On June 6, 2019, members of the New Origins life skills community had the opportunity to attend a recording of Colin Morrison’s Talking Sobriety podcast in which he interviewed Brian Welch, lead guitarist of the heavy metal band Korn, and his daughter, Jennea. Attendees also watched a screening of Brian and Jennea’s new documentary, Loud Krazy Love, and had the opportunity to ask questions and share their own perspectives on the issues of religion, addiction, and parenting that the documentary explores.
The event, organized by New Origins program administrator, Ron Honn, is part of a series designed to bring positive role models to individuals in recovery. Past speakers have included motocross rider Aaron Baker and rock group, Everclear’s, Art Alexakis.
“We’re All the Same, We’re Just Trying to Make it Through…”
Brian Welch’s Recovery Journey as Depicted in Loud Krazy Love and in his Book With My Eyes Wide Open is Both Relatable and Inspiring
On February 22, 2005, at the height of Korn’s success, guitarist Brian Welch walked away from a rock star lifestyle fueled by methamphetamine and alcohol in order to care for his young daughter, Jennea.
While introducing the screening of Loud Krazy Love at New Origins in Redlands, Brian reflected on how his addiction to drugs and alcohol were ruining his life and the life of his daughter. After years of excess while on tour with Korn, Brian quit the band, quit drugs and alcohol, and became a devout Born-Again Christian. But while a fervent embracing of his new faith gave him the strength to get clean, it did not automatically gift him with the life skills he needed to handle everyday life and parenthood. Despite his good intentions and millions of dollars in the bank, he still had to endure all the typical struggles that come with the life-changing work of staying sober and being a single parent to a young child.
Brian noted that even though he was a world-renowned musician, the pitfalls of addictions were the same for him as they are for everyone else. “We’re all the same,” he said, “We’re just trying to make it through this journey. None of us knows all the answers.”
Sobriety Doesn’t Make Everything Perfect – Life is Still Hard, But It Is Worth It
Brian’s film and his most recent book, With My Eyes Wide Open chronicle his struggles with anger and depression, and the ways he needed to face them in order to grow personally and be a good father to Jennea. In the film, and while speaking at New Origins, he was open about his lack of life skills when it came to doing basic things like paying a phone bill or managing his bank account, and the frustration that came with having to learn how to manage the day-to-day.
During his interview, Brian talked about the ups and downs of recovery. He said that for about a year after getting sober and converting to Christianity, he felt gifted with positive experiences. But then the realities of life, souring business deals, the pressures of parenthood, and simply getting through began to stir up anger and depression, and he would have episodes where he felt out of control.
“As usual, it was all or nothing with me. When things were going well…I’d experience an extreme high and feel unbelievably happy. But when things would get very difficult and confusing, I’d sometimes swing the other way and fall into a deep, dark emotional pit.”
-Brian Welch, With My Eyes Wide Open
While grappling with these struggles and the temptation to self-medicate, Brian said he would think to himself, “One more line – what’s that going to do for me?”
Brian’s journey and the candor with which he describes all of his high’s and low’s, demonstrate that as public and as unique as his life is, it is still bound by all of the challenges, the slips, and the emotional growth that every addict must experience. His journey and his honesty about his failures prove that while everyone’s path looks different, the growth opportunities, the road blocks, and the hard work are the same. Even if you are a millionaire rock star with the world seemingly at your feet, there is still no magic bullet or shortcut – it takes time, dedication, perseverance, and commitment. But Brian’s journey also proves that the hard work is worth it and success is within reach. After about five years of sober living, Brian said he was finally able to get his emotions in check, and though he had one slip about three years ago, in which he unsuccessfully tried to re-introduce alcohol into his life in a healthy way, he is still firmly committed to a life of sobriety.
Brian and Jennea Welch – Through Years of Struggle, Father and Daughter Are Working Together to Spread A Message of Hope
After quitting the band, getting sober and embracing religion, Brian sincerely, but haphazardly, devoted himself to parenthood. Loud Krazy Love documents Jennea’s childhood touring with her father, how the absence of her mother impacted her self-esteem, and how destabilizing life on the road, and life with an addict, can be for a child. We see her backstage in the arms of nannies. We see her watching her father perform before massive crowds, huge protective headphones on her ears. During an interview in which she recalls her memories of those times – the stereotypical antics of rock band groupies, the social isolation, the desire for stability and normalcy – we are invited to observe the ways in which she is made to live at the mercy of a dedicated and loving, yet highly impulsive and emotionally-driven parent.
To many, it may seem that this is no way to raise a child, and during Jennae’s teenage years, in which she expressed her desire for normalcy through rebellion and self-harm, the instability definitely took its toll. But through it all, the love Brian has for his daughter is obvious, and it is this love that brings them through to the other side. “She was the angel sent by God to get my mind off of myself,” said Brian. And when the time came when Jennea needed more – a mother figure, a stable home, and a community of friends – girls her own age – who could relate and understand, he was self-aware and mature enough to make the right decision on her behalf. He eventually enrolled Jennea in Awakening Youth, a therapeutic boarding school, where she appears to have thrived and developed an advanced value system that is refreshing and unique among children raised in celebrity.
A Celebrity Family Using Their Platform for Good
Now twenty-years-old and a student at a university in Florida, Jennea is a well-spoken, confident young woman with savvy beyond her years and serious aspirations. Her empathy and concern for children raised and/or abandoned by parents with substance abuse issues is a clear motivator. She wants to share her story in order to be an inspiration. She wants to reform the foster care system. She is concerned about others. She is empathetic and exhibits strong values. She is, in short, a really good kid.
It is difficult not to look at the work the Welch’s are doing together without making comparisons with other celebrity families that often find themselves in the spotlight. On the one hand, you have the striving for perfection and status, as depicted by the beautiful, yet ethically dubious, lives of the overindulgent parents currently embroiled in the college admissions scandal. On the other hand, you have a tatted up, dreadlocked, ex-drug addict, metal head single father on a speaking tour with his daughter and visiting places like this one – a small center in Redlands, California, sharing a story of hope and redemption, and taking the time to be real with an audience that has nothing of material value to offer in return. The irony is almost palpable.
We are grateful to Brian and Jennae for their demonstration of accountability, their visit, and their effort in sharing their remarkable story with us.
Brian Welch’s Visit Part of a Larger Effort to Inspire Those on the Recovery Journey
Events like these are designed to inspire attendees to maintain sobriety over the long term. By providing the opportunity to meet successful, sober role models the New Origins team aim to demonstrate that life without substance abuse can be more fulfilling and worthwhile than a life brought down by drugs and alcohol.