by Donna Sealy
Barry Chandler is getting a second chance.
After reaching rock-bottom, the former co-lead vocalist with Jabae, has clawed his way back and is on a trajectory he is working on to bring him success.
What he hoped would be a 20 minute interview this morning at the home of his manager Dwayne Grazette, turned into a two-hour chat about his life, him being a VIP — a very important paro — how he became powerless after falling into the clutches of drugs – alcohol, weed, cocaine and dope — how his drug dealer ordered him to rehab, his begging on the streets, and finally his seven month stay in rehab at Verdun House that led to his turn around.
He is in a place now where he is comfortable and has nothing to hide about his past.
He doesn’t have any money or possessions, but he has life, health and people who love him and a voice with which he can share his story.
As a matter of fact he wants to share his story to prevent young people from falling into the trap that he did. He wants to be that example of what not to do if you want to succeed and he does not mean monetarily or owning things.
Dressed casually in a grey and black stripped tee-shirt, a pair of grey jeans and barefoot, the 28-year-old sat in the verandah and began to tell his story.
He said it was important for him to go back a few years, so he started in 2000 when he won Richard Stoute Teen Talent Competition.
“Before singing I played cricket at school, I went to Grantley Adams Memorial. I got into cricket and I fell in love with the game. I played for Barbados, both of us, at the youth level and then sometimes you get an unfair break. I performed well at trials and I didn’t make the team. That disappointed me for a while and I stopped playing.
“We started singing in 1998. We my (twin) brother Bruce and my cousin Jason Waithe, we had a group called Harmony. The first year we didn’t do so well but we came back the next year and we came second to Ishiaka McNeil, who won. The group broke up after that and we went our separate ways. Me and my brother went back playing cricket. My cousin stopped singing with the group and I decided this is what I wanted to be doing with the rest of my life. I told them that and I went by myself and sang in the Teen Talent.
“I sang a song for my mum, Wallflower and Vehicle. After that thing started to get better for me as a young entertainer trying to make it, I received calls from several people who had bands Rusty was one. I stuck around for about two year and then krosfyah called me,” he recalled.
At 17, he was a member of krosfyah travelling all over the world was “exciting” as he was seeing places he had heard about and meeting people and having “nuff money” which he said was the start of his addiction.
“I didn’t know. I started buying nuff shoes, If we went away for three months to New York I would come back with 25 pairs of shoes. I had a suitcase only for shoes and the funny thing about it I used to like shoes more than clothes and it was insane ’cause I had that many shoes and no jeans or anything to wear them with. That time I had my whole room full of shoes,” he said,
Barry remembered that at a meeting with the band he was told he was buying too many shoes and he got upset because he did not want anyone telling him what to do with his money, the he was working for.
“As I got money don’t matter how much it was I spent it in one day. I ain’t gine dead and lef’ no money, that’s how it was, that’s how I used to think. Things got to a point when I left the band. I stopped singing for about a year and then Ishiaka called me and told me he had a band with my brother and he wanted to know if I was interested in singing with Jabae. This was about 2003. We had no music but we had the opportunity to perform because of Dwayne’s management.
“We started recording that next year and it was the first year I got to record in Trinidad and it was different way to what I was accustomed to. Neil Bernard is very precise and very particular in what he wanted the artist to do.
“Flames came out in 2006, I think I was 19. Neil had my singing that song for four days straight; it had me so tired but it worked. I feel that if you work so hard at something you need to do it always pays off down the road. I worked to get where I was that year. That year I won two crowns (Party Monarch and Road March). I went to band fetes and performed for free to push the song,” he said.
Somewhere along life’s journey, his mother Barbados and went to live in Boston and he had a “nervous breakdown”.
“At that time I wasn’t checking ’cause I used to make a lot of money and I never had to depend on my mother for nothing at that age. She used to support me. I missed her. When she left I started to feel different. I left the band and I started smoking a lot of marijuana.
“That was probably to replace what I was feeling and any time I got stressed out I used to smoke to loose myself and forget and to see if the problem would go away. When I come back down the problem was still there.
“It reached a point where I was overdoing it and all of my money was going into weed. I would get money and buy a big set of weed and alcohol. I used to live by myself and sometimes I didn’t use to buy food I didn’t use to go to the supermarket and buy nothing to carry home, I just spend all in drugs. I would sit down and smoke all day, listen to music. I would smoke and sing, smoke and sing until we passed out and when we get up smoke again fresh. That was for the whole day.
“After a while, my friend was telling me I had a problem. Years ago he was telling me ‘you got a serious drug problem’ and a problem with drinking’ I said ‘what problem wuh. I could stop drinking’ and that time I know I can’t get that do. Any fete I went to I had to drink and smoke cigarettes, I had to smoke this and I had to smoke that. It reached a point where I didn’t care about life any more. I only cared about smoking and everything started to go downhill as well.
“I stopped smoking weed because I stopped getting high. Weed was a gateway drug as well, I wanted something to get me higher so I went sniffing cocaine. The funny thing about it, before I started, I was performing and … every night I used to get the dance floor packed and there was one night I performed and there were a lot of Bajans. I put my all into it but I felt really bad because a lot of the tourists didn’t dance. When I perform I like to put my all into it. I’m a professional and when I sing I don’t like to sing off key or any thing like that. One of my favourite singers is Luther Vandross and I think he was one of the best singers I ever hear ’cause he could sing clean… I was disappointed in myself, I thought I had lost and that I didn’t do my best.
“I went home and some of my friends were sniffing cocaine and I just did it because I was upset and it started off there. I could still manage money. I used to get paid properly so I used to save money because it came through the bank. I used to make sure I gave my grandmother money but it got to the point that I couldn’t get out of my bed unless I had something to smoke. I was about 22. It started to get to me too. My heart used to beat fast, I couldn’t sleep I was always looking for something. I got tired of the feeling, my eyes, my heart and I felt like killing somebody.
“The worst thing I ever did was started smoking dope, which is cocaine in a hardened form. That is a hell of a drug. It is a selfish drug. It’s only about that drug and you. It doesn’t want you to do nothing else. If my girlfriend was over [at my house] I didn’t want to see her. I would leave and tell her I’m coming back and go in the dope hole.
“I would advise anybody who has dreams in life to just leave out the drugs. Cocaine carried me to a different level. I was going places and I mind friends. I used to spend the money nobody else did. They were there to get things from me when the money wasn’t there I didn’t see anybody except Bruce. He went to rehab too and he’s good now good too. We couldn’t go to rehab together …
“It got to the point when I was on the road begging for money. I stopped bathing and I was powerless. This is what I wanted and I had to get it. I knew what I was doing, but my head was cloudy, it wasn’t straight. I got sick and nearly died. I had meningitis in 2010. I couldn’t talk properly. I feel it was a result of drugs. I stayed in the hospital for 13 days and …,” Barry said his voice growing soft as he reflected on that period in his life.
His situation was so bad a dealer told him point blank he would not be selling him any more drugs and took him to rehab but he left after a week because as he saw it, he only did it because the man wanted him to.
He went around that man again but he ignored him.
Barry continued on this path until eventually, one morning at 4, he left “‘town” and went to check himself into the Psychiatric Hospital. He waited outside on a bench until the gates opened but was told that the institution was full and to return later that week.
He did but only after the police held him coming out of a drug hole with a coke pipe. They locked him up for a day and he credits those officers for setting him on the road to his recovery.
He had reached that point where he had recognised he had to help himself. That was in July last year.
When he went to rehab he had nothing except the desire to get better although they were times he had enough and wanted to go home.
Looking pensive, he said he said he made “nuff people cry” and he apologised for all the pain he caused them and the lies he told.
A handful of people where there for him, his grandmother, his girlfriend and Dwayne who gave him some tough love.
During rehab, Barry said he used to call Dwayne “a million times” to tell him he wanted to sing again. He had lost his voice and in rehab he worked at it. He also said that in December during a party at Verdun House, it was the first time he really enjoyed himself without drinking and smoking.
Rehab was not easy, he said. He did not expect it to be but today he is proud of himslef and the fact that he can speak about it.
“The hardest part of rehab was figuring out who I am. That puzzled me for a couple months. It is not about how to stop using drugs ’cause nobody can teach you that. It’s about dealing with your problems differently that’s what the programme is about. … It teaches you about being comfortable with yourself don’t be afraid to admit you made a mistake.
“Another thing I learnt from going to meetings – Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous – that keeps you grounded. You can’t forget,” he said.
Barry said his fear when he was about to leave the St. John facility in February this year was that people would call him a paro but he told himself it was his fear and his situation was his own doing.
“I’m being honest with myself. I don’t have anything to be ashamed of. I’m proud of myself ’cause in order to come back from that. I know they’re people who can’t come back from that. A lot of people who I used to be with love that. The denial is real serious. You don’t think you have a problem when you’re doing it,” he said.
For the past 11 months Barry has been clean and he knows what he has to do to stay on the right path. Temptations are lurking but he is ready to manoeuvre around them. That and his faith keeps him strong as he continues to live life on life’s terms.
Also see: Barry’s back – http://www.barbadostoday.bb/2013/05/17/barrys-back/