A Houston native, a financial analyst, and a talented musician, Max Flinn has found success and happiness in many areas of life, even after a lengthy struggle with substance abuse. His personal experience with addiction and recovery was a defining crossroad in his life and continues to be a major influence in his songwriting.
Today, Max is a busy, full-time musician, booking shows all over the Houston area and beyond. He’s also partnering with his mother to launch an intervention company in an effort to help others who are suffering from addiction.
Despite his full schedule, Max took a few minutes to talk with us about his music career, his past struggles with addiction, and a few of his upcoming projects.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your struggle with addiction?
Answer: “I had a really promising football career in high school and was getting a lot of interest from some colleges, but addiction and alcoholism overtook me and became my sole focus. My sole drive—even more than my love for football—was just to get high and stay high. My first exposure to treatment was when I was 17 years old. I got a DWI and was placed in a treatment center. I just wasn’t ready then.
Fast forward to age 24, and I was in and out of jail and treatment centers. I put my family through a lot, but I’ve been sober since December of 2012. I wound up at the University of Houston on a six-year plan. I got my finance degree and landed a great job here in the oil and gas industry. About three years into that, I started going to open mics, and within a year, I was getting paid quite a bit and playing all the time. I started looking at the numbers and said, ‘Well I can pay my bills, so I’m going to jump into this thing full time.’ So that’s what I’ve been doing. But I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without sobriety, that’s for sure.”
Was there a particular event or experience that made you get serious about your recovery?
Answer: “I finally came to the realization of Step 1 and fully internalized the reality that I am completely powerless. My life was totally unmanageable. I think I had stayed sober almost a full year and was in my last semester at U of H when I started taking Adderall to cram for my finals. Within a few days, I was back to smoking oxycontin off of tinfoil like I had never stopped. Within 30 days, it had progressed to the point where I was totally obliterated each and every day and isolating myself in my dorm room. Everything just came to fruition for me. I finally was like, ‘Okay, I’m different. There’s no doubt about it, I have this disease. If I can turn into this monster within 30 days of using, I’m either going to go on being miserable like this and possibly die or overdose, or I can accept the free gift of recovery.’”
How has your music-making process evolved since you’ve gotten sober?
Answer: “My problem as an alcoholic, and just with my general makeup, has been discipline. When I was at that full-time job, I got there at 6 a.m. and left at 5 p.m., and there was structure. Now, I can sleep until 10 a.m. if I want to and then I can goof around and watch Netflix … there are just all these distractions. So that’s one of the things I’m really working on now. The one thing that has really improved is just my general zeal for going out and meeting people and booking gigs. I’ve been getting really big shows and am very much a go-getter in that way.
Another thing I’ve been doing lately is journaling. As I’ve gotten into the process of journaling and writing a little bit more, I feel inspired. Just in the last week, I’ve knocked out two songs, whereas, in the last several months, I hadn’t done much at all because I just wasn’t in the habit of writing.”
Do you talk about your experience with addiction in any of your songs?
Answer: “Addiction has certainly influenced my writing. There’s one song called “Texas Hill Country” that’s just a fun Texas song, but essentially what I’m saying is that the natural beauty of the Hill Country is something that produces a natural high for me. There are so many things in life that produce those sorts of natural highs for me. Running is one of them, experiencing God’s creation is definitely a big one, and traveling and seeing the world is another. “After I’ve Lost It All” is another one. It’s an acoustic number that is very much about my struggle and hitting rock bottom. The message there is that I don’t really change anything until it causes enough pain.”
Who do you look to for inspiration and encouragement? Is there someone that encourages you in your recovery, your music, or your personal life?
Answer: “I’m so inspired by so many of the men in the [AA] rooms and what I consider my home group. My sponsor is another one. Musically, there are some people that are really successful that are also on this path of recovery, like Jason Isbell. He’s a great songwriter and he’s also in recovery. I also really lean on my mom a lot too. I guess I’ve always kind of been a mama’s boy. I tell her everything and she’s a therapist, so I suppose I get free therapy.”
You recently released an EP album called “Give Me Something More.” Do you have any new albums or projects in the pipeline?
Answer: “We did a song for Hurricane Harvey, which is also on Spotify. It’s called “As Big as the Storm”. That was really neat. I got to put my experience with that and the resiliency of my hometown of Houston into word and song. I also just recorded a new single that touches on my recovery and I’m going to Nashville for Americana Music Fest, which will be a great opportunity to get in front of people.”
People from all backgrounds and walks of life struggle with addiction and sobriety maintenance. If you are addicted and you need help or you’ve recently relapsed and you’re seeking support, please call Eudaimonia Recovery Homes today. We’re here to help.
For more stories from the Houston recovery community, read about a Houston Heights coffee roaster who is giving second chances to local addicts in recovery.