kesha saved my life

I am who I am, in part, because she is who she is

kesha saved my life

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Kesha saved my life.

More specifically, her music did. I know that Kesha’s music doesn’t seem like it’s the most conducive to sobriety, what with all the songs about drinking and partying, but I’m not sure that I would be here today without it.

I’ve always loved Kesha’s music because I identified with it. “Party At A Rich Dude’s House” was a song that made me feel like she just got me. I’d blast it in my car on my way to the bar I was hitting that night, belting out the lyrics at the top of my lungs.

I wake up in the front yard, we don't care
Wine stain on the sofa, we don't care
I threw up in the closet and I don't care

“Yes,” I’d think. “Kesha is My People. Kesha knows what’s up.” And I’d park my car, swing open the door, and strut (though if we’re being honest, it was more like tottering) through the parking lot towards the front door of the bar in whatever pair of stilettos I’d chosen to wear that night.

The stilettos were something I never left home without. My clothing was my version of armor — loud, quirky, and wholly impractical. I believed in mixing patterns and colors in whatever way I felt like. “Every color is a neutral,” I’d say. The more tulle and sequins, the better. My clothing ensured that I stood out when I walked in a room; it was hard not to notice the young girl in the candy-colored clothing walking into a dank dive full of grizzly old timers. Never mind that I couldn’t really walk in the shoes. As long as I could make it from my car to the barstool, and from the barstool to the bathroom and back, I was good.

My attire helped me present a carefree facade to the world. I could appear to be — and therefore pretend to be — the girl that gave zero fucks, that didn’t care what people thought about her. The truth, of course, was the exact opposite. I gave too many fucks and cared so very much what other people thought. But my armor was a way of pretending, both to the outside world and to myself, that that wasn’t the case. Kesha didn’t give a fuck, and neither did I.

Ain't got a care in world, but got plenty of beer
Ain't got no money in my pocket, but I'm already here
Now, the dudes are lining up cause they hear we got swagger
But we kick ‘em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger

When I showed up to rehab with my weekend bag full of clothing, there was a tutu and a giant sequined bow, a la Minnie Mouse, tucked inside.

In person, the staff person who greeted me was very much like the voice I’d spoken to over the phone. Her eyes widened when she talked, and her voice was gentle and kind. She had a sparkle in her eye that terrified me a bit, like she was super happy to be there and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why anyone would be that happy. I signed a consent to treatment form. She handed me a folder containing the daily schedule (breakfast, goals group, optional meditation, group work, lunch, writing time, AA meeting) and a thick, blue book with the words “Alcoholics Anonymous” on its cover.

I recognized the book because I’d had a copy in my office for my clients when I worked in treatment, a book I’d bought with my own money. Even though the programs I worked at didn’t use the book or teach AA’s 12 Steps, many of my clients wanted to incorporate AA’s program into their recovery. The book, known as AA’s “Big Book,” sat on my shelf, untouched except for the time I’d attempted to read it for “research” purposes. The Big Book, written in 1935 by a white business man named Bill Wilson, was impossible to get through.

It’s written in old-timey jargon and outlines a spiritual program of recovery. It has lines like “you will be rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence,” to which I thought, “These are the people who stopped doing drugs? Are we sure about that?”There was a reference to some golfer named Walter Hagen, who I’d never heard of and who had been dead a long time, and a line about a “prosaic steel girder.” None of it made sense to me and I had no idea how it could possibly have anything to do with alcoholism recovery. I took the Big Book and tucked it under my arm as I was shown to my room, located on the second floor of the one-time motel.

Each night, all of the treatment guests — there were about 40 of us all together — would go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a nearby town. We rode in two white vans, which we called the “druggie buggies.” That first night, the vans were full and so five of us piled into the white, four-door Toyota Corolla that the program also owned. The monitors (people who had been in rehab more than four weeks) drove the vehicles.

The driver turned the key and the radio came on, blasting the familiar sounds of Kesha (then Ke$ha) through the speakers. Her album “Cannibal” was in the CD player, and the notes to the first track of the self-titled disc filled the car.

I have a heart I swear I do
But just not baby when it comes to you

I still didn’t believe in God, but it was the first sign that maybe there was something larger than me at work in the world. In that moment, I needed to be reassured that I was in the right place. When Kesha’s music started playing in that car, I knew that everything was going to be OK. It was a message from the universe that I was right where I needed to be.

By the time we had pulled onto the highway, the second track of the album, “We R Who We R,” was playing. The windows were down and it was a brisk November night in rural New England. Five hopeless drug addicts sat in a car, singing at the top of our lungs.

Until that moment, I’d never felt real joy, at least not while sober. My earliest memory is of being four years old at Disney World, and looking around wondering why everyone else was so happy. I was wholly unimpressed and, even at that age, knew there had to be more to life than that. But I also seemed to understand that most people didn’t feel this way. I got really good at hiding my true feelings. I noticed what kinds of things made other people laugh and smile, and I laughed and smiled at those things, too. But I never felt it, not really.

The only times I got close to feeling real happiness was when I had alcohol and drugs in my system. With a few drinks in me, I could have fun, I could be funny, and I thought you were funny, too. I danced, I sang karaoke, I made new friends. I did all the things I was too depressed or self-conscious to do when I was sober. But that night in the little white car, I felt true joy. I was four days sober. That joy was fleeting, but it was real. And I felt something else for the first time that night while I sang the words to the songs I knew so well: hope.

I listened to her music on repeat for the four months I was in treatment. Her song Crazy Beautiful Life was my saving grace. I listened to it over and over and over again while I wrote my fourth step (a “moral inventory” that’s really just a version of cognitive behavioral therapy and challenging distorted thinking patterns that aren’t serving you), which was appropriate since the task itself was repetitive—I started to run out of ways to write that I was full of shit and a fraud.

Every single night we fight to get a little high on life
To get a little something right, something real, at least we try
Time after time, try dodging all the douchebag guys
Try trading all the wasted times, for something real, in this crazy life

The lyrics made me feel like everything was going to be OK, that there was a reason I was going through this, that my life was beautiful. That song still moves me to tears because it brings me back to that moment in my life — a time when that song gave me so much when I had so very little.

Even the songs about partying brought me a sense of normalcy at a time when my entire sense of self was shifting. Even though they romanticized a lifestyle I no longer had the privilege to engage in, I identified with the girl Kesha sang out. There was comfort in the familiarity of lyrics about staying up all night and waking up in the front yard of someone’s house.


See ya Friday, Ohio👯👯👯bring ur boogie shoes.August 31, 2016

Three years after my own stint in rehab, Kesha announced that she was entering treatment for an eating disorder. Instead of just having her publicist give a vague statement about exhaustion, she courageously admitted where she was really going and why. We know now that this eating disorder was brought on by the verbal and sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of Dr. Luke. But at the time, I saw someone owning her shit, and I saw someone who I viewed as a kindred spirit in so many ways walking a path I had walked, too. In her announcement, she said, “I’m a crusader for being yourself and loving yourself, but I’ve found it hard to practice. I’ll be unavailable for the next 30 days, seeking treatment for my eating disorder. . . to learn to love myself again, exactly as I am.” And I cried, because I know that place so well. I have been there and it is so hard, particularly for someone like Kesha, who lives her life in the public eye.

I cheered her on even more when she announced that she would be staying longer than 30 days, because she needed more help. It’s the same decision I had made for myself — I entered rehab intending to stay for a month and ended up staying four. What I found while I was there was myself. For years, I had been hiding behind a persona. I’d been blogging anonymously behind an image that I wanted people to buy of who I was — strong, empowered, brash, someone who didn’t give a fuck. But the truth was that I gave so many fucks; I always had. When I finally left treatment, I decided I was going to allow the domain for my blog to expire and I was going to change my Twitter handle to my actual name for the first time in my life. I was done hiding.

I watched in awe as Kesha emerged from rehab and announced she would be dropping the $ from her name and would just go by Kesha — her given name. She also changed her Twitter handle from @keshasuxxx to @kesharose. Her journey to authenticity mirrored mine in many ways, but she was doing it on a much larger scale. I was inspired by her strength. I am not someone who cares much about celebrities, but I cared a lot about Kesha — someone I’ve never met, nor is it likely I ever will.

And then Kesha sued Dr. Luke, sharing details of the sexual abuse that she’d suffered over the course of her career and I cried. I cried because it is so powerful to see yourself reflected so fully in a celebrity, in someone who is supposed to be infallible and larger-than life. I cried because I realized that no woman is immune from the reality that we live in a world in which men think they own our bodies, in which men take what they want from us because they feel entitled to it.

After her lawsuit was filed, Kesha arrived at New York Fashion Week 2015 in a dress with the words “You Will Never Own Me” emblazoned across the front in sequins. It was such a bold, brave, message, such an unapologetic owning of her body that I audibly screamed when I saw the image. I often feel weak and vulnerable. I find myself wondering if the trauma of a lifetime of sexual violations will ever go away, if my body will ever feel like it truly belongs to me. And then she reminded me that it does belong to me and it will always belong to me. It is this image, of Kesha standing strong and unashamed, that I wish was plastered all over the news instead of the image of her crying in a courtroom.

I finally saw Kesha perform in person in 2017. She was finally free to perform again. She walked out on stage in a full suit, eschewing the male gaze and anyone else’s idea of how she should look. She performed “Praying,” the song she wrote about being a survivor, and I cried. She performed “Hymn,” about being an outcast and finding faith anyway, and I cried.

This is a hymn for the hymnless, kids with no religion
Yeah, we keep on sinning, yeah, we keep on singing

Later, glitter rained down from the ceiling. This was a celebration.


Glitter Jedi in battle ✨✨✨November 9, 2017

I don’t know that Kesha ever set out to be anyone’s hero or role model, but it’s what she is to me. She is a woman who has shared herself and her struggles with the world, even when it would be easier not to. She is someone who has never apologized for who she is and what she is going through, because she has nothing to be sorry about. She is who she is, after all.