Episode 09: From Rock Bottom to Sober Rockstar with Tommy Vext
Tommy Vext wouldn’t be alive today were it not for grace — and a phone call. The heavy metal singer and songwriter was poised to throw himself in front of a train when a young kid in the throes of addiction reached out for help. That one decision — to answer his phone and step up as a sober brother — saved Tommy’s life and kept the former lead vocalist for Bad Wolves on a path that today serves as an inspiration to everyone who comes into contact with him and his message. This episode of the Roll-Call with Chappy podcast unspools a career and life trajectory like none other — from unimaginably low lows to a life full of personal and professional highs; from multiple near-death experiences to transcendent peace and inspiration within his recovery.
Host Peter “Chappy” Meyerhoff takes Tommy through an amazing set of life milestones. You’ll hear about the traumatic childhood roots that shaped the life of Thomas Cummings, who grew up a biracial New York kid in a home dominated by addiction and mental illness. Their conversation touches on the emotional toll that violence took on Tommy’s family — and the powerful ways in which 12-step recovery ultimately transformed his life, as well as his loved ones’. He has gone from being a young boy powerless to protect his mom, to buying her the safe, comfortable home in which she lives her life today, supporting others through her work with AlAnon.
It’s all about breaking the cycle, showing up and doing the work. “We’re not in the results business. We’re in the work business. We try to show up and do what’s right and wonderful things happen,” says Tommy, who has 37 songs ready for release, a forthcoming biography and plans to tour internationally. You’ll appreciate Tommy’s brutal honesty about the fear, pain and loss he suffered repeatedly coming up — even as he somehow resisted relapse. Whether confronting his brother’s homicidal mania or working with musicians who don’t share his ethos, Tommy explains why nothing shakes his bedrock of 13 years’ sobriety: “There are no mistakes in God’s world.”
- [02:15]: Tommy shares some of his early backstory, including how he and his brother — both biracial — were abandoned and subsequently adopted.
- [04:20]: Abuse stemming from Tommy’s brother’s mental health issues emerged early in life and had a hugely negative impact on the family and on Tommy’s adoptive parents’ marriage.
- [07:20]: How what started as a bar brawl at the age of 20 turned into a wakeup call for Tommy, who was badly beaten and left for dead.
- [09:50]: Tommy got clean and got clarity, vowed to get strong and relocated to California, where he thought he was safe. But of course “wherever you go, there you are.” In no time, he’d learned how to take advantage of the LA “wild west,” dealing drugs and generally screwing up his life.
- [11:41]: Tommy signed a music contract in 2008 and was touring in the midst of his full-blown addiction, which included a culture of fighting.
- [13:38]: After a period of “white-knuckle” sobriety during which he was suicidally depressed, Tommy and his then-finance suffered a miscarriage, relapses, domestic violence and a cycle of steroids and other drugs to keep him showing up (barely) for live Snot performances.
- [18:14]: Eventually Tommy found himself homeless, hitting new rock-bottoms of humiliation.
- [21:29]: At 27, Tommy realized he didn’t have to live in the grip of his addiction and was finally willing to change everything about the only identity he’d ever known. That willingness to surrender landed him in the shit (literally) in a dog kennel, where Tommy got his first glimmer of sobriety.
- [26:50]: Flash forward a decade, and Tommy had rebuilt his music career and — more importantly — his life.
- [29:10]: Why “taking the steps” and amends worked for Tommy, who found healing and came to an understanding of his childhood trauma.
- [32:00]: During a period when he was seeking reconciliation with his mother and sister, Tommy also had a deadly encounter with his brother, whose mental illness was full-blown and violent.
- [35:20]: Tommy drew a boundary with his mom: He was no longer willing to maintain a relationship with her unless she sought help through AlAnon, which she did and through which she has since helped countless other parents caught up in their children’s mental illness and addiction.
- [36:38]: Tommy describes in detail the near-death “homecoming” experience he had as a result of the internal bleeding and damage caused by a severe beating from his brother.
- [40:00]: The power of PAX: When Tommy finally emerged back into consciousness, it was within a circle of Alcoholics Anonymous warriors who were stuck with him through physical, spiritual and psychological recovery.
- [44:30]: The long walk through the aftermath of Tommy’s brother’s prosecution, including losing it all. Everything, that is, except his sobriety.
- [48:16]: The phone call that interrupted Tommy in the middle of executing his plan to commit suicide on a train platform. It was a young addict in need of help; someone who needed help more than Tommy needed to kill himself in that moment. It was a turning point.
- [51:04] Signs from God: They’re real. Tommy’s pride and isolation kept him from asking for help, so he was delivered instead to another path. Because every time you think you’ve “got this”? You definitely don’t.
- [52:45]: About Tommy’s new life in California, where he started a non-profit, worked in rehab and as a sobriety coach.
- [55:20]: How Tommy constructed his new life by “finding out who you are and living a life of purpose.” Seemingly organically, as he understood the messages he was able to bring, Tommy’s music career revived.
- [58:30]: Tommy recalls his poignant experience with Delores O’Riordan of the Cranberries on the eve of her death and the conflicted emotions (and viral overnight success) the collaboration evoked.
- [1:02:10]: About the control a sober artist can take in choosing whom to work and hang with.
- [1:03:51]: What happened in the aftermath of Tommy’s decision to publicly support Donald Trump, including drama and division.
- [1:04:30]: Tommy shares the new parameters for his team (including sobriety, fitness, communication and service).
- [1:07:47]: What it looks like when you hold yourself — and those around you — to a high level of integrity. The music industry window dressing doesn’t matter for Tommy, who is excited by people doing God’s work.
- [1:09:04]: Why music is so important as a medium and how Peter and Tommy have felt called to be part of the solution, helping people come to sobriety and peace.
- [1:12:50]: Tommy’s disorienting experience with being ostracized by his peers because of his political beliefs.
- [1:14:47}: About the real priorities for Tommy, who identifies as: 1) An alcoholic 2) An American and 3) a Human Being.
- [1:17:00]: Tommy explains his perspective on God, natural law and the metaphysical universe in which we live.
- [1:18:58]: About the times in which we are living, which Tommy believes are seeded with a bottomless hole of spiritual hunger.
- [1:20:45]: The Ultimate Victory: Tommy was able to buy a home for his mom and provide for her the safety he has envisioned since he was a powerless young boy in chaos.
- [1:21:40]: Where Tommy is currently? He has packed up his belongings in LA and is on a spiritual journey, traveling the country and figuring out where his soul most truly needs/wants to be.
- [1:22:30]: More of what’s on tap for Tommy, who has 37 recordings ready for release and a forthcoming biography. He’s also at work on a second book about “cancel culture” and touring in Europe.
- [1:26:24]: Peter reflects on his own spiritual path, a faith journey that has fallen into place and put context around his personal history.
- [1:27:30]: Parting words of advice: Iron sharpens iron. Life is sharpening you for the tasks ahead. When you show up and do the work, transformational things occur. If you’re going through it, just keep going.
- [1:28:30]: When he left his job eight months ago, Peter had no idea where he was headed. But an unwavering belief in himself has opened up his life in unexpected ways, including this conversation with Tommy, “a man amongst miracles.”
Connect with Tommy Vext:
- Website - https://www.tommyvextofficial.com/
- Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/freetommyvext/
- Facebook -
- Twitter - https://twitter.com/TVext?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
- YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/c/TheLoneWolfMusic
- Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/artist/2eaZxHkhdNugJwlaKQWewj?si=70CnalImQ_a0u0NH82NASw&nd=1
- Apple Music - https://music.apple.com/us/artist/tommy-vext/968802571
Connect with Peter Meyerhoff:
- Website: https://petermeyerhoff.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peter_meyerhoff/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Meyerhoff/100008245219126/
- TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@theoriginalchappy?lang=en
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpa6ABvtPcSSwM2LJvuLv0w
- “Sobriety is the fountain of youth.”
- “I pretty much always had that alcoholic feeling — one of these things is not like the others and doesn’t fit in.”
- “What you learn when you have one of those (near-death) experiences is how much every second matters and how every single thing you say and do matters.”
- “The idea of living without the assistance of substances was unfathomable to me because of the pain.”
- “My false identity and ego had to be smashed in order for me to understand the nature of what was ailing me.”
- “Where we end up is based on what we choose to do.”
- “A lot of people have done things to me in my sobriety and gotten away with it because I basically treat my higher power like it’s Tony Soprano. I just keep moving.”
- “Anytime someone reaches out, I am the hand of recovery and I am responsible.”
- “There are no mistakes in God’s world.”
- “It’s not happening to you, it’s happening for you. Because God is giving you an opportunity to survive certain things so that you can carry a message that is undeniable. We’re in a spiritual war.”
- “This is what I’ve learned in the music industry: Drugs addicts and alcoholics will judge you for not being like them.”
- “The more that I do what in my heart I feel is right, the more I respect myself when I look in the mirror and the more I demand of myself and the people around me.”
- “As an artist and a musician … I am there to tell the truth as I see it, so help me God, and be transparent in my experience so that other people can connect to it and understand that they’re not alone.”
- “We always have to question our decisions and what is our motive.”
- “Spirit is the answer. Spirit is the source. God is the solution.”
- “We’re like iPhones. If we’re not plugged in, we die. What good is your smartphone if you can’t charge it?”
- “I’m traveling to see where my soul feels it should be … God is directing me on what to do next.”
- “Life is sharpening you for the task that God has for you. You don’t get to know what it is. You only get to show up and do the work.”
- “We’re not in the results business. We’re in the work business. We try to show up and do what’s right and wonderful things happen.”
ABOUT THE GUEST:
Tommy Vext (originally Thomas Cummings) is an American heavy-metal singer and songwriter known as the former lead vocalist of Bad Wolves, Divine Heresy and Westfield Massacres. Born in 1982, he grew up in New York and went on to pursue a recording career in Los Angeles. He has toured internationally and is also known for his work as a sober coach and powerful advocate for 12-step recovery. In 2014, Vext founded a non-profit organization with the aim of facilitating treatment for drug addiction. He received the Rock to Recovery 3 Service Award for his actions, held at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood on September 15, 2018