A Bicycle Saved My Life….
By Gene Bowen – Founder of Road Recovery
I still relish memories of my first bike, a 1972 yellow Sting Ray Schwinn with a banana seat, and as a 8 year old kid, I certainly relished the independence it gave me. Long before I learned to drive, riding meant freedom – freedom from teenage angst, freedom to distract my mind, and freedom from the confusion and stress of trying to navigate life and its many changes…I suffered with a FEAR of life.
Growing up I was obsessed with live music. I possessed NO musical talent, but I developed a great love for music, the showmanship of live performances and the emotional impact that the music and lyrics had on my life, and the connection it made with those around me. As the final school bell rang each day after high school, I flew out the school door, grabbed my bike and rode, or hitch-hiked my way, to music venues all over the New York City area. Here among the roadies, touring crews and musicians I found a second home. Even though I just a young kid grateful to be allowed to tag along, the situation allowed me to be a part of this community that helped me to “find” myself. I then decided to pursue a career on the road, touring with bands around the globe. After graduation, I got my first paying job to go on a tour, and over the next ten years, I paid my dues and rose from a rank-and-file roadie to a tour manager. I thought my FEAR of life was cured, but it wasn’t…
In 1992 my addiction to alcohol & drugs finally caught up with me, forcing me to leave the road to survive and gain a footing on a new way of life. Re-entering the world of music as a recovering alcoholic addict was challenging and again, I gravitated toward my bicycle as a place to think, feel, and find peace in my new life. And along with the tremendous support of friends, family, and the music industry community, I was able to stay clean and sober first time in my adult life.
I rejoined my old community of musicians, again touring the globe while managing the needs of my own life. I was very open about my story with colleagues and this in turn, opened the door for them to connect with me about coming to terms with their own personal adversities and demons. After an extended two year world tour, I returned home with a different perspective about the music industry and about those who inhabit it.
And now I was at a cross roads. How could I take all I had learned about life, music, people and personal life changes and contribute something meaningful to others. Grateful for all the life lessons I had learned, and appreciative to those who had taught them to me, I needed to find a way to give back. So, just as I had always done when I was younger, I got back on my bicycle and pedaled my way for inspiration. My desire was to find a way to meld my life experiences; love of live music and those in the music industry who had confronted similar personal experiences; and medical professionals; all together to address the overwhelming challenges young people face in today’s complicated world. And so it was there on the seat of my bicycle that ROAD RECOVERY.ORG was born.
With the help of Sony Entertainment and Dreamworks Records, substance abuse and mental health specialists, as well as so many compassionate industry professionals, the ROAD RECOVERY FOUNDATION was born in February 1998. It’s all about the power of community, coming together to share experiences and draw strength and support from one another while engaging in positive, life-affirming, and creative enterprises! I have learned the simplest life lessons through the process of being an active participant in Road Recovery alongside my industry colleagues, together with the amazing young people we serve. These lessons in their simplistic form arm me with the tools and possibilities to clear my mind of fear, while removing many of the stumbling blocks that I may face. By repeatedly engaging in this process of collaboration, I’m afforded the opportunity to change my thinking. When faced with the pressure to engage in self-destructive behavior, I am emboldened by resources that outweigh the temptation to give in. Ultimately I am able to share in the experiential gifts we all are mysteriously presented with each day of our lives.
I am honored to say ROAD RECOVERY has given tens of thousands of young people the chance at another life – a better life – including myself, and to think that a bicycle continues to save my life, now 24 years sober…
Gene is one of the lucky ones who have embraced recovery since 1992. Before entering treatment, he had been a tour manager for a variety of artists for ten years. After getting clean and sober, he understood how lucky he was to survive, so he set out to build an organization to educate young people about addiction and other adversities in the hopes of helping them find their way towards a healthy and happy future. He looked to publicize the many strengths and resources available from the music/entertainment industry and the mental health field. With the support of Sony Music Entertainment and Dreamworks Records, as well as mental health/substance abuse specialists, entertainment industry professionals who faced their own personal adversities, the ROAD RECOVERY FOUNDATION, a non-profit (501c) organization, was established in February 1998.
Gene can be found on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.
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Really inspiring. Thanks for sharing your story!