FAIRMONT — Chuck Comas has been closely associated with music for much of his life. A singer, songwriter and longtime presence at the popular Sagebrush Roundup, Comas was inducted into the West Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame earlier this year.
But Comas, 73, never imagined he would someday write a song about the horrors of methamphetamine abuse or to whom the lyrics in his song would be directed.
“I’d never even thought about writing a song about meth because I always looked down on anybody who ever fooled with the stuff. Until it hit home,” Comas said.
Comas’ newest song, “That Awful Meth,” was inspired by his daughter’s real-life and continuing struggle to shed her drug addiction.
“One day, about eight or 10 years ago, my daughter showed up all messed up and I couldn’t figure out what was going on,” Comas said. “We had a picnic planned and it was like she was dizzy and dull and just lethargic. She was obviously under the influence of something. She had just gotten introduced to the drug.”
Comas’ daughter, Kari Borrell, 36, like so many others addicted to meth, would eventually see her life — and the lives of her husband and five children — dramatically altered as the drug took over her life.
“My daughter eventually lost everything — her dignity, her job, her husband, her five children. It took away her whole life. I’m still trying to help her because she’s still struggling with it. It’s a poison, a demon in your veins. Once you start, your body craves it. You’ve got to reach way deep to fight that,” Comas said.
Comas said he was at first shocked at how methamphetamine addiction quickly and completely destroyed his daughter’s life.
“It’s been so bad that I’ve seen her on the streets sleeping in a doorway on concrete. It was cold outside. She was all red and chipped, her face all messed up from the winter air,” Comas said. “It’s going on all over Fairmont — under the bridge, behind the stores. Anywhere there’s a cubbyhole someone can hide in, there’s a chance someone’s doing meth there. I’m telling you it’s everywhere.”
Comas said he has intervened several times in an attempt to help his daughter, but the drug’s hold on her was too strong. He turned his attention to his grandchildren instead.
“It had gotten so bad that I couldn’t not do anything, especially when my grandkids became affected. I watched her kids suffer many times. I would take the kids, clean them up, buy them something to eat, but they needed more,” he said. “Many times, I thought about turning her into the police myself because it was so bad. There are mothers and fathers out there crying today, wondering why they can’t do something for their sons and daughters to get them clean. But the addicts have to want to get help.”
With his daughter’s continuing drug use, Comas decided to try to reach her in the most natural way he knew how — by composing a song he could play for her.
“That Awful Meth” is spoken-word song, the lyrics of which are heard over strains of “Amazing Grace.” It was produced by Mark Poole at Zone 8 Recording, a studio in Morgantown.
“The song is about this little boy. It starts out with a preacher coming to the house as the daddy has given up on his meth-addict wife and has started packing his clothes. He opens the door to leave his home and finds his son sitting on the front steps,” said Comas.
“Dad, our pastor was here today / And he is sure with God’s help we can get my mommy a cure / Then you will see, you won’t have to fight with her anymore / Well, when he said that, I stopped right there in my tracks / And as I looked down on him just a-smiling up at me / I realized if I’m leaving his mom, then I’m running out on him.”
Comas said the scenario depicts a rather common scenario among those with loved ones who are meth addicts.
“The daddy hadn’t even considered his son because he was so upset and frustrated with his wife. The little boy notices the suitcase and tells his father, ‘Dad, the preacher was here today and he said with your and God’s help, we can get my mommy a cure.’ The song is about the daddy and his son talking,” Comas said. “At the end of the song, the daddy has forgotten about leaving and is renewed about getting his wife cured. He stays there in the house.’”
Another passage goes like this:
“That’s when I saw a smile of relief come across his little face / He said, ‘Dad, I don’t want you or Mom to go away and leave me / But I heard Grandma say that awful meth could kill my mommy / And I don’t want her to ever leave me / Even if she goes to heaven / ‘Cause you and God know I’m only seven.’”
The song has a hopeful and rather positive ending, Comas said, but real life doesn’t always.
“Quitting is such a difficult thing to do. An addict can’t fight it alone. They’ve got to have support because they’re going to go back and do it again. They’re going to falter. I don’t know how many times my daughter has tried to quit. Many, many times,” Comas said. “She is trying to stay clean. Since I wrote the song, she’s tried three times, only to relapse.”
Kari Borrell said she is a couple weeks clean of meth as of this writing. She is living with friends at an undisclosed, out-of-state location at present.
Borrell heard the song for the first time two months ago.
“Oh my God, I cried and cried. It’s my story, the story of me and my kids. It’s my life,” Borrell said. “I didn’t realize things were so bad until my dad wrote that song. He’s always been there for me, he’s always helped me. He’s such a good guy, so when he wrote that song and played it for me, I just broke down.”
But as powerful an influence the song had on Borrell, meth’s hold was even stronger.
“I relapsed right after he played that song for me,” Borrell said. “It was a wake-up call, yes, but I still relapsed and starting using again.”
Borrell said her children were taken from her after an overdose in October 2016 that landed her in prison. Most of her children, four of whom are under the age of 18, are now in foster care and protective custody. She has not seen them in some time.
Borrell contends she is sober today and trying to remain so.
“My dad’s song helped me see my condition through the way my kids see it,” she said. “I never thought about it from their perspective, about how they were looking at me. It was a real eye-opener.”
Borrell said she recommends other drug addicts listen to “That Awful Meth.”
“If you’re a user and you listen to the song, it’s going to remind you of yourself and it may help you become free. I’m touched that he actually took the time to write a song like that. But my babies are his grandbabies, so I wasn’t the only person who lost them. Everybody in my family lost them,” she said.
Comas said he would like to play the song live for those living with addiction at area homeless shelters, soup kitchens, churches, or anywhere he might be able to reach someone who needs to hear its message.
“I’ll play it anywhere where there are people trying to get help, anywhere where it can reach them. I’ll perform it free anywhere where it might do some good, where hearing it might help these people,” he said.
Comas said he will definitely play it at the Sagebrush Roundup, where he is a regular performing musician, when the venue reopens post-COVID pandemic.
But even the songwriter has no delusions his words are a panacea for the struggle against drug addiction.
“I’m hoping it’s something addicts can listen to and maybe make them wake up a little bit. But everything I’ve said, they already know. They’ve got to find the energy and desire to quit more than the desire to do it. And that’s hard,” Comas said.