Long strange 'Trip': Jon Wayne's rocky and rockin' road to recovery covered in new book
FARGO—Jon Wayne's appearance at the Aquarium tonight will be a little different from his previous area shows.
Instead of playing with his standard backing band, The Pain, the musician will be playing with fellow singer-guitarist Ben Suchy—a pairing dubbed Wayne Suchy—as they open up for Useful Jenkins.
Suchy won't be his only sideman. Over the last few years Wayne has collaborated with Chicago-based journalist Thom Wilder, and they recently published the book "One More Trip: Jon Wayne's Journey from Addiction to Redemption."
Wayne and Wilder will talk about the book before the singer performs at the Aquarium tonight, at the AmVets in Bismarck on Saturday and the Arts Center in Jamestown on Sunday.
The memoir is a warts-and-all recollection of Wayne's descent into drug use, from doing cocaine as a high school student in his native Jamestown, N.D., to his days of discovery—shooting heroin and playing music in Happens Often—in Fargo, to his darkest days as a rising star and junkie in Minneapolis, six failed attempts at sobriety and eventually his road to recovery.
For serious fans of the jam band singer, parts of the story may be somewhat familiar as he has openly wrote about his drug use and abuse, but he was apprehensive when Wilder approached him about telling his story
"I didn't want to put it to a book. Not to say that I was violently opposed to it or anything. But he approached me, and I was hesitant at first," says the 35-year-old singer. "Part of me didn't want this public. But the other part of me that may seek to be helpful to another person struggling, was like, if he thinks if this story is worth telling, then by all means."
"Addicts and recovering addicts really want to tell their story to somebody, because that's part of the recovery process," Wilder says. "You have to own up to what you did to fix it."
Wayne had a lot to own up to. He knew he was letting his family, friends and fans down through his chemical abuse, but the drugs—alcohol, meth, coke, heroin—also filled a hole. His slide was steep as he swapped his guitar for a score, deceived and ripped off friends and dealers and in one of his darkest moments, pulled a knife on a Minneapolis cabbie and stole the car.
"Those stories, for the most part, I'm at peace with," he says from his home in the Twin Cities. "I don't regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it. I've got my decisions I've made. I've had a chance to face most of the people I've hurt in the past and attempt to make amends."
He hasn't been able to find the cabbie to apologize, but he was recently able to track down a nurse he robbed at gun-point in what he calls a "small town" pharmacy in North Dakota. The story isn't in the book because his apology happened after publication.
"She accepted (the apology) and when I asked what I could do to make it right, she asked that I find God," Wayne says.
She dropped off a Bible at his parents' house, and he sent her a copy of his own book. He said he may invite her to Sunday's show in Jamestown.
They may not share the same idea of God, but Wayne does believe in a higher power, even if he can't articulate it. He says he follows some Eastern practices, like meditation.
"Definitely I have a higher power in my life and it's definitely the reason I'm still sober, for sure," he says.
Wilder knows a lot of things don't reflect well on Wayne.
"But looking back now, if you know who he is today but don't know the story, you're going to be shocked a little bit," Wilder says. "There were stories that when he told me made me laugh a little bit. There were stories that made me want to cry. I'm a little bit older than Jon and there were stories where I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and say, 'Dude, what the heck were you thinking?' "
While he got off drugs, Wayne replaced one addiction for another by sleeping around on the road. He's cut out the infidelity and has been happily married for more than a year.
"Now I don't see the benefit in living that life any more," he says. "It's just not a very fulfilling life to be with a lot of women, and it doesn't serve my higher being to be with a lot of women. It's easy to stay away from women because it didn't work, just like drugs and alcohol didn't work."
One thing that works now for maintaining his sobriety is talking about it, especially to those dealing with their own addictions.
"If I try to help people still struggling, it seems that I stay sober," he says.
Still, the singer doesn't necessarily see his place on the stage as the right place to speak out against drug abuse.
"It's a valid thing to discuss, but I haven't found it my place to bring it up unless someone brings it up to me," he says. "Nobody wants to be preached at by someone who has figured it out and is passed that. I just try to keep a little lower profile about that, as far as talking about that, and hopefully my actions speak louder than some preachy rant I would say about addiction, I would hope."
If asked, however, he says those with a problem should seek out a treatment program.
Now, heading out on this weekend's post-Thanksgiving trip through his old stomping grounds, he has plenty to be thankful for, like his music and his ability to make a living playing it.
"I'm thankful to have peace of mind and not hate myself," he says. "I'm thankful for the people put in my life that I'm able to carry a message to, if they're struggled. Seeing people's lives transformed is a gift. But the biggest thing is family. I'm thankful for my wife and my brothers and my parents. That stuff didn't seem so important to me for a number of years and now it's one of the most important things."
If You Go
What: Jon Wayne book signing and show, with Ben Suchy and Useful Jenkins
When: 9:30 p.m., tonight
Where: The Aquarium, 226 Broadway, Fargo
Info: Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door, ID-only. https://www.ticketweb.com