Kosha Dillz on How Cinco de Mayo, Addiction & Yom Hashoah Changed His Life Forever: Op-Ed

Noah Eberhart


I can't imagine my life without Cinco De Mayo. It might seem odd considering my branding in art and music, but I thought of this because of Internet memes and Facebook reminders from high school friends with excuses to go out with their fiancees, wives and old drinking buddies.

On spring break when I was 19, I went down to Mexico and ate a ton of ecstasy, drank Coronas daily and fell in love twice on the beach while losing ten pounds and my voice in only six days. (Don't worry, the story is all going to connect.) Back then I didn't really know what Cinco de Mayo was, but I now know that it is about the Mexicans' victory over imperialist French invaders. It is a story of triumph.

Nearly a month or two after my Mexican vacation was a Cinco de Mayo I would never forget. My addiction was still running rampant, finding me on a trip to the Jersey Shore stronghold of Seaside Heights, pre-Snookie era. My college career of drinking and debauchery was quite prevalent until that night, where I fell asleep on the beach with a girl and a bunch of other partying kids while trying to make an extra $5 off each ecstasy pill. I brought 20 pills and had 15 left on me the next morning. So In a sense I made $25 dollars and ruined my life.

When I woke up that morning with state police all around me from the burning fire of a boardwalk we destroyed, my life changed forever. Not only were my lovely Jewish parents in complete dismay from that phone call, but my entire school knew and I was on the cover of the local newspaper. My life had been changed forever. No more Division I NCAA wrestling at Rutgers. No more school at Rutgers. Since that day, I was never able to get a "real job." Seven felony charges, jail time, parole, probation and all the glory stories still travel with me to this day. (This was the first of a couple arrests.)

Yet I say "Happy Cinco de Mayo." It's the day that let me be an artist, because it is the only job I am allowed to have. I couldn't get one of those Postmate jobs due to my record and wasn't even allowed to work at a rehabilitation center. Cinco de Mayo didn't have anything to do with it, technically. It is just a day that helps me remember a time that changed my entire life due to my addiction -- and a day we can all look back in my family as the day that everyone decided "I was stupid." (Of course, we all later found out I had a serious problem with drugs, and that addiction is a disease with no known cure, but we all have a personal choice in what to do with it.)

Now let's drastically switch topics, and holidays.

Yom Hashoah (Day of Remembrance) started yesterday (May 5). It is a day we use to represent remembrance of the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust who will also never have another chance. The difference is they had no choice; I did. In Israel, the entire country stops to hear a siren that symbolizes the six million. Cars pull over on the highway and people get out. Work stops wherever it is. My addiction led me to a day of Cinco de Mayo where it changed me forever -- but I still got to live.

So why do I talk about these two together? In both instances, my family's lives have been changed forever. The Holocaust killed my entire family. Cinco de Mayo was a day my life changed. The obvious difference is that one of those days I had a choice and a way to change (been clean over a decade now) and my family members did not. My entire dad's family was killed in the concentration camps and my mom's dad, too. Dozens of family members. They were only killed because they were Jews. I made the choice of "killing myself," and making everyone else around me suffer. Cinco De Mayo is a story of triumph. Nowadays I use it as a day to remind me of my own triumphs and where I came from. Yom Hashoah does the same thing… yet millions are gone forever.

Tomorrow I return to Mexico for the first time since that drug-induced trip I had years ago and then head off to hit the road with Matisyahu in Burlington, Vermont, while stopping at home for a layover with my mom for Mother's Day (in case you forgot -- it is Sunday). To imagine I would be going on trip to Mexico 14 years later to see people I care about is quite baffling since my own holocaust was a mere choice, and at a certain point, I thought it was fun. 

The mantra of the Holocaust is to be reminded that as 11 million people were killed, we must say "Never Again." When it comes to my own choice and addiction, I truly realize no matter what I do with my life, I will never have to endure what my family did, and I should take it upon myself to make the right decisions every day. But this rings true for most of us.

So while you celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year with friends, do remember the holiday of Yom Hashoah. I will not forget either of them.

Kosha Dillz is an L.A. based hustler/rapper who tours the world. His album What I Do All Day and Pickle is available for pre-order and he tours frequently with Matisyahu, raps in three languages, and is performing in Krakow Poland on June 4 for Ride for the Living, a 55-mile bike ride from Auschwitz to Krakow followed by a two-hour concert in the Tempel Synagogue, which Nazis destroyed before the war. He will do his first TedX talk in Kazimierz on June 18 on the topic of transformation and personal liberation through his music. See him headline in L.A. on May 26 at the Hi Hat Lounge.



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