Well-known Triad blues guitarist talks about struggle with drug addiction, recovery

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The Triad is home to a blues guitarist who is known around the world. People are addicted to Eric Gales’ music. But for 27 years, he was addicted to drugs.

He says it was love that pulled him out, and he considers it a duty to tell his story wherever he goes.

“I did it on a dare,” he told FOX8 of the origin of his addiction. “The dude tried to tell me ‘man you ain’t never done this before’ and I lied and said ‘yes I have.’ That was the worst decision I ever made in my life. It sent me on a 27-year spree.”

Twenty-seven years of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, pills, you name it. His drug use is actually the reason he met his wife and ended up in the Triad. The night before he was scheduled to play the Carolina Blues Festival in 2012, he did a show in New York.

“After the show, I went out on the street, I had a little marijuana that I went to smoke on the street and that’s when some undercover cops came and put me against the wall and took me to jail,” he said.

He missed his flight to Greensboro. So festival organizers moved his performance.

“I wasn’t supposed to be last on the bill, but I wound up being last that day. Just so happened my wife was brought to the show by her best friend,” he said. “I noticed her and she was just beautiful and I saw her head kind of bobbing. In my mind, I was saying, ‘I think I got her.’”

He stopped the music to ask for her name. Two months later, they were married. And he hid his addiction from her for the first four years.

“There were numerous times that Eric would leave home and he would come back and look totally different – eyes bigger, just never going to sleep for three days,” LaDonna Gales said. “He’d be up for three days straight. He’s up taking things apart and can’t put it back together. And I was like that’s not what weed and alcohol do.”

He was late to shows and often showed up high if he showed up at all. LaDonna Gales said she started finding pills in the car. She knew something wrong. And she confronted him — with her bags packed.

“He said, ‘I’m about to go to rehab. I’m going to sign myself into rehab.’ So, my question to him was ‘are you doing this to save our marriage or are you doing this for you? because if you’re doing this to save our marriage, it’s not going to work. You have to go for you because you have to love yourself.’”

That 30-day stint in rehab was almost three and a half years ago. He’s been clean ever since.

“I can pass a drug screen,” he joked with us.

“Absolutely amazing. I am so proud of him. Just being able to sleep at night and not having to stay up and put my finger under his nose to make sure he’s still breathing,” LaDonna explained through tears.

For years he poured his pain into his music. Now he celebrates his victory through it.

LaDonna says he is an example of God answering prayers and that she’s seen a miracle happen right in front of her eyes.

And that miracle is helping other addicts — like one who saw him perform in California.

“He said, ‘I heard your story then. This was over a year ago. Aug. 4 is when I saw you play. Aug. 6, I got sober from you telling me what you said and I’ve been clean ever since.’”

Eric says even when the music stops, he hopes his story will play on.

The Gales family says one of the things that really helped them was their decision to both get help. He got help kicking the drugs. She got help dealing with the damage that his addiction had done to their relationship and to her. They encourage anyone dealing with a loved one who has an addiction to do the same.

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