Stories of Addiction: Rob Horton
Rob Horton is no stranger to the pages of South.
You may recognize him from his previous advertisements in the magazine, big colorful spreads featuring the hairdresser lounging seductively in bed flanked by half-naked models. “Sleep in,” their eyes say. “Why get up early when you can just get a blowout?”
“Those are crazy to look back on,” Horton laughs. He gestures upward. “When you’re drinking and doing as much coke as I was, everything up here seems like reality. I thought I was so amazing. I just didn’t understand how I was this huge rockstar and yet they’re backing all my shit out of the driveway at 11 p.m. and I’m selling my Rolex on Craigslist to keep the power on.”
Horton describes himself as a “little guy” who started drinking in his teens to feel bigger. It was a good supplement for his high school persona, but whereas casual drinkers find relaxation at the bottom of a glass or two, Horton got anxious, always seeking the next level of effect. Sometimes it was four drinks. Sometimes eight. There were a few brushes with the police, all minor, all alcohol-related. One of Horton’s first weekends in Savannah—he was dating a SCAD student at the time—came after he’d been charged with a DUI back home. The law was a bit slower in catching up with out-of-state license suspensions in those days, but Horton still reflects on how alcoholism had gained a foothold in his life.
“In retrospect, drinking was affecting my judgment and all of my relationships. I tried to go to college three different times, but it was always a mess,” he explains. “Addicts tend to think of things geographically, like if you move somewhere else, it will be better. Then six months later, you realize that the same problem came with you.”
After a stint in London studying under Vidal Sassoon, Horton opened his first salon in Savannah, a one-of-a-kind, boutique-style outfit located on Liberty Street. A second property downtown (along with a failed marriage) soon followed, and by 30, Horton was compounding his alcohol abuse with cocaine, attempting to combat the exhaustion of a thousand “Groundhog Days” of drunken dinners, late night parties and hungover work shifts—the days he even bothered to show up, anyways. Unsurprisingly, that too failed, and Horton’s professed “empire” began to crumble. Suddenly, the man who had spent his entire life worrying what everyone else thought of him realized that he didn’t even know who he was.
“I was very much a chameleon. I just wanted to be liked and I was scared not to be,” Horton says. “I’ll never forget the day that my brother invited me to go to a meeting with him. I was like, ‘Well, what if everyone thinks that I’m an alcoholic?’ And another neighbor who was in recovery said, ‘Rob, do you know anyone who doesn't think that?’ That’s when it dawned on me.”
In that first meeting, Horton says, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Here was a group of same-minded people, who, like him, were highly creative, motivated, and successful. Somewhere along the line, they’d simply fallen off track. Horton entered the recovery process at full force, relying on the steadfast support of his fellowship group until he learned how to support himself. It’s a gift he’s repaid tenfold in nine years of sober living; Horton is not only an open book to the clients in his chair, but he’s also extensively trained and certified as an interventionist. That same void he’d once tried to foolishly fill with material possessions has been sated through helping other addicts find their self-esteem. The thrills he seeks now are slightly more tame—Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Half Ironman marathons, eating clean, and raising two kids—but Horton says it’s those kind of consistencies that keep him grounded.
“All that rockstar, egomaniac [explicit] I had before, when I got into recovery, I realized just how unimportant I am—but in an okay way,” he muses. “The world doesn't revolve around me, I don’t have to be greater than or less than anybody else. I can just be here, and that was one of the biggest reliefs. And honestly, thank God I lost most everything. Imagine your whole persona being tied to these things, not what you do or who you are. Just things. I had to be stripped of all that stuff to find out who I really was. It wouldn't have been possible any other way.”