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Zander Schloss on the Importance of Turning Corners on the Road to Recovery

Circle Jerks bassist just celebrated his 18th sober anniversary
Zander Schloss
(Credit: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Zander Schloss is a legend in Southern California’s punk scene. As bassist of the seminal South Bay punk band Circle Jerks, he’s helped shape their music for most of the past 40 years. During part of that tenure, he also faced a “decades-long” battle with heroin addiction.

“I’m now 18 years sober, actually as of March 15,” Schloss told SPIN editorial director Daniel Kohn backstage at BeachLife Festival in Redondo Beach, which is not far from the Circle Jerks’ spiritual home. “I tried to get sober the first time on Cinco de Mayo, but I ended up having a margarita. Honestly, it isn’t that easy.

“Against all of my will and common sense, I would use heroin, no matter what the consequences were,” he continued. “I could not stop. The thing about it is that you want to stop, and you’re magnetically pulled because of the power — it’s like you’re treading water next to a powerful whirlpool, and it’s very, very difficult to turn the corner with that.”

Though he tried to kick his addiction, he would take one step forward before taking two back. Rock bottom came in a series of events: He crashed his car, burned down his house, lost his fiancée and eventually his job at a music conservatory after lying about the fact that he was doing heroin in its bathroom.

“MusiCares put me in rehab the first time, he says. “I made the call, and they said, ‘MusiCares is out of funding for you.’ I said, ‘Oh, my god, I’m gonna die on the streets.’ I don’t want to die this way, and I’m afraid of doing something different — the unknown, into the wilderness,’ which is recovery.”

But with the help of former Thelonious Monster bandmate Bob Forrest, who was working for MusiCares at the time, Schloss got sober.

“And here we are 18 years later, and I’m still here. I’m still sober. And my dreams are coming true. I tell people: Keep turning corners, keep turning corners. And you might turn a dozen corners and go, ‘This is another shitty corner.’ But at some point, you’re going to turn a corner, and it’s gonna be a good one.”

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