Meet Drea Jeann, who recently released her single/music video, “No Sympathy,” followed by a stripped-down, raw piano version of the song.
Drea explains the song, “’No Sympathy’ is about addiction. It’s about being stuck inside of oneself, fighting off their inner demons and battling with insanity. It’s about being confined to the asylum that is one’s own brain. Most importantly, the song depicts trying no matter what, even in the face of hopelessness, because in the distance lies freedom from oneself, from the substance that chains their hands.”
She goes on to add, “’No Sympathy’ depicts substance use in searching for something more of life than life had to give. Life itself wasn’t enough in that time. I needed more, and life didn’t meet my standards. It’s about using substance as an excuse, an escape, an emotion, a feeling, anything to overcome actual reality. I used substance to run away from myself when I didn’t even realize I was doing it. By the time I turned back to contemplate on how far I’d run off, and realize I was lost, the substance was then using me. I was then as inanimate as it, an emotionless being some called Drea, and she couldn’t hear the distant cries of her real self to be released and set free. And so she ran further, in fear. She’d look in the mirror and had no recollection of where she came from or who she was. I had become a side thought to myself. This is what ‘No Sympathy’ is about.”
An extraordinarily talented singer-songwriter, Drea is a recovering addict, who speaks candidly about addiction and her struggle to get clean and remain clean. Her one tattoo sums it up: “Just For Today,” referring to engaging the act of living one moment, one minute, one hour, one day at a time.
Tattoo.com elected to sit down with Drea Jeann to find out more about her as a person – who she is, where her head is, where she’s been, where she’s going, as well as how she’s handling the Coronavirus pandemic and whether or not she’s happy.
As you’ll see, Drea doesn’t pull any punches. She speaks straight from the heart, eloquently, and without pretense.
From your point of view, did you have a happy childhood?
I’d say overall, yes. Of course, everyone has certain parts of their life and childhood that are quite harming to them. My parents did the best that they could; I know that for a fact. There are a fair amount of things I struggle with to this day, however, that is directly correlated with my childhood. My dad and I have the best relationship ever to this day, but it was really rough as a kid. We’d get into fights almost every night and I was always seeking his approval. Today, I struggle immensely with validation, insecurity, and seeking approval from others. My mom is a very caring person, and she’s also very sensitive, I adapted a lot of these traits as well. We build our lives in a certain way from how we were raised as children and how we coped with the situations we were placed in, my childhood wasn’t horrible in the slightest, I was overall a happy kid, but I wouldn’t say it was a walk in the park either.
Do you believe happiness is a choice or a set of circumstances?
I believe happiness is a choice. You can find happiness in absolutely anything, no matter how horrific your circumstances. There’s always something to be grateful for, even if it comes down to the air you’re breathing, the sound of the rain on your window, the sun shining. Life is too big and too complex for everything in it to be completely dismal and disappointing. However, I’d say it’s a skill to be able to choose happiness. It’s not easy. I personally know that I get overwhelmed by life and whatever situation I’m in that nothing else seems hopeful. Especially during this time of COVID-19, it’s been incredibly hard for me to focus on the positive; but I know it’s there, and when I’m ready to open up to it I can find happiness wherever I am.
When you became an addict were you in some oblique way pursuing happiness?
I think in the beginning of my run I was looking for happiness in a way that felt like I was fulfilling myself and taking chances. I wasn’t the type of person who went out to clubs or bars, but at the beginning of my addiction I was going out almost every single night of the week. I knew that going out was fun, and it made me happy in the moment. I think, however, I was pursuing an escape more than anything. I wasn’t inherently choosing to escape, but looking back at it, I had so much trauma occurring in my life during that exact time, and I wasn’t dealing with it in the slightest. I didn’t know what to do and so I turned to numbing myself, to anything outside of my own body to take me away from what it was that I was going through. I was pursuing an escape more than I was happiness.
What is the major difference between your life before and after addiction?
The major difference is I’ve learned how to cope with whatever it is that I’m going through. I’ve learned to face whatever I’m feeling, rather than trying to run from it. I am a better woman to this day because of what I went through with addiction. It’s not an easy learning curve, especially being sober, dealing with all your thoughts and emotions. It’s a lot. My mind is crazy. Writing music has been a huge outlet for me processing all these thoughts and emotions.
Did getting clean heighten the contrast between happiness and unhappiness?
I was miserable when I was using. Happiness wasn’t even a passing thought. My brain was literally depleted of dopamine. It didn’t start like that, of course, but in the end, I didn’t even think it was possible for me to be happy. When I got clean I experienced what they call in recovery as the “pink cloud.” It’s basically when you come straight out of the misery you experienced with using and see that there’s another way to live and that it’s possible to find happiness and not use. There’s a choice to not use. When you’re addicted, you don’t have the choice. Your brain is confined to itself filling its need for whatever it is you’re using, above food, water, and shelter. I wasn’t eating, I was barely living when I was using because all my mind was set on was the substance. When you get clean and you’re taken out of that environment, it’s incredibly hopeful and enlightening. However, this doesn’t last forever and life is still life and it’s actually incredibly difficult to deal with things sober. You have to find other outlets that aren’t substances. I’d say overall, in response to the question, getting clean heightened my happiness; I’m not clouded with horrible judgment, I’m no longer rewiring my brain and making it function in abnormal ways.
Hermann Hesse said, “No permanence is ours; we are a wave that flows to fit whatever form it finds.” Has going through addiction changed your perception of the transitory nature of life?
Yeah definitely. I didn’t expect to ever go through addiction. Although addiction runs in my genes, I wasn’t ever preparing or planning for it to be apart of my story. But it’s one of the worst and best things that’s ever happened to me. It’s shaped me into who I am today, how I perceive life, and how I deal with life on life’s terms. I can’t control everything, and although at one point I tried, that failed and I learned that life moves on, according to itself, not according to me.
You have one tattoo. Why just one and what significance does it have for you?
Well, my dad always said he’d kill me if I got a tattoo lol. It was only after rehab and having something important enough to have permanent on my body that I decided to get one. My tattoo says “Just For Today” in French. I spent a lot of time in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and have always loved the French language. It’s a phrase that’s an essential part of NA (narcotics anonymous). Getting sober is incredibly difficult; not using each day at the beginning is excruciating. But if you focus on just one day at a time, maybe even every hour, or every minute, saying “I can get through this minute without using,” it becomes a lot less difficult. This phrase doesn’t only apply to using, though. It’s developed into how I deal with anything. If I can just get through today and deal with whatever it is I’m going through, I’m doing alright.
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
Probably working in the tech industry in Northern California, whatever that be … most likely customer relations or product/project management. I grew up in a techy home, and have worked for some tech companies in my past. I think tech companies are an amazing and vital part of our growth as a society.
When someone asks you, “Who are you?” how do you answer?
That’s an incredibly difficult question to answer because to be frank, I still don’t know who I am. There’s a lot I’m still learning, and there’s a lot I’ll always be learning. I discover more about myself every single day, sometimes it’s shocking. When it comes to my values though, I know that I am a person of integrity, honesty, and transparency. I uphold these in my music as best as I can, which is another integral part to who I am.
Are you happy now? If so, why? If not, why not?
I have my ups and downs. Currently, in this midst of COVID-19, I’m not happy. I’m a person that needs to be busy, constantly working towards something and filled with purpose. The downtime has made me hyper-focus on my socials and honestly, social media stresses me out. I don’t know how to convey who I am perfectly to those who have no idea who I am. It’s a lot of pressure. I don’t like being on social media all the time, but in this industry and trying to get people to understand me better, it’s essential I am. I’m doing my best to shift my perspective, though, and choose happiness wherever I can.