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Born of Osiris Guitarist Lee McKinney Opens Up About Xanax Addiction

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Born of Osiris guitarist Lee McKinney recently joined the Brewtally Speaking podcast to cover a number of subjects including his past addiction to the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, a topic he’s only briefly touched on previously.

Lee opened up about how and when his anxiety first cropped up, some of the frightening symptoms he experienced, why he turned to Xanax as a solution and how he eventually kicked the habit after years of relying on the drug to get by.

He explained:

“I had terrible terrible anxiety for like three years, crippling, and being an entertainer it was hell. It would take over my body. Like you know the ego risers on stage? People will stand on them to get a few feet higher for the solo or whatever? I couldn’t stand on ’em because it would go like this: (makes shaking motion with hands) underneath me… but it wasn’t at all. It was in my head.

“I’m telling you, mentally, physically I was in bad shape. And I’ll arrive at the point here, because you said evolutionary. When people get anxiety, when they start struggling with it, what seems to be more and more as time goes on… if I, if anyone can hear this and it helps them, sweet, because this is what helped me. It was a book. I think it might have been called ‘Dare’ or something. [Lee is likely referring to this book. -Ed.]

“When you have anxiety you think, ‘Oh my gosh, my brain has turned against me, it’s not on my team anymore, it’s not on my side. It’s just ‘this is not how it should be.’

“So I went and I thought one day what can I do to get rid of anxiety? And I took pills and I went down that road. I got addicted to Xanax for years. Terrible shit. That ended up being the worst time of my life, when I was on Xanax, addicted to Xanax, trying to get off. 

“And again these are prescribed pills. I’ve never taken more than a dose. Maybe one time for a flight kind of thing, but my point is that I wasn’t abusing it.

“So what I came to realize is that I don’t think it’s ever going to go away. That’s where I sit now. I don’t think it’s going to go away. I learned to live with it and here’s how, and this is the only advice I can give anyone related to the evolution. 

Lee went on to explain that his anxiety first developed when the band were keeping up with a near-constant touring schedule, saying:

“It was probably the peak of our touring schedule. We were on ‘Mayhem’ [festival] with Rob Zombie and Children of Bodom and Five Finger Death Punch, huge tour, and it was like our biggest meet and greets every day and probably our biggest partying every day too, so it was just all on 100%. So many people, so many drinks, drugs, everything full force, like women, whatever. And I don’t say that to sound cool, but that’s just what it was. I ended up meeting my wife on that tour and that’s why I can say that.

“But then I came home and I booked a motorcycle trip. And I got an hour down the highway, and I suddenly felt like my back tire was doing this… which obviously it can’t. If you can take riding a bicycle, for example, it’s terrible, that feeling. So the thing I mentioned with my ego riser moving, it wasn’t moving, and my back tire wasn’t moving either. 

“So then I started feeling like, OK, think about this, you’re riding, you’re on a treadmill right so you have forward motion, but instead of what it looked like to me, instead of me moving forward, it looked and felt like I was on a treadmill. Everything is bad. The problem with that is that if you ever come to a dead stop on a bicycle, what happens? You tip as you have no forward momentum. So even though I was moving forward down the highway, it felt to me like it was coming at me, which means that I wasn’t actually moving, which meant to me I had no momentum. And so I started freaking out, and so I didn’t know. I thought it was a vertigo. 

“For years I thought it was all these different kinds of things, couldn’t stand on the ego risers like I used to. So that was when it came, that was the [answer to the] question of when it started. But, yeah, I used to have to have towels in front of my amps on stage, because I would walk around on stage and I’d be like, ‘Oh, I’m slipping on water, and I would have to just rub my feet on these towels to dry them off to make sure that there was no water. So I was just a victim in my mind about this stuff.

On how his bandmates reacted:

“They probably thought I was crazy, but they’ve been through it all with me.

“They also were with me when I got addicted to Xanax. We were in Europe, and I was losing my mind and I was like, ‘You know what, I’m not taking Xanax anymore. I can’t do this. And so there were times, a couple shows for example, where I was bawling my eyes out backstage, I would walk onstage bawling and play the show. And when you’re in the show like I was in the show, similar to if you’re sick and you’re on stage and you don’t feel that sick, you’re still sick but it’s the adrenaline [that keeps you going]. And then I would walk offstage and be falling again, just because I thought I was absolutely coming off of it.

“So I wasn’t with this doctor anymore. He ended up being kind of a pill pusher from a small town that my dad was in. So I wasn’t able to wean off Xanax when I wanted to. Which you have to, because that stuff can be like heroin — which I’ve never done, I’m just saying like what I’ve heard, I’ve been told. [Quitting Xanax is] compared to that, so you can’t just get off that, your body can go into shock and all these things. But this doctor ended up dipping. Long story short, he ended dumping patient forms into a dumpster and got caught so he fled. So I had no way to get pills to [wean myself off Xanax] so I had to quit cold turkey on a very high dose that most people would say, although it was doctor prescribed, that [amount is] not responsibly prescribed.

“My band has been through me with that too and I think what’s cool about Born of Osiris. We grew up in Chicago, two blocks from each other’s houses, like you could walk to all of our houses. So we formed personal bonds with each other and started our relationship with each other as friends first, for the most part. And now, not everyone, but the bulk of the core of the band, before we formed our musical relationship. So I think that’s one thing that’s special about our band. Fast forward later in life when we’re going through, whatever it may be — it’s been me with anxiety pills — and now I’m off pills for a couple years now, and I’m, in a way, thriving. And then the next guy has his issue whether it’s a relationship or whatever. I think that’s the cool thing. They’ve seen the best and worst of me but we’re such a brotherhood kind of band, you know, it’s all been all good.”

You can listen to the full chat below, in which Lee also reveals the status of new Born of Osiris material.

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