Yorker's music video brings hopeful message during opioid crisis
When Gordon Tittsworth struggled with addiction, he didn't have anyone he could talk to.
Parents, teachers, co-workers, employers — for good reasons, he said, those were not the kind of people he felt he or others battling addiction could turn to because of the fear of stigma, finger-pointing or repercussions.
"There was no outlet," he said.
But he had always connected with music, so he thought maybe he could provide a safe space for others who were struggling.
Tittsworth, of York Township, who is lead singer and rhythm guitarist for hard rock band Images of Eden, released a music video with the band for their single "Shield Me," laying out the stages of addiction and the pain it causes, but not without a message of hope.
'Shield Me': The video opens with a young girl walking under an overpass, apprehensive of her surroundings. A hooded figure approaches her, following her throughout the video as she encounters people on the street — a symbol for the temptations an addict might face.
The narrative is interspersed with clips of the band playing "Shield Me," with the lyrics:
“Release your tears, I’m a soldier sent to shield you
"I watch over you more than you will ever know
"Now purge all your fear — your own weapons fight against you
"Let me be your guide.”
An angry mother crowds the girl at home, demanding answers, which drives her out of the house again and into the draw of heroin.
The lyrics go back and forth in a conversation between the guide that strengthens her and her inner thoughts, “So broken and afraid ... How will I spread my wings again?"
Her thoughts turn to hope as the story continues, “Now here on your wall tall I stand/Cross over heart, tomorrow in my hand.”
On her last leg, the girl suffers the pain of an overdose death, but she is ultimately revived by a figure in light, giving her a second chance.
Though the story has an spiritual overtone of faith being a force that will overcome, Tittsworth believes the message is universal.
The band does not give a name to the dark or light figures in the video, but at the end the scars on the girl's arms are gone, the mother-daughter relationship is restored and the black cloak disappears.
We've been there: The story interwoven through the video was inspired by the teenage niece of keyboard player Dean Harris, who lost her to a heroin overdose.
Each member of the band has had his own brush with addiction — directly or indirectly.
Drummer Steve Dorssom lost his best friend — and best friend's son — to heroin, and bass player Eric Mulvaine personally knows four who have died because of opioids. He's seen even more deaths as a deputy sheriff.
Tittsworth lost two to alcohol addiction, which he also fought himself.
"I’ve been in music most of my life, and bottom line, I was there," he said. "We’ve all been there. Hopefully we can attack the problem in a slightly different manner."
If musicians can provide a more trusted voice than the authority figures in people's lives, hopefully even one person who's struggling will be encouraged to reach out to someone for help, Tittsworth said.
Though the band typically writes lyrics with a positive message, he said, it was especially important to create a hopeful message surrounding opioid addiction.
The band: Images of Eden formed its current lineup in 2016, with each band member representing a different home base.
Tittsworth lives in York Township, and fellow band members Harris (Harford County, Maryland), Dorssom (Phoenix, Arizona) and Mulvaine (Traverse City, Michigan) are from other parts of the country. Lead guitarist Carlos Urquidi Perez is from Chihuahua, Mexico.
The group comes together to record in California, and they filmed the music video in Arizona — Dorssom and Tittsworth worked on the script, and Dorssom directed.
After releasing the single on Jan. 5, Tittsworth said, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive — from respected musicians to people they are meeting with in Harford County in March about an anti-drug campaign.
They plan to include the song on their new album, "Soulrise," due for release in 2018.
Tittsworth said the most important thing is to get the message out to those who are facing addiction.
"Maybe if this voice is not an authority figure, it will make people feel OK to reach out," he said.