This is what the other side looks like, right now. Cole and girlfriend Dani Nelson have just finished a cross-country drive from Los Angeles, done in a fairly leisurely six days, visiting friends and family along the way, with "An Evening with DIIV (Unplugged)” at the Murmrr serving as the ultimate destination. The theatre -- a synagogue that has only recently begun booking live music shows -- is an unlikely setting for the indie rock band, a few miles south and a world away from the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bushwick where DIIV made its name. But then, this is a unique show, comprised of mostly acoustic renderings of DIIV favorites and rarities, along with a healthy dose of covers of songs from artists who provided Cole with inspiration and solace in what was, at times, a wrenching stretch in rehab -- “stuff that gives an insight into what is going on inside my head,” he says. A day before the Brooklyn show, in an upstairs room at the Murmrr, he spoke in remarkably candid terms about this new start on the rest of his life.
“So basically, my program of recovery is super hard line,” he explains. “No drugs, no alcohol ever, for the rest of my life.” While he can’t identify the program, it’s clearly in line with addiction treatments that have rescued many others worldwide. He spent a first month in a rigid in-patient facility -- no phone or internet -- and music was his greatest companion. That was followed by a stint in a sober living house, where he shared a room with five other guys, and had a curfew, chores and a strict schedule. That’s in marked contrast to the lax approach of a Connecticut rehab facility where Cole spent time in 2015 -- not so much 12-step as 12 days.
“They were like, ‘We’re not a 12-step program,’ he recalls. “And I didn't really know what a 12-step program was except from like, movies. So I thought, ‘I guess there’s something wrong with the 12 steps. I mean, if these people don’t like it, and they seem to know what they’re doing.’ But then I got out, and it was probably 45 minutes after I left that place I was like, ‘Well, I’m out. I guess I can just do drugs, cause I’m out! I’m not in there anymore. I got the piece of paper!’ So, it kind of put something in my head that 12 steps are outdated, or outmoded or something. But like, the approach has existed for almost a hundred years unchanged, theoretically, and it’s saved millions and millions of people.”
The hard truth about sobriety is it only works if you want it to, and if you’re not willing to put in the work, it likely won’t. Of his current program, Cole says, “It’s a framework in which you do the steps and the work, and do shit yourself. You just put yourself in there and once you’ve been in there for a while, the core concept of it is you stay sober by keeping other people sober.” While he attends daily meetings no matter where he is, he realizes he’s still very early in his recovery and calls himself still “at-risk.” Still -- unlike others I’ve known who six months into recovery didn't want to be in the same room as alcohol -- he can tolerate being around those who are drinking.
“I went out to dinner with my mom the other day and I hadn’t seen her since I got sober,” he says. “And I told her, ‘If you want a glass of wine you can order a glass of wine,’ but she said, ‘No no, it’s good.’ But then the next night we went to my sister’s place and they were drinking wine.” He likens it to having been a vegan for 12 years. “I never was the kind of person that was like, if someone is sitting across from me and is eating a burger, I’m not gonna say something about it. Also, alcohol was never my drug of choice.”