May 27, 2020

‘We share a lot of the same defects.’

“A lot of the times, the parent is just as sick as the kid, if not more sick.”

by Abby Fender


When Mike Ness founded the band Social Distortion some 35 years ago, he revolutionized punk rock music. Many fans love his distinct and powerful voice and will tell you that he is a symbol of strength and courage to them; his songs are their anthems and his lyrics are their prayers. 

For Ness, now 52, music afforded him amazing opportunities, including playing with fellow rock legend, Bruce Springsteen.  But, success does have its price, and it is safe to say, Ness has paid in more ways than one.  When he was kicked out of home at 15-years old, Ness turned to music, rock, drugs and rebellion, eventually leading to a serious heroin addiction that left him shooting up on the streets of Hollywood.

Ness was able to get sober, only to find himself confronting the same issues many years later when his oldest son Julian, now 23, became addicted to drugs.

Here is how their family has survived and thrived, despite addiction.

Renew: Having a baby when you’re an addict is scary, wondering if you’ll pass your disease along. To make fatherhood even more frightening, you had already lost a child, Mike. What was it like, becoming a father amid all those fears?

MN: “Well, we had a lot of obstacles, because when Julian was born. His mother and I were not together, and I had just recently buried a baby, who died. She was born with cancer and then it went into remission.  When she was four, it came back, and she passed away.             [Julian’s] mother and I were not in love when Julian was born.  We had kind of done things backwards, but as time went on, I became a part of their life. I started coming around when Julian was three… His mom had devoted her life to him.  They lived in this really cozy apartment, and I started realizing how good that felt, and how much I really wanted that.  Eventually, I moved down, and we became a family.”

Renew: “So Julian, what’s your earliest memory of your dad?  Your best memory?”

JN: “It would have to be when I was about three or four…”

MN: “I think you were three.  We used to go to this car show up in Paso Robles. They shut down the whole town and they have a parade.  Julian was in the front seat, and he would wave and I remember all of the townspeople and Julian waving saying, ‘hi people, hi little baby’.”

Renew: Julian, your dad got sober before he had you, but you still became an addict. When did you begin using?

JN: “Sometimes, I go back and forth, because I feel like I was an alcoholic addict before I even touched drugs, and other times I feel like it was adolescence.  I think it was ego.  I didn’t want to go to school.  I didn’t want to get good grades.  I felt like it was lame.  I wanted to skateboard and surf, so, that’s what I did, and my grades started to go down.

We were having some issues at our house.  There was a lot of tension between my dad and I, just getting along and stuff. We share a lot of the same defects, a short-temper, and ––

MN: “We talk about AL-ANON, you know I just thought, ‘really?’  If I was sober, and going to meetings, I was okay.  But, you don’t really see these things, until you see them.  Your life can be pointing to them, but I was angry a lot of the time.  Anger had become a very comfortable place for me, because if I’m angry I don’t have to be fearful or in pain.”

JN: “I think it was a little bit before my sixteenth birthday, and we were really not having a good day, we were not in the best mood, and got into a fight, and he told me to just pack my stuff, and go!  So, I went.”

Where did Juian go? To read the rest of Mike and Julian's story – and learn how they ended up in a healthy, balanced place, check out the latest issue of Renew.



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