By day, Tommy Benefield, in what he calls his "straight job", helps people overcome their problems.
By night, he has his other job, the non-straight one, and that's where he — alongside fellow former drug and alcohol addict turned mental health worker John Savage — helps himself, and others, come to terms with the challenges of life.
Disappointment and despair. Frustration. But also acceptance, and gratitude.
Making music, earlier in his self-named band Tommy and, most recently, with alt-country/indie-pop and folk-rock group Tommy and the Fallen Horses — of which Benefield is lead singer and Savage drummer and manager, and which releases its second album Openhearts on September 13 — had never been about "perfection or prowess", Benefield said.
"What I love most about music is being touched emotionally by it. After 10 years trying to make it in music, and having some success, but being miles away from making money, the songs are very personal."
They're about growing out of your 20s and into your 30s, and accepting some of the hopes and dreams you had aren't going to come true, and that's ok, he said.
"[It's about] having to come to terms with the life you have, rather than the life you thought you might have. And if you are lucky enough, like I am, you have a beautiful life," the dad-of-two, with one more on the way, said.
"So it's not feeling ungrateful but just having to reconcile with how it differs from the promise of life that all these rock 'n roll records seem to make it seem is available. As a kid, people would say I was going to be famous. I was always [play] acting and at 13 I started writing songs ... so I just assumed that sooner or later I was going to be the next Neil Finn, Neil Young even."
Tommy and the Fallen Horses - Daylight
The music video for our new single, Daylight, is OUT NOW ☀️ A huge thanks to Sonder Films for producing, filming and directing Tommy in what may be the beginning of his foray into acting... Enjoy this one, folks! It was a lot of fun to make. "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." - Oscar Wilde Stream/download Daylight here:https://smarturl.it/dltm Pre-order Openhearts, due September 13th, here: https://smarturl.it/tfhoPosted by Tommy and The Fallen Horses on Wednesday, 21 August 2019
He was writing songs at 13, but he was also already trying to get clean, going to his first 12-step programme through a family member.
Two year earlier, aged 11, Benefield had started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, something he described as not a matter of if but when in his Wellington community.
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"Every adult you knew smoked pot and drank alcohol."
Later, he would sometimes use needles to "shoot up" opiates.
His addictions put him on a desperate path, but also an eventual life-changing meeting with Savage, also a drug and alcohol addict, after he was kicked out of home and, while not homeless, spent a lot of time on the streets.
Savage, who had started the process of recovery from his own addictions but was not yet clean, offered to pay for Benefield to go to rehab at the Queen Mary Hospital in Hanmer Springs. Six weeks later, aged 17, Benefield was free of his addictions.
Two years later Savage, who with his mother started The Little Flower Trust to pay for addicts to get treatment — with Benefield the first recipient — himself got clean.
The trust, which has helped 250 people since 1999, also paid for Benefield to train as an addiction counsellor, and he's worked in mental health services for 17 years. The 39-year-old now manages Māori mental health services at Te Paepae Arahi Trust.
Later, as the pair's friendship grew to include their shared passion for making music, they began playing together in the band Tommy.
Eventually Tommy and the Fallen Horses was formed, releasing the album Isolation Is The New Party, which featured in the top 10 on the indie charts and some of whose songs featured on Outrageous Fortune and Shortland Street last decade.
Openhearts was their follow-up, and was recorded in 2013, but the 13-track album was put on ice while Benefield started a family.
"We finished mixing three days before my son was born and then sat there for six years," Benefield said of the gap between the album's completion and its release.
"I was going to take six months [focussing on parenthood] but I fundamentally underestimated what it takes to be a good parent."
As for Savage, outside of music he's also thrived working in the mental health sector. The 57-year-old father of two qualified as a psychotherapist in 2011 and now runs a psychotherapy school.
"I failed School Certificate and I now have a masters degree in science, specialising in psychotherapy."
He hoped people would read his and Benefield's story, and hear their music, and know that it's okay to be vulnerable, and that "no matter how bad things get, there's always a way out".
For him, music was "both a balm and an elixir", Benefield said.
"It inspires and motivates but it also heals and provides solace. I really hate to think what would've happened to me if music didn't exist in the world.
"I wouldn't say music saved my life, the 12 steps [did that] ... but it made my life worth living."
* Openhearts by Tommy and the Fallen Horses will be released on September 13, with a preview playing of the album at Meow in Wellington on September 12 and a show at Anthology in Auckland on September 27.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.
If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:
DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234
There are lots of places to get support.
For others, visit: https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis/helplines/