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The Perfect Tonic

Tonic Ska Choir member and volunteer Carl Paddon writes about what Tonic means to him, and how it helped him turn his life around.

Carl auctioning artwork for Tonic at The Wedgewood Rooms – the artwork was kindly donated by The Southsea Alternative Choir


**** TRIGGER WARNING: This article describes drug use and addiction ****


The Perfect Tonic

The worst thing I can ever do is to think about doing something, especially something that will most likely have a positive effect on my life. It’s just the way my nut works. My thought process is flawed and not built for positivity – I’m built on anxiety and fear.

It’s quite hard for me to admit that, knowing that someone will read this blog, but I now know my thoughts don’t define me. I accept my thoughts and try to control my actions, which is why Tonic is a massive part of my life today.

I was introduced to Steph (founder of Tonic) about three years ago, but it wasn’t until twelve months ago I got involved. I remember it well.

I was about a month sober and Steph had posted on Facebook asking for someone to give her a hand to shift some vinyl, so I thought yeah, no problem. I’m a month sober and it’s a Saturday, so I needed to keep myself occupied. Unbeknown to me, there were over 10,000 records that needed to be shifted into storage. It was at that point I gave Steph her unofficial nickname of “crazy record lady”.

So not only was Steph now the crazy record lady, but she was also persistent with the idea that I join the Tonic Ska Choir. Now don’t get me wrong, music is a massive part of my life, it always has been, but the thought of singing in a choir seemed ridiculous. Thankfully, after a while thinking about it, I went ahead and attended my first rehearsal.

I’m not going to lie – I was close to passing out before going into the church where we rehearse. My anxiety was through the roof, but I went in anyway and haven’t looked back. I’ve recommended the choir to a lot of people and their response is always the same – the same as mine was – “but I can’t sing”. I now know that’s not a good enough excuse. Everyone has the ability to sing, especially with facilitators like Leonie & Jade, who must have the patience of saints to deal with the likes of me.

It was upon joining the choir that my whole outlook on life changed. My previous existence was defined by narrow mindedness, with a sprinkle of ignorance for good measure. There is no place for any of that in the choir. You’re either part of the choir or you’re not. It must be like this because there are over forty people. Many suffer with mental health issues, so it has to be a safe place for all.

I learned how to accept others. I then learned how to accept myself. I learned that it was okay to be vulnerable, which is my biggest fear, but something I force myself to experience. I’m someone who used to hide from any of that. I’m someone who used to sniff as much cocaine as possible, literally to the extent that I couldn’t fit any more up my nose, so I would end up eating it instead – f*** getting vulnerable.

Thankfully that’s not the case today. I love being part of the choir and I love keeping in touch with people who I once would have ignored. The ignorance and narrow mindedness I mentioned before would have kept me away from engaging with any of them.

I’ve labelled this blog The Perfect Tonic because that’s what Tonic has been for me. It’s a perfect fit for how I’m trying to live my life now. Never in a million years did I think I’d be in any sort of choir. Never in a million years did I think someone would be brave enough to give me a microphone so I could speak to crowds at festivals and gigs, representing this great charity.

The moral of the story is that you’ll never know what you’re capable of unless you give it a try.




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