After receiving an expensive MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, Mishka Shubaly promptly realized he was more interested in playing music in dive bars than writing. He lived out of a Toyota minivan for a year, touring nonstop, and has shared the stage with artists like The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Decemberists among others. Bad Dreams, a narrative published in NYPress about his romance with an opiate marked his return to writing.
His Kindle Singles for Amazon have all been bestsellers. He writes true stories about drink, drugs, disasters, desire, deception and their aftermath. His work has been praised for its grit, humor, fearlessness and heart. The Long Run, his mini-memoir detailing his transformation from alcoholic drug abuser to sober ultrarunner is one of the best-selling Kindle Singles to date.
Mishka Shubaly lives in Brooklyn where he writes music and plays bass for Freshkills. He is at work on a new solo record of his original songs and a full-length memoir. He does not own a dog but he thinks about them often.
The premise for I Swear I’ll Make It Up to You is as follows
A misfit kid at the best of times, Mishka Shubaly had his world shattered when, in a twenty-four-hour span in 1992, he survived a mass shooting on his school’s campus, then learned that his parents were getting divorced. His father, a prominent rocket scientist, abandoned the family and their home was lost to foreclosure. Shubaly swore to avenge the wrongs against his mother, but instead plunged into a magnificently toxic love affair with alcohol.
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Omar: Tell us about the life of the roadie, the guy that’s on the road, the artist, the singer/songwriter that’s moving from town to town. You never know what’s coming one day to the next. How do you balance your current lifestyle with sobriety?
Mishka: Listen. Routines are important, and it’s so important in early sobriety to shore up the decision you’ve made with whatever it takes, man. If your hardcore devout belief in Catholicism is what’s keeping you sober, then I absolutely support you. I’m in your corner 100%. I will fucking get down on my knees and pray with you like I’m totally … Whatever it takes, but as you move further along the line, you need to know who you’re going to be when your routine fails you, and it can’t be that, “I missed a meeting. I’m going to go drink,” or, “I got in a car accident, so I’m going to go drink,” or, “My mother died, so I’m going to go drink.”
You need to know … You need to make that change in your core, and being on the road is tough. It’s challenging. We’re sleeping at different places every night. Often, you don’t sleep well. You’re eating crap food, drinking too much coffee, not enough coffee. Obviously, we’re in bars all the time. There were a couple of chicks who wanted me to come out to their car and like do fat lines blow with them the other night. Temptation is always everywhere. It’s always there. Nobody is more clever than an alcoholic or an addict who needs a fix. We’ll fucking do anything. You just have to know like … I can’t breathe underwater. I can’t fly through the air like a bird. I can’t drink.
Omar: Yeah, I love it. I like it.
Mishka: Those are things that I don’t do. I can’t do them.
Omar: I love it, man.
Mishka: The breathing underwater thing, that will be cool. That one I will need to work on, but you just got to get right in your head the … Clarity. Just no matter what happens today, nothing in the world can make me drink.
Omar: Oh, man. Okay. I got it. I got it. All right. Mishka, it’s time for me to turn this show over to you, my friend. It’s time for you to share with us your story. Now, I want to hear about the battle you had against drugs and alcohol, the wreckage it caused in your life when you hit rock bottom, and then finally, your journey into sobriety up until today. Mishka, take it away, buddy.
Mishka: All right. Let me swallow a mouthful of juice here. When I was a kid like 13 or 14, it’s when I started drinking, and I gotten picked on a lot in school. We moved around a lot, and that was when I … The first time I got drunk, I was like, “Oh, this is who I am. This is who I will be,” and I just felt … I finally had found my identity. Then, when I was 15, I left high school and started a college level program. My first semester at school, another student got a semi-automatic assault rifle and shot up the school, shot 6 people, killed 2 of them, and terrified all of us.
I stayed up the whole night, and then when I got home the next day on zero sleep, I found out my parents are getting a divorce, and then we lost the house to the bank, and I just spent the next 17 years in just this sad tornado of alcohol, and cough syrup, and cocaine, and hating myself. I felt guilty that I was responsible for my parents’ divorce and just hating the world at large to have them take our house away. It made me hate my dad for leaving. It made me hate my mom for having me. I hated God, America, money, capitalism, banks, everything, and then when I was 32, I just finally had this epiphany that I was more afraid of my life than I was with my death, that I was okay with dying, but what really scared the shit out of me was living.
I loved my mother, and I promised her that I would never kill myself. I was like, “I’m stuck here, stuck in this. What if I made a life that’s worth living?” Then, I just started pushing back, and I stopped drinking. I started running. I started trying to tear down the person I’ve been and build a human being in this place. That’s a long process, and I’m still working on that, but I found success as a writer. I was able to quit my job in the bar. I haven’t had a real job in 4 years now. With my pros … With the money that I made from publishing my writing via Amazon, I was able to buy my mother a house and …
Omar: Awesome …
Mishka: Yeah, that was a pretty cool feeling.
Omar: Yeah, I can only imagine. That’s awesome.
Mishka: Now, I am not perfect. I do not have a perfect life. I’m not a perfect man, but I’m a lot better than I was. There’s still chaos, and sadness, and anger, and all that shit in my life, but it’s a lot more manageable now. I have a great relationship with my father. I didn’t talk to him for 7 years. I have a great relationship with my sister. I didn’t talk to her for 7 years. My sister has 4 little kids, and they love their weird, creepy uncle, and I love that.
Omar: That’s your story?
Mishka: That’s it in a nutshell, man. I fucking came to my senses one day finally.
Omar: Now, Mishka is not even your real name, right?
Mishka: That’s correct. It’s a nickname. My birth name is Mikhail. That’s the same name that Mika has. This is probably the first example of me being like hardheaded is that my grandfather’s name was Michael, so I was named Mikhail after him, and then they called me Mishka when I was a kid, which is a diminutive of Mikhail, and then my mom’s … The first day of school, my mom was like, “Okay. You’re going to school now. Your name is Mikhail,” and I was like, “No, mama. I know how this works. My name is Mishka. Your name is Mom. Let’s not get crazy here.”
Omar: You just changed it yourself?
Mishka: Yeah, yeah. When I was like 5, I was like, “No, I’m Mishka,” and I have been since then.
Omar: From 5, it was on?
Mishka: Yeah, yeah.
Omar: All right, so give us your list of books and how our listeners can get a hold of you, or if they want to go and listen to you while you’re on tour, how can they find your gigs and your dates?
Mishka: I’m Mishka Shubaly. I’m the only one, so it’s mishkashubaly.com. I’m @MishkaShubaly on Twitter and Instagram. I’m on Facebook. Like I said, I’ll be friends with anyone. My tour dates are always posted on my website. I try and get them out on Facebook, and Twitter, and all that shit as well. The new book is called I Swear I’ll Make It Up to You. I have 6 bestselling Kindle singles on Amazon. I have a new record that came out last year called Coward’s Path. You should buy everything. It’s so good.
Omar: Fuck yeah. Other than your literature, is there a book that you would recommend that was one of your favorites growing up?
Mishka: Growing up took me a long time, so that’s a long window. One of my favorite books is a novel called Jernigan, and it’s not an inspirational story. It’s a harrowing, incredibly realistic, incredibly detailed account of the damage that alcohol and nihilism can do in one person’s life. It’s a creeping story. It’s funny. It’s touching. It’s terrifying. I’ve bought and given away 8 or 10 copies of it.
Jernigan – David Gates
Mishka: Yeah. It’s called Jernigan. It’s by David Gates. Yeah. If you’re tethering on the edge of thinking that, “Oh, maybe I should quit. I don’t want to quit,” read that book. You’ll fucking come correct after that. Oh, I got to bounce. I got to go do laundry, man.
Omar: Well, give us … One more question. One more question.
Mishka: All right. All right.
Omar: All right. If you could give our listeners only one suggestion, what would it be?
Mishka: Let it go.
Omar: Words to live by, by Mishka Shubaly.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NEWCOMER
“Let it go.”
Thanks again for your SHAIR, Mishka!
WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA
See you then!
Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.