really know a lot of his early stuff, which sucks. Cause it's really good. It is good. And it's really weird and cool, but yeah, I mean I love early Beck a lot. It's definitely one of my favorite things. Plus he's like master at Appalachian folk music, like hillbilly music guy, really, really good at that.

Jessica Risker (01:02:34):

Well, I should have left more time to talk about Beck, but first of all, where can people go and find your new album?

Adam Schubert (01:02:42):

You can go to to get the record. I think there should be a link in Spotify as well for the record. And then Shuga Records released a special edition vinyl of mine. So I highly recommend checking that out and Reckless Records, I think has them, they’re both on Milwaukee Ave.

Jessica Risker

Well thank you. YouI mean, thank you so much for being so candid and open with everything.

Adam Schubert (01:03:25):

Absolutely. I'm really glad to talk about stuff like this. It's important to me and certainly anyone out there who's wanting to get clean, you know, I hope you, if you feel like you want to talk, it's all good.

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