I saw the Rowland S. Howard documentary Autoluminescent for my first time probably six months ago, which was only a month or so after I finished rehab. I had been a fan of Teenage Snuff Film for a while at that point, though I hadn’t paid attention to the lyrics as much as I should have. But addict sees addict even when parties may be in denial. Howard, by the time I saw the film, had died from accumulated drug abuse, his already gaunt figure becoming more emaciated as he approached his end. The film made a huge impact on me, as an addict going through recovery. There’s this scene at the end of the movie where Rowland wants so badly to live longer, but knows that his body won’t let him. It’s so potent. And it had such serious echoes to my life.
I haven’t even been alive long enough to warrant such disastrous effects and by the time of writing, I’ve had more than 9 months of sobriety - my body has lost its lethargy and undernourished hue. I don’t look like an addict anymore, even though I will always be one. There’s one song that reminds me more of addiction than anything else and it’s “Autoluminescent” on this album. It’s clearly a song about heroin use, especially with the warmth and cosmic echoes, but it applies to any addiction: “Into the darkness/I gave away myself/Slipped on the spiral stairs/Tumbling down the well/I fell on a soft spot/I’m white heat, I'm white hot/Again.” Substance becomes life, but life becomes shame.
And this unabashed self-inflicted microscopic insight resonates throughout Howard’s discography. He doesn’t turn from his mistakes, though he does shed light on them. And addicts like me can use his music as a reminder: “I was a nightmare/But I’m not gonna go there/Again.”