197: Recovering with the Blowfish – James ‘Soni’ Sonefeld (Sort Of)


This week we are talking with James ‘Soni’ Sonefeld. Soni has spent nearly three decades on a singular journey that has seen him make history as drummer and one of the principal songwriters in the 2x GRAMMY® Award-winning Hootie & the Blowfish, to author, inspirational speaker, family man, and solo artist. After writing and releasing his new book, “Swimming With The Blowfish: Hootie, Healing, and One Hell Of A Ride,” Soni joined us to talk about what it was like to be a member of a famous rock band, how his substance use impacted his journey, and all about his journey into sobriety. Soni talks about his time with the band in the 90s, his awakening, and what his life has been like since finding recovery. Listen in as Soni shares his story of redemption and then share your thoughts with us.

In this episode:

⁠Jim ‘Soni’ Sonefeld’s website⁠

⁠Swimming with the Blowfish – on Audible!⁠

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Transcript:

recovery sort of is a podcast where we discuss recovery and addiction topics from the perspective of people living in long-term recovery this podcast does not intend to represent the views of any particular group organization or Fellowship the views expressed here are solely the opinion of its contributors be advised there may be strong language or topics of an adult nature

[Music]

welcome back it’s recovery sort of I am Jason and I am not a drummer in a rock band and I’m Billy I’m a person in long-term recovery and we’re here today with Sony who is of of nothing else Hootie and the Blowfish Fame for being the drummer of the band who we all know and love so well uh I Sony before we even get started I got to tell you like I’m not an excellent guitar player I’m a guy that loves to strum some chords and sit around my house and sing some songs and one of the things that is still a staple in my repertoire is Let Her Cry I don’t know why that song touched me I love the chord it’s pretty simple to strum and uh I just had to throw that out there it’s great to be meeting with you today I’m going to turn it over to you you can introduce yourself and and tell us why you’re here and we’ll go from there thanks for having me all uh Jim sonnenfeld is my given name a wonderful Irish German backdrop uh and uh but everybody’s called me Sony for a long time and to answer your question I already know why you played letter cry you said it it’s easy to strum too it’s easy to sing to a few Chords it’s just an easy one to love on and uh I still enjoy playing that thing too awesome yeah I’ve uh enjoyed my guys hooting the Blowfish Mark and Darius and Dean we have been managed to keep a great friendship uh for over three decades um but I’ll tell you a little bit about how I found how I found them which is uh a journey that starts being part of a big family myself I had four siblings and uh two loving parents who we bopped around in my early years but finally landed uh in a suburb of Chicago and we were out there in the corn fields in the town called Naperville which was very small at the time and um we liked it out there it was pretty simple life and it was a growing place and I had a few things fighting for uh uh importance in my life even as a young kid it was Sports I could you know just mad chasing anything and following teams and anything with a bat or a ball or I think I could kick or shoot I was totally obsessed with and I did that pretty hard it kept me out of trouble in many ways and music was another thing that was fighting in there I had a very uh cool mom she had cool taste for a mom if you will and you know in the late 60s and early 70s she was into some you know British Rock classic rock she was into some cool r b and my dad listened to a little older stuff but he even had some cool interests and uh you know Outlaw country at the time I don’t know if it was Outlaw country then but um you know Willie Nelson and Waylon and uh so we had music going on and I was also sort of I call myself a born drummer I I just was born and I tipped and tapped with my fingertips and my feet and my teeth and I hummed it and I annoyed most people around me in a growing manner through my uh childhood because I couldn’t stop it there was something going on in my head in my heart that just wouldn’t stop it was a rhythm and it was sort of unorganized at the time and by the time I turned 13 my parents realized maybe cheaper than therapy for this kid would be drum lessons and they got me drum lessons and that helped organize some of these noises and rhythms that just wouldn’t stop it did organize them but they still go on I’m still tipping tapping everything it won’t stop whatever on that I don’t think there’s any therapy for that uh and when I was 14 I had kind of a turn I’d been in this Christian school with a small group of kids every year and I was about to go for high school to this big public school and I was really excited uh to see more people meet people and just experience something bigger it was like went from 25 kids to a freshman class of about 500 and I had some friends from the public school from my neighborhood and that summer right before freshman year for the first time ever found myself in front of kids who were partying uh you know 14 year old kids who were smoking cigarettes which I’d already goofed off with but you know smoking weed uh drinking alcohol carrying on with no parental supervision and though I knew from you know my parents and from the priests who had taught me and the police who had often visited our front door because I had older brothers right you got to know them by the first name basis hello Mary Lou and Otto sonnenfeld hello officer you know all of them had told me and I had been drilled into me that you know alcohol or drugs are either illegal unlawful or dangerous but when I got in front of my peers and out of the sight of the authority figures I went right for it I mean it was a very natural sort of thrill-seeking instinct in me to somewhat get away with something and also experience that thing that I knew was not supposed to be mine a chemical change and um I liked it I felt you know the impacts immediately like you would when at any age when you put chemicals in you it changes your mind a little bit and uh I loved the feeling from what I remember maybe like a lot of us experimenting the first time feel a little bit taller a little bit stronger a little bit funnier a little bit better looking and I didn’t have any Hang-Ups as a kid fitting in I was a little shy but Sports always allowed me to have friends and so that feeling was wonderful for several hours in fact uh but you would have found me at the end of that night on my knees on the side yard uh vomiting in the bushes and immediately trying to hide that from my parents so they wouldn’t know and instead of perhaps taking a minute and saying gosh that’s not for me or I shouldn’t do that or that seems dangerous more of an athletic mindset was the score is one nothing alcohol is winning at the end of round one but I’m gonna damn sure give it a try next weekend and so I knew where to go and I knew what friends I could uh call up to get into stuff like that and so I became a weekend warrior for the most part managed to you know graduate high school in four years and Play Soccer mainly uh for all four of those years and be successful um the grades were good enough I had friends I had difficulties but they were never big enough uh to Warrant you know a self a crit you know critical look at myself because I hung around kids that were getting in more trouble some that were getting in less and as long as I saw what was in the middle that was enough for me and I went off with a big dream for college soccer to a division one school in Columbia South Carolina the University of South Carolina fighting Gamecocks

that’s our theme song right and it was great I I was you know 800 miles away and the only authority figures really were my college professors and my college coaches and the drinking age had gone from 21 back in Illinois to 18 in South Carolina at the time and so I kept you know riding the roller coaster uh shooting for you know dreams of soccer and and good relationships but also shooting for uh chemical dreams Wanda reach some place uh you know of of high uh but it always came with the price you know when you’re on that roller coaster you can go 10 stories high but you got to come down 10 stories eventually and so those bottoming out periods were uh not more frequent but they heard a little more took me six years to get out of the University of South Carolina and I only had a four-year degree so do the math there um I was taking my time or I was unfocused I’m sure drugs and alcohol didn’t help that but I managed a degree and and the soccer dream it sort of ended at that same time and I’d already been playing my drums I’d tried a few bands and I wanted to write songs I uh picked up an acoustic guitar along the way found a few simple songs that I could play along with and felt like oh my gosh this is like just a gateway to to writing and telling people my passion I could sing a little bit I started learning piano too and uh luck or not luck but uh timing was on my side because there’s three guys in a local band Mark and Dina Darius and Brantley at the time their drummer who were moving out getting out of college and really not wanting to settle into jobs either they wanted to start writing music they’d been a band for several years mostly a cover band and uh they were wanting to give it a try in the original music category and as Bradley left the band I auditioned and sat in there with the three of the other guys and I was great at drumming all the songs they’d asked me to learn and they asked do you have any original material and I brought in the one song that I was proud of you know at that time and probably August of 1989 it was called Hold My Hand and uh three chords a fun positive hopeful lyric about you know helping others and around us and I was just hating seeing the oppression and the unfairness in the unjust world around me and I was a naive 25 year old kid and I just wanted us all to get along so hold my hand was a manifestation of those ideals and you know it covered the three chords that I knew and that was good so they loved it and they said yeah we’re trying to do something like that so there I went uh we all had day jobs we we worked our butts off doing what we could to pay our modest rents in our dumpy little apartments and and we try to find someone to represent us so we could book some gigs and that took a little while but we just called places um to try and get gigs we didn’t ask for much money we didn’t have much of a following we played sorority Greek parties to fund a van Insurance gas money and recordings of our original music and we just set out you know big dreamers uh didn’t have a whole lot going for us besides a real talented singer who we probably took for granted we just thought he was a singer Darius Rucker and and we were all still learning our craft anyway you know and learning how to write songs how to please audiences how to interact and meanwhile spending a growing amount of days in clubs and traveling throughout the southeast which I found to be very likable you know I could deal with my consequences a little more easily when I was leaving the towns each night so we moved from playing fries and Saturdays to Thursdays and Fridays and Saturdays to Wednesday through Saturday finally our bosses were all like uh hello you do work here still right and finally we said no we don’t and they let us go and I like that Geographic change that I was continuing to get because I was having consequences relationally and sometimes with the law or in in the form of fisticuffs and so to leave after each one night stand that we did was very convenient for me I felt like I was getting away from those problems and they were disappearing that of course was not true they were actually building up and I was not forced to emotionally face some of these difficulties I just left them and uh so we worked five years paying our dues 89 90 91 92 93 and 94 we finally get signed to Atlantic Records the home of Ray Charles Led Zeppelin Aretha Franklin it is one of the biggest and most influential record labels of all time and we just have a dream to make a record that someone else is banned for they fly us to La we get their eyes wide open like oh my gosh this is we’re in La y’all and you know we passed by Warner Brothers Studios and Sunset Boulevard and uh the Hollywood Bowl and we’re just like this is this is where dreams are made this is also where dreams can be crushed or they can end with new friends and bands that had been successful got a record deal made a great record and it never got to radio and the band broke up or decided ah we tried our hardest and we didn’t know what would be our sort of Destiny so we just so sort of did the best we can we could and made a record called crack review and in 1994 when it came out it it plowed into the top you know 40 of Billboard charts at number 127. so we weren’t uh making an immediate impact and a few months later even after some hard work and promotion we were probably lingering between 150 and 200 on the charts it wasn’t going our way and the break we got which we call luck and I Define luck is where preparation meets opportunity we’d worked hard but we needed some other thing to happen you know the opportunity and this guy with his own late night show Heard hold my hand which was on a few radio stations at that time and August of 94 and he uh called his Booker and said get me these guys that sing This Hold My Hand Song on my show that guy was David Letterman and he had you know six million viewers every night and so we moved from playing to hundreds of fans per night to playing our three and a half minute song in front of six million people one night that changed our trajectory forever people liked it radio started playing it next thing you know the album moved from 165 to 140 to 120 to the top 100 to the top 40 and by May of 95 we hit number one for the first time and we began a journey that’s uh people have written books about including myself and uh people scratch their head and go how did those guys make it to number one because we seemed like playing guys who were pretty unassuming and and uh Not Your Average sort of heroic Entertainer Vibe we were we didn’t have expectations we didn’t dress the part we were just happy to be there for the ride and that began a journey that you guys probably came in on too if you were sitting around listening to a radio station in 95 you may have had some feelings about hitting the Blowfish too yes yeah yeah absolutely that’s our generation yeah I graduated high school in 92 so that’s you know right in that area and it was a lot of Grunge music then too so you guys had a little different vibe it was a little more upbeat a little more fun you know like a little more enjoyable music yeah yeah we went against that grain and that’s probably uh looking back uh maybe one of the reasons it worked while there’s trends that work and everybody was putting out a grunge album at that time the the mood was growing that oh it’d be nice to hear something different and that’s an intangible mood there’s no stat for it but it seems when hold my hand hits the radio the people like it because it’s against the grain and it looked a little different or sounded a little different so every time we went right well and it almost points to an interesting piece of like you know in the grunge scene with with the the grittier more painful so-called lyrics and you know drug use was kind of a thing and abuse you knew about it in there so it’s interesting that here we’re sitting with the person who had the lighter music and yet we’re still talking about that same issue you know what I mean right we uh and it didn’t you know people will often say or claim uh you know the world of entertainment or rock and roll it’s you know so dangerous and you can get in so much trouble with drugs or alcohol or negativity but I I found like it I was already sort of in it you know I’d started practicing and as I said in high school and then through college and of course five years of clubs there’s few guard rails there’s a few uh you know figurative police out there telling you to act right you know it’s almost as if at that point the the more ridiculous you are you can become that you know person that people are looking at and laughing and saying more and more more and now I wasn’t just a fool I was an Entertainer I sort of embraced that idea and it’s a good place to camouflage what could be a problem with your your chemical intake and that’s how it was for me you know suddenly the world is embracing you you’re you’re put up on this pedestal where people look at you and say there’s a successful guy life seems to be good he seems to be okay I started a family um I started having kids and uh it would seem like everything was okay but really with that whole scene ended up doing was camouflaging uh a disease or an illness or a dis-ease that was growing in me and uh it was the perfect place for it to be camouflaged but it also extended you know this sort of false life or dual life that I was living looking like I’m successful in society’s eyes on the outside but on the inside I’m getting real freaking tangled up I’ve got emotional debates in my heart and head that I don’t know how to resolve because I’ve not really developed emotionally I’ve been a guy who’s partied to feel better who’s had Geographic changes throughout his 20s that seemed to tell me I’m getting away from my problems but I’m not and by the time we have about five years of Fame and Fortune you know the next new band is ready to kick us off the pedestal cooler hair cooler songs tighter jeans and you know I’m unprepared for this on a personal emotional level but I see it happening and I by 2001 I we know and I know our best years are likely behind us and that’s a hard thing to grasp when you’re still viable you still want to make music you still want to travel you just started a family you have a little money in the bank I couldn’t figure out why it felt so bad when I didn’t know what to do with it so I went to what always worked for me booze alcohol you know as a society there’s nothing more that signifies a success or an achievement than holding up a shot glass or a champagne glass to say we’ve done something so when things started going downhill I just kept holding that thing up defiantly like we’re still good here aren’t we having fun and as the empty seats grew I couldn’t I couldn’t deal there were this sort of contradiction of it’s going down the ship is going down and I’m the guy treading water but making sure my you know Jagermeister glass didn’t go below the water line and uh it was uh five about five years of that turmoil you wouldn’t have wanted to be in my path at that time [Music] oh [Music] now I guess part of what I’m hoping to explore today Sony is the differences and this is going to sound terrible no matter how I say it but the differences between what it took for you to find recovery as a person who maybe doesn’t have the typical everyday experience you know how is that different from like your everyday person that had uh you know and and I I hear you saying a lot of things that are the same like you had a version of denial but I I guess your version is a little different because you were traveling from City to city and there was a little more money to fund that denial and you know what I mean things look pretty good from the outside whereas maybe some people’s stories don’t but I’m curious along the portion you were just telling about does it feel like having those band mates around is different than maybe having just your family around like does that give you an extra set of eyes that are telling you or an extra place of friction that kind of points towards something wrong for you or is that not helpful at all well that’s a great question and and to be sure when you travel as extensively as we did for as long as we did uh your band becomes your family and I mean that in a great positive way but also in a way that let’s admit it a lot of our families including us are extremely dysfunctional so we we fall into the same traps that family do with codependency with uh struggles with authority figures and and discipline and uh communication a band is no different in fact we were spending more time on the road and while you’re having success or you’re working towards something which we did for five years of hard work and fun five years of Glory uh during that period it’s pretty easy to get along we were you know success uh covers up a lot of the blemishes uh along the way and suddenly when there’s a struggle um those blemishes really start coming out but we as a band all had our different Lanes we were we had all started families we were all struggling in our uh relationships at the time and it’s hard to be there for your friends when we’re all having that struggle uh on top of that I guess Fame in in the sense of a band pushed us apart a little ways too like we were just four Dudes in the early 90s to 1995 four Dudes who loved doing what they were doing Darius wasn’t a natural leader for the band he was just the lead singer so we all fought to to get attention and to help the thing you know work run itself and by the time Fame comes well the media needs a leader so it pulled Darius apart and they were constantly the media was trying to pull us apart because they wanted Darius hoodie to be that guy and he wasn’t really naturally and it it tends to throw an imbalance on the band right because finally suddenly our egos are oh my gosh I’m the drummer I’ve already got an inferiority inferiority complex I’m in the background anyway so I’m uh you know the ego Maniac with the inferiority complex I I want attention but I can’t get it because I’m in the back so I become jealous or uh TR you know I just my mind is not a a healthy place and all these struggles start happening with Fame in some senses though like I said it’s the same you know anybody that is seeking or using a chemical to try and feel better you know the same feeling I think is on the inside for anybody whether you work in an office whether you have a family or don’t have a family whether you’re in a band whether you’re noticed or unnoticed you still we all are humans we all have the same Hearts We Fight For Love attention uh to be noticed sometimes we’re shy we’re a host of contradictions and we certainly were and I certainly was I uh as I mentioned an egomaniac with an inferiority complex I I want all this stuff but uh I don’t want it I I we’re so dysfunctional and I I was that picture so we couldn’t really help each other when my drinking and drugging started getting bad eyebrows were raised from my bandmates certainly eventually the interventions came but I think the guy or the person who’s suffering doesn’t want to hear it from someone else who might still be having a good time so as loving uh and as sincere as some of those interventions were I was never gonna trust it until I heard it from someone who could I don’t know who I uh felt had either been on my exact Journey or uh maybe it was a little bit ahead of me with some knowledge and my my friends my bandmates they did that great thing if you’ve ever been intervened it’s no fun your friends and family gather around they tell you how much they love you but you inherently know there’s something more which is them saying we’re worried about you and we’re worried about where you’re going and those interventions I appreciated them and they told me that people were worried about me but as somebody who identifies as a alcoholic with a disease my response to that was not you got me you’re right I can see the evidence I am out of control I’m having consequences where should I go for help my response was damn I I hate that I’ve disappointed these people I’m not a people pleaser I don’t really care what they feel but I need their approval and I’m not getting it now so what do I do I go off and try and hide it better I make a commitment to myself to say oh I can’t get caught I need to go you know to different places to do the drugs that they’re not approving of or to hang out with the people people they don’t understand that’s my sickness and that’s what I do for a few years ago Dude you know trying to do a better job hiding it and um that doesn’t work I end up hiding it hiding Secrets From My Family My bandmates and you know eventually um it gets too tiresome I I I it is a pain in the ass to be a full-on active addict and alcoholic and try and live a normal life and I mean greater people have taken their own lives as an answer to that and there’s help for that too but you know I’m thankful that that wasn’t going to be an answer that I was uh seeking I you know I just was so frustrated with how I felt and how my life was but since I was unwilling to ask for help I didn’t ask for help for a while there’s a great Old King that had a wrote a proverb and it says uh do you see the man who was wise in his own eyes which was me I’m hoodie I’m the Blowfish don’t tell me I’m you know out of control I was a man who was wise in his own eyes that says there’s more hope for a fool than him because I wasn’t willing to ask for help I just couldn’t my ego and my pride wouldn’t allow it so I went as further down than I really needed to you you’ve mentioned a piece in there that we’re all just kind of looking for attention and love and and affection and you know compassion from people totally agree with that I loved how you put it in thinking with that like I kind of look at uh substance use or people who struggle with these challenges as people who you know they they describe uh heroin users call it a warm hug and stuff like that like we’re all kind of having this dis-ease or uneasy feeling or discomfort inside and there’s these things that soothe us right these pacifiers whether that’s the the alcohol the drugs the shopping gambling whatever it may be right you kind of alluded to earlier too that part of your Fame sort of felt really good and as that went away maybe the attention went away is that a similar feeling and like how does do you drink less alcohol because you’ve got the fame soothing you or do you drink more because I yeah talk about that if it made sense to you I know that was kind of a lot of scatter pieces yeah yeah that’s great for I mean for me since we were having a success and and really living out a dream we that we never thought might be possible getting signed and getting selling millions of Records because of that uh didn’t I wasn’t ever drinking to relieve some fear at that time it’s like oh my God we’re having the time of our lives and since we were young and energetic and in the machine of the business of music you were told you know don’t take a nap don’t like don’t rest on your laurels this might not last forever anyway so we went hard and we went around the world and everywhere we went you know imagine when somebody normal goes to a concert on a Thursday night in some town it’s their big night so there’s 15 20 000 people having the time of their lives and when they wake up the next day they probably go to work and they come home and eat and go to bed but we were playing five nights a week and so we go from town to town and we were everyone’s biggest party and I relished that as somebody who like the effects of uh alcohol which was just basically alcohol at the time you know I love that we were just living a dream and so if there’s a celebration every night why not follow it there’s no uh you know you just have to watch out for you need to rest at some point and there became my problem and I don’t know if this answers the question but we would go home for periods whether it be a few nights or a few weeks and uh I would go home and want to celebrate oh my gosh I’m this is my homecoming everyone around me is like high-fiving still and oh my gosh let me buy you a drink you guys have made it you’ve been traveling the world so I’d come home and continue the excess you know at the time I was or our kids were young enough that I could push it a little bit and we could get help and uh with the babysitters and and it wasn’t too bad I thought but I was when people around me started realizing that Sony goes home on his off nights and doesn’t rest he keeps partying they were a little concerned you know and it’s the and that’s the part people don’t see nobody thinks you have a problem because they just see you at the concert and they’re all having fun so they’re not going to recognize someone who’s uh maybe looks a little tired or is uh sniffing incessantly and running off to the bathroom you know he really must have some bad allergies nobody sees that but for me it was started happening seven nights a week now was there any like major triggering event that led you to recovery or was it just a slow process of you know bad experience after bad experience that help you have the realization that you had a problem uh uh I had something happen probably around 2001 and I had walked in and this is something I didn’t use to help me this is another example of the disease I’d um come in and there’s some crew of ours who were all a big family so there’s 15 or 20 of us and we work together every day we are sleeping next to each other we’re partying hard we’re you’re very close and they were talking amongst themselves about someone they were worried about and they were talking about this person that was prone to some Outburst uh temper outburst and they were Moody and then they were also hanging out with other people and they seem to be partying later than anybody and I could hear them talking about this and honestly in my mind I’m like well I’m one of the four principal you know band members I should probably find out who they’re talking about so I can help them or discipline them and when I heard them keep talking and they said yeah who’s going to go talk to Sony because I’m kind of afraid to talk to him and I’m like my eye my chin my heart dropped I was crushed that they were talking about me and again and maybe I alluded to this earlier I went the other way I said I I I’m not going to face that I’m I’m gonna hide that and so for four years the feeling was very heavy I was um sad I was uh miserable I was hiding I was yeah it was wasn’t good but none of that that heavy burden that I continue to carry and the weight of uh the consequences that people could see and also the shames and the guilts that I was doing in private those are building up those aren’t going anywhere but on a big backpack that feels like a million pounds by the end of 2004 and that’s when I get the real moment that sort of breaks me and I have by that time a four-year-old and a one-year-old and it’s November of 2004 and you know I I can’t be told no one they can keep repeating that I’m you’re out of control and you’re throwing your life away and uh nothing is working and I uh had built a detached music studio behind our house and I’d go back there to have privacy to make music but I was also partying back there to be honest it was a place that had a full bar and I could keep some drugs back there hidden and felt like I wasn’t bothering anybody and I you know it was 10 30 on a Sunday morning and I I hadn’t made it back in to my house I passed out very late uh on a couch wearing the same clothes as the night before and my four-year-old daughter I can hear her come up the stairs in the back studio and I’m like oh God this isn’t going to be good and she hops right at my chest like a jubilant energetic you know four-year-old and she says something that on any other day I would have had some BS and answer for right it’s a four-year-old you can make something up gets on my chest and says Dad what are you doing and I don’t say anything she repeats actually dad you know what are you doing and I know what she meant was pure and uh just why aren’t you in there with the family why aren’t you in there having fun why are you out here uh perhaps why do you smell like this perhaps why are you wearing the same clothes that you were wearing last night when you read me my good night story you know but it’s a Simple Pure thing and she finally gets frustrated because I’m not answering I didn’t have an answer for some reason that day maybe that’s some mysterious God Spirit working I still can’t explain it but um she runs downstairs and I’m left with myself I’m left with maybe sort of looking up saying God is there something out there because I don’t know what I’m doing if I’m honest that’s the first time I ever admitted to myself and maybe to some God that I’m not in control I don’t know what I’m doing and she’s right you know what am I doing who freaking knows and I struggled up and and walked down the stairs ironically passed you know a slew of hooting the Blowfish gold records from far away lands and and Grammy Awards and all these things that uh seem to empower me in the past and they held no power at that moment they were meaningless they couldn’t help me I was just sick and I needed a person or a group around me or a set of principals or something more than a gold record plaque and I called the one guy knew who was practicing the 12 steps and he’d gotten sober and he had cleaned up his life and he’d give me his phone number on numerous occasions and said call me when you’re ready and I called him he took me to a group of people that night who were practicing this amazing thing called The Power of transparency which I hadn’t been around really in my life they were talking about their flaws their limitations their failures and telling me what their problem was which looked a lot like the problem I was suffering from and simultaneously giving me the solution and a pathway to it and then I walked out of there of course I was not sober I couldn’t wait till seven o’clock at night and go to a you know group of people sober because I was an alcoholic but I walked and I felt sober when I left there I said I got to give this thing a try these I mean it’s so intriguing that they’re laughing that they’re lighthearted but they’ve told me all these difficult paths they’ve walked and that they’re in a different place now and I I just thought what a jerk I’d be for me and my family to not go back there and and keep listening to what they’re talking about so I did that was the beginning of my uh sort of Journey and and here you are coming to us because you have a book swimming with the Blowfish what was inside of you what came up what felt like this is something I feel I need to tell is it the Journey of hoping somebody else can relate and get something out of it is it just that it felt like for you it needed to be told what what part of it came for you to write in this book I was probably you know a Dozen Years clean when I thought what I had learned really about myself and and um mainly myself and the addiction before I thought I think someone would benefit from this maybe simultaneously I had started get a appreciation for the whole hoodie story I had a journal-eyed cap that I wrote only during cracked review during the recording two months of you know pictures and and writings about that time in my life and uh so I had the hoodie story that I felt had been uh we’d been a couple decades removed from I had a a knowledge and an understanding of a spiritual transformation and a unique family life now Laura and I my second wife had Blended our together five kids and maybe you have to read the book to understand the uh complexity of that relationship I don’t know if I should give the spoiler alert but let’s just say perhaps Laura my now wife of 15 years was previously married and had three children with a number another member of the band so that was at the least extremely complex but it was a beautiful thing too and we just you know it was I thought this has kind of got some elements of like a FL like a movie almost and uh so I started writing it on my birthday in 2017. and uh you know I wasn’t sure what where it would go where I I imagined a book cover I imagined it on a Shelf at a Barnes Noble of course but I didn’t know anything about writing I didn’t know anything about publishing any of that world so I wrote for a couple years during the middle of that my band reunites and has a like massively successful uh Nationwide tour playing to 20 000 people a night in arenas that we hadn’t filled in since 95 and so I’m gathering the the thought that this is a cool story this is an amazing story and so I’m telling the Hootie story and the recovery story together in swimming with the Blowfish and you know the long title that I chose uh hoodie healing and one hell of a ride is necessary because I want people to know this is my journey through two things that overlapped greatly they might have value for you you know I wanted to tell the spiritual transformation story that would fit any person who’s maybe feeling like they’re needing something or trying to fill a void because I want to tell in a general way that it’s never too late to transform if you’re hung up on something or tangled up on something and you have that intuition there’s help out there no matter what your problem is I promise you that and if I can be helped at age 40 anybody can I’m more an audio books person so I was listening to the audiobook and I appreciate that you did the audio yourself a lot of people have other people read it for them I appreciate when the author does the reading so thank you for that [Music]

foreign thank my wife Laura I was trying to bail out of it like a lazy app you know I’ll get somebody to do it I just didn’t think I had the I mean it takes a little bit of voice acting if you will and it’s a long process I just thought somebody else can do this and she’s like now you need to be the voice and I’ve had so many people thank you for saying it is more meaningful uh you know when you’re uh hearing the person tell it uh it’s you can sort of feel the emotion of uh the whole thing and uh so yeah glad I read it Billy was talking before we came on today about how there seemed to be a lot of similarities in his childhood and yours you know the the all in on Sports and the Catholic upbringing and there was like a real similar Vibe for him I’m curious with that that Catholic upbringing that I also share a little bit of is that the same place you go spiritually today or has that evolved in different ways or is that challenging for you uh I guess I’ll say you know the spiritual journey in a general sense uh can include a lot of things it can include baggage you choose to bring with you and I think maybe that’s one of the first things I had to resolve is what do I do with the childhood version of some religion that I was taught and didn’t like when I was a kid uh put off when I got old enough to leave the house and now I’m asked by the people around me who are telling me if you want to get clean and stay clean you you need to embrace some higher power I was forced to say gosh yeah what what do I do with that who is my higher power what is my higher power and the beauty also is that you know they also said you know it’s something you’re understanding of a God or of a higher power it doesn’t have to be your parents understanding or your childhood version or the guy sitting next to you and that was quite liberating for me to think oh wait I get I get to choose who I want to either call God or what I would like to uh worship or DFI and now while that was great and I was able to uh say at least I’m not God and that there’s something maybe bigger than me that’s all you need to start I also have been probably on an 18-year journey of trying to figure out well what the hell is God then you know I have some evidence of the the information I was given as a kid there’s this big thing called a Bible that includes two completely separate documents in my opinion one a history of the the Jewish people you know their uh Bible and then sewed together with uh more of the life of Jesus Christ you know like so I’ve got all that but then I’ve got this thing where I’m transforming as a mature you know 40-some-year-old guy in the United States and some of it isn’t adding up from the the old manuscripts I’m hearing new Concepts I’m hearing new ideas I’m trying to fill myself up and listen and nourish with all sorts of uh things and you know I’m still kind of distilling that it’s you know it’s it’s a lot you know we’re supposed to for my the way I understand it’s a god of my understanding and if I can’t understand it well what’s the point so the complexities of some of the theologies that are out there don’t make sense to me I don’t even really have to go down that road because if I can’t understand it I don’t want it so I have a very some very simplistic views of of a god concept today because I deserve and I need to understand this thing that I worship or this thing that is my guide and so there’s a few basic principles and I Think Jesus is a man brought some to light he was probably the first great psychologist where he was saying some things that were not understood at the time not accepted because they were too big they were too for they were like Beyond thinking then there’s also a lot of thinking and guidance to be taken from a lot of different places and I that’s what I accept um so it’s a it’s a blend you know my sort of spiritual spirituality is like my two dogs that you might have heard barking in the background they’re Heinz 57s you know they’re a little a little bit of a bunch of things and that’s okay that’s awesome and I honestly just really appreciate that answer because I feel like so many of us feel called to put some kind of definition or boundary or parameter on what it is we believe and like I don’t know if it’s good enough for Sony from hoodie and the Blowfish great cool it’s good enough for me to not be so sure all the time too well you could have my God if you want but I suggest you get your own but I like it I like it and even in your answer like I just in research for this podcast like a lot of your current music is like seems Faith centered or faith uh inspired and so it seems like your faith is a at least it comes out that it is a driving force in your life yeah absolutely and and while uh you know I spent some time I had uh three EPS that I made uh called found in and love and they were specifically Christian themed um uh songs uh because that’s where I was at the time I was I was open the Bible and went to the I wanted to write about my faith at that time which was really exploding and uh no better uh place to find uh copyright Free lyrics than the old uh Testament in the New Testament right no one’s called me to say you stole that line yeah everybody steals that line it’s called contemporary Christian music and I loved it you know at that time it represents where I was then and uh I love that and as I’ve gone forward um I have also crossed over into just want to write songs that are about love the general uh sort of concept of love and agape love that sort of Brotherly Love where it’s about helping one another it’s about humility it’s about getting in the back of the line and letting some other people in the front and I’ve tried to lean into that and some of the new material on my writing writing is a little bit more in that category and because not everybody wants uh the course to be I love Jesus Christ or you know any of that stuff so I think maybe the new music is a little more accessible the one that I put out in 2022 called remember tomorrow is sort of an example that there’s some specific stuff then there’s some general themes that I love I mean hell hold my hand if I look back and look at those lyrics that’s a gospel song you know that’s not far from just hey let’s love one another and that’s a basic concept I can I can thrive on today that’s awesome I’m uh I’m curious what kind of things have you come up against what challenges in your recovery Journey that maybe you’ve thought I don’t think the average person who’s not in the spotlight or who hasn’t lived some in the spotlight has to deal with I mean anonymity I think comes to mind sure but is there other challenges that you’ve faced that you feel like maybe the everyday person wouldn’t encounter in a recovery process no I don’t think so I mean maybe I have a larger ego than most because of my being in the spotlight you know right you can get used to that and be in the center of attention is something you can get used to and and I did so maybe falling from that place left me feeling more Hollow than the next person but really you know uh I suffer uh I don’t know if my walk is is different I mostly suffer and mostly the struggles are of my own making and the struggles I have are what we have as humans fear uh I’m I’m afraid I’m not going to be liked I’m afraid um you’re going to find me out for who I really am I have a pride and we all have a level of Pride but it’s my problem it’s it’s no one else is putting it on me you know I I I don’t want to be thought of as less than um I have an ego that’s big that can’t be satisfied it says uh you know no amount is ever enough I just I’m going to demand more and more and it’s silly um so my my difficulties are me today and I can squarely look at that now that I’ve sort of done uh you know some Discovery and some research that yeah there’s there’s tons of crummy people out there there’s there is Injustice there is uh inequity there’s racism there’s Prejudice and if I can figure out what is mine to control what is mine to fight uh what is mine to change and create two lanes you know there’s a prayer the serenity prayer that gives me a perfect opportunity to do that you know grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change well or change the things that I can that’s everything in life and if I get those categories mixed up or crossed I’m gonna be fighting some miserable battles and when I can put them in separate Lanes uh I’m good I can see I don’t need to fight that crappy driver I don’t need to put my hand out the window I can’t fix them sometimes I am them if that’s what I get if I’m honest sometimes I’m lost sometimes I’m looking at my phone that’s giving me the GPS directions you know if I can just realize uh the only two things I can control are my own attitude and actions I can have some peace and we’re I think that’s all of us honestly yeah maybe I was on a stage and um I feel like I want to keep that notoriety but that’s just my ego you know that’s that’s some weird stuff in me no one else can fix it no one else they might be able to diagnosis diagnose it but they can’t fix it for me right did you ever I was curious actually and Billy kind of inspired this question earlier have there been any professional consequences to you deciding to be open about your sobriety I think on a a level I’m used to interacting with people who are like oh if you’re a nurse or a doctor or a judge you don’t tell anybody you’re in recovery because that could affect your career but I guess from your standpoint there’s a probably possible implications from that as well have you had any backlash or negative consequences since you’ve been open about yourself the only negative consequences that is that anybody who still parties doesn’t want to hang around me [Laughter] so I end up being uh you know and it it’s not that simple but you know people look at a sober person uh especially in a concert setting or a drinking setting which I still uh hang out in they look at it as like oh do we need to stop or it sometimes sheds a reflective light back on them like oh are you offended by my drinking oh wait do I have a problem maybe drinking wait do not me want me to like all this weirdness happens when you’re known to be the sober guy and it it it Alters people a little bit and I hate to be that person who’s making things awkward or uncomfortable in a setting but I I have been unfortunately um I I still know how to have fun and I think a lot of people think wow I bet Sony just sits at home reading the Bible and being bored but that’s not the journey that I’ve understood uh Laura and I laugh a lot we have a lot of fun we still have you know weird demented Minds like anybody we’re not uh you know haven’t become Perfect by getting sober uh if anything we acknowledge our imperfections a little more openly and there’s a laugh to be had for that you know and so the consequences you know I’ve had to change some of the the places I go and some of it’s because I don’t want to be the awkward sober person for other people the other one is I found it to be just not as much fun when I noticed what chemicals do to people and this isn’t a judgment on people who drink or smoke dope or or do anything but the truth is alcohol if you keep drinking it makes you louder more repetitive a little spitty and often not making any sense at all I was that guy for 25 years of course I know that’s what we do so when you’re the sober guy you lose a little patience for that and and you know what that’s again that’s my problem not someone else’s I can go wherever I want if I have the right motivation and and I do for the most part and uh so yeah my I have the same problems as you guys and a lot of the listeners um and in that way we’re all all the same just humans trying to do our best down here somebody said once that I’d love the saying uh you think my problems are bad you ought to see my Solutions the truth is that is my problem is that I don’t know how to solve stuff and um other people do a better job doing that um so there you go did you notice that there was any more difficult challenge to playing live after you got into sobriety that that become a thing that was hard for you to do at first or felt very different or not so much yeah my real fear and what kept me drinking for a number of years was I couldn’t imagine a life without that Elixir and it was a nearly working part of my day the obsession to get it and then the physical part of putting it in me and having it as sort of a crutch and having it be that sort of lubricant that helps me get along with people in awkward environments I could meet anybody anywhere any fan any rude fan any great fan anybody who hated doing the Blowfish if I had a big Bourbon and ginger ale it was okay well I don’t care it made me not care and in that way it’s not a good thing in the long run I didn’t know who I was I was just using that as the crutch and um I don’t know down the road it’s um you learn where you can go you learn who you like you learn about boundaries that was a great gift I got in my sober journey is I have boundaries and I put them out there and I know what they are and you can see them sometimes people cross them and then we figured out at that point but um you know it’s the journey has been good and I think that answers more than your question but um uh yeah it’s it’s been a good I had no complaints on the journey so I’m guessing now you’re kind of on the the book tour still writing music what’s next for Sony what is your next passion your your thing right now that feels like it’s it for you

I uh get the gift now with having a book and it’s been out for just about a little over a year it’s opened up some new avenues so the book celebrates music and recovery and and uh so I started thinking I need to go do bookstore events so my book is about to come out last summer and I’m Googling because I had booked a bookstore event Author Jim saw if it will come out to your bookstore and he’ll talk about blah blah blah I have I go what am I wait what does an author do at these things that I signed up for I’m Googling the day before what is an author event uh this is an author do in an author event and I uh sort of took some notes and uh realized okay I I can do that I talk about the book a little bit and and answer some questions but after doing one of those events I thought this is not as exciting as I needed to be as I wanted to be and since I write songs and I sing uh the next event we put together I uh said can I incorporate some music into this I can tell some stories from the book that are about the writing of some of the Hootie songs which I was in with and also support the message that is sort of uh the message of Hope through music and our connection through music anyway uh I started incorporating music and next thing you know six months later I was like really becoming a Storyteller and then sort of an Entertainer and um at the same time so I’ve been enjoying I’ve got to do some corporate speaking some bookstore events um some concerts for Recovery it’s a little bit uh here and there getting ready to put out a big project that I’m excited about that I can’t quite tell you about but you’ll be soon it’s a music project that involves some uh good friends of mine who are singers and it’s a re-release of an old project so um I’m excited about having a creative project in front of me and that’s the main thing that I know my heart needs is I need to figure out how to be creating something whether it’s a book or a a music piece or anything so that’s what I keep doing that’s awesome and that’s where uh I in the time to end here I want to leave you with a couple minutes is there anything you need to plug promote you want to talk about you thought we’d talk about and we didn’t get to you want to tell the world like well part of it is uh you know I love how the music connects us it’s probably what connects the three of us in some way we probably have a lot in common and it has a uh almost a spiritual nature to it and it it goes so so much deeper even I think sometimes than the written word and so music is powerful to me and and I’ve known that but I love to point people towards my page my Jim Seinfeld sort of Spotify music page because uh you get some storytelling you get sort of the essence of me one of the people who was riding the the hoodie songs with the rest of the band and you get a hopeful sort of new message as well so uh Jim sonnenfeld has a lot of uh music on on that page for Spotify and apple II um and yeah pick up the book of course audio or the regular book through uh wherever you buy your books uh it’s a fun story it’s an easy read I’ve heard and and uh yeah don’t ever think my messages if you got something you’re Tangled Up In no matter what it is there is help there absolutely is help whether it’s a recovery issue or a personal issue don’t ever think you’re alone in that wow well thank you so much Sony for coming on absolutely we’ll have links to the right underneath of this to the website to the book The Auto audible version all of those things awesome I’ll uh if you don’t have any assets let me know I’ll hit you guys in the side because we got to links to all sorts of things right that’s all it is we’re linked hit my Link Link in BIO yeah I think I think Patty took care of us I think we’re good to go with a lot of it all right thank you so much Sony we really appreciate your time and talking to you it’s been fascinating and uh good luck out there man with everything it’s awesome keep doing what you do hope to run you all down the road somewhere it’d be great man all right take care thank you [Music] [Applause]

did you like this episode share it with people you think might get something out of it check out the rest of our episodes at recoverysortup.com also while you’re there you can find ways to link up with us on Facebook Twitter Instagram Reddit YouTube anything we’re always looking for new ideas got an idea you want us to look into reach out to us [Music]

thank you