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  • Writer's pictureRawiri James

Behind the Lyric: Trip The Alarm

Nobody was more surprised than I was to find themselves detoxing from alcohol and drugs at the ripe old age of 27. Nobody. I had a great job. I had a room in a flat. I had friends. I was young. I still had my physical health. It didn't seem possible!

But life is all a matter of perspective, and I had almost none, so far as mind-altering substances were concerned. Take Trip the Alarm, for example.

"Keen addictions, between afflictions
I guess I had it coming
A sly prescription, a fly guy wishin'
Best I kept myself from running"

These opening lines certainly seem like the vulnerable confession of a man who has firmly accepted his troubled past, don't they?

"A pretty-wrapped package
A dude couldn't challenge
Picking up you up, now let's go
Though the things you did were savage
I was feenin' for your damage, baby
Picking you up on the low..."

Either a glutton for punishment, or deeply, desperately delusional. Or, as the case turned out to be: both.

What resonates with me the most about this song isn't that I managed to articulate my toxic relationship to booze with new-found clarity. I hadn't written this sober, in hindsight, about my past. I wrote it tipsy, many years ago, about my not-too-distant future. Crazy, right?

Like I said, nobody was more shocked than me to find themselves detoxing at 27. I was horrified and deeply offended by the suggestion I might be alcoholic and yet, there I was, having carried around this 350-word confessional in my songwriting back pocket for half a decade.

If you're wondering how anyone can write a song like this and still claim ignorance to their own substance issues, well, all I can tell you is that addiction is a hell of an illness and delusion its most problematic symptom.

When I wrote the song at age 20, I must've had some understanding of what was going on but I wasn't ready to acknowledge or confront it. That particular battle was still another seven years away. And it was a battle, sobriety, especially in those early days. A battle I fought without armour, it felt.

"Stop strippin' me of my armour
Gotta trip the alarm
Before this quit becomes harder
I gotta trip the alarm
I gotta trip the alarm, um, uh ohhh..."

Eventually when I did emerge from the wreckage of that battle; armour destroyed but ultimately alive, I found a twisted irony in the honesty of these lyrics. They are the earliest words I could find to describe my addiction, and to this day, I find solace in this attempt. Few people ever survived war time with their very own theme song as a keepsake.

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