Dave Navarro hopes that by sharing his story of trauma, loss, fear and drug addiction in his new documentary Mourning Son, he can help others face their fears and be successful in addiction recovery (and in life).
A new documentary produced by Dave Navarro, Mourning Son, is not your typical rock documentary and in fact barely touches on the musician’s life as a member of the band Jane’s Addiction. Instead, the documentary looks at the circumstances surrounding his mother’s murder and how this dark and traumatic time impacted his life forever.
Mourning Son: Trauma, Loss, Fear, and Addiction
Dave Navarro was just 15 years old when his mother Connie Navarro was brutally murdered in 1983. In the documentary, Navarro gets more personal than ever as he recounts the event and how he coped in the years following. In the film’s trailer, Navarro explains, “I have never been one to not share what’s going on with me emotionally. I think as an artist and a musician, that’s just inherent in what we do. It’s the most profound moment of my life and I do not think I should just sweep it under the rug anymore. It was just the darkest, most horrible moment of my life.”
The trailer begins with footage from the Connie Navarro murder case. Her killer John Riccardi was on the run and was not apprehended until eight years later after the case aired on the television show America’s Most Wanted.
Following his mother’s murder, Dave Navarro joined the band Jane’s Addiction in 1986. As the band rose to fame he recalls the fear and terror he felt because her killer was still on the run. There was always the lingering thought that Riccardi would also target him, a type of traumatic fear that can haunt a person for a lifetime.
For Dave Navarro, his entire life has been about walking through fear and getting to the other side — and facing fear holds a strong focus in the documentary. During the production of the film, Navarro faced one of his greatest fears by visiting his mother’s killer — who is now serving life in prison — for the first time. With a hint of humour he reports that after facing his mother’s murderer he can now tackle the rest of life’s challenges more easily.
The film also includes graphic archival footage of Dave Navarro’s addiction to heroin. For Navarro, using heroin was a way to escape the intense pain of his mother’s death. While his past drug addiction is a focus of the film, he says he has not used drugs intravenously for 15 years and has been living sober for the past four years.
Creating the documentary was an exercise in healing for Navarro, and he hopes that sharing his experience could help others who have survived losing a family member to murder, or loss of any kind. “Many of us invent our own coping skills,” he said in a press release. “Mourning Son is my journey of discovering which of these mechanisms might send me further into suffering and which would help me recover and heal.”
Navarro also says making the film has helped him transform his relationship with his mother. “After my mom was killed, I had always focused on the death, on the murder, on the tragedy, on the loss, on the trauma,” he said. “I’m way more in touch with who she was as a person now than I was before we made the film.” He added, “I had to dig into the trauma to get to the beauty of my relationship with her.”
Dave Navarro is now an advocate for domestic violence awareness. Despite the fact that his mother was killed in a domestic violence homicide, he says he did not fully realise that his documentary was talking about domestic violence until they were halfway through making it. One of the goals of the film is to be a cautionary tale — about domestic violence and addiction, while looking at alternative ways to move through trauma.
Dave Navarro’s Story Highlights the Link between Trauma and Addiction
Trauma is an often overlooked aspect of addiction, but trauma survivors are more likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol than those who have not experienced trauma. For example, 50% of people who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a specific anxiety disorder related to trauma, will also struggle with substance abuse or addiction. A wide body of research is growing that links trauma to addiction, especially the experience of trauma in childhood or adolescence, and experiencing chronically traumatic events such as neglect, physical or sexual abuse.
Trauma can be defined as an extremely distressing experience that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope. Like in Dave Navarro’s case, psychological trauma can be the result of a one-time event such as an accident, sexual assault, crime, or death. Or, it can be the result of an ongoing traumatic experience including neglect or abuse. Such events can cause people to fear for their physical, sexual, or psychological integrity and can seriously overwhelm their ability to cope.
Trauma survivors may turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and numb intense feelings of fear, depression, rage, or intrusive thoughts. Drug abuse can also become a way to cope by inducing temporary relaxation while allowing a person to forget about their pain.
For trauma survivors like Dave Navarro, what began as one problem is compounded by drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. For many, in order to overcome their addiction and be successful in drug or alcohol rehab, they must also address the underlying trauma and the significant impact it has had on their emotional life and ability to cope.
Co-treating Addiction and Trauma Disorders
Treatment of trauma disorders such as PTSD can occur alongside addiction treatment and many addiction treatment centres are recognising the need to address both addiction and trauma in order for their clients to be successful. When trauma is overlooked as a contributing factor to a person’s addictive behaviour, relapse is common.
At The Cabin we offer an integrative programme for those who have suffered past trauma and are also struggling with addiction. This programme utilises evidence-based therapies for the treatment of PTSD including Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), alongside a client’s participation in addiction rehab.
We commend Dave Navarro for having the strength and courage to share his story of survival, and hope that it will help others to see that you can heal after trauma.