The music of rock n roll is all about excess and getting exactly what you want. Because of the nature of the rock industry, artists are touring constantly, which means they have no set sleeping patterns. Often, rockers turn to alcohol and drugs to self-medicate a mental illness, to cope with the stresses of the road, or to live up to their images they created of what a rock star should do. Some were able to stop their partying and find recovery, others still party and sadly many have passed away because of drugs or alcohol.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse of Rockers
You only have to read articles or postings on the Internet to know that for many rockers, this rock n roll lifestyle does not end well for them. The Internet is littered with stories of rock artists who died as a result of drug or alcohol addiction: Scott Weiland. Chris Cornell. Kurt Cobain. Elvis Presley. Jim Morrison. Janis Joplin. Jimmy Hendrix. Amy Winehouse. In fact, this entire posting could be nothing except the listing of names of famous artists who died because of drugs and alcohol.
However, there is hope. Many artists have been to luxury drug rehab in California or elsewhere and have found gone recovery. Some rock and roll stars in recovery have done shows promoting recovery. The top five rock artists who have gone into recovery and have completed treatment are listed below.
Steven Tyler’s legendary blues-influenced voice is nearly as legendary as his drug addiction and alcohol abuse. In interviews, Tyler has mentioned he first began drinking in his teenage years to cope with his insecurities. However, his fame as Aerosmith’s lead singer gave him access to the huge drug culture of the 1970s, and with it, an addiction to cocaine. He has said in interviews that he spent at least 20 million dollars during the course of his drug addiction. His bandmates staged an intervention in 1986, and Tyler remained sober for nearly 20 years before relapsing on painkillers after serious back surgery in 2006. He returned to recovery in 2009 and has remained sober since then. His career has been resurgent and he is currently on tour in support of his award-winning country album.
Elton John came into rock n roll with a lot of demons. He was insecure about his looks, his height, and his ability to sing and compose music. He was also battling coming clean about his sexuality, since at that time, many gay professionals hit their sexual preference. He drank heavily and used cocaine during the 1970s and 1980s. He realized at the close of the 1980s that he could no longer abuse drugs and alcohol and still perform to the level he wanted to for his fans, so he went into rehab. He has been sober since 1990, and is in the middle of what he says is his final tour after a historical career in the music business, singing and composing.
Lou Reed is considered one of the frontrunners in alternative or independent rock music. His career with The Velvet Underground spanned over 50 years. Reed suffered from heroin and cocaine addiction, but was able to get sober and stay sober for over 30 years. He credits the love and support from family and friends for his recovery. Lou Reed’s activities post-drug use also centered on helping other musicians and artists, especially those musicians on the fringe of indie or alternative rock to get and stay in recovery.
There may be no other artist who exemplifies the epitome of rock excess than Keith Richards. He has a long history with drugs and alcohol, and he readily admits there is not a drug he hasn’t tried at least once. His drug of choice, and the one he got rid of last, was alcohol. He has been sober since 2016, and has mentioned that his only vices now are coffee and cigarettes. While Richards does not discuss his health often, he did say that in order to continue to write music, play and tour as extensively as he does, he had to quit drinking, because it was interfering with his ability to be successful due in part to his age.
Guns N Roses
No band has perhaps had the largest struggle with drugs as the original members of Guns N Roses. Every single member of the band had either drug or alcohol issues. Some of the band members had serious drug addictions, including heroin and cocaine. All of the drug addiction and alcohol abuse led to the band breaking up in the 1990s, and not all of the original band members have overcome their addictions. However, the two most prominent members; Axl Rose, who battled a serious heroin addiction in addition to alcohol and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder; and Slash, who also was addicted to heroin and cocaine in addition to alcohol; went sober and have continued to tour together sober along with Izzy Stradlin. The drummer, Steven Adler, who is now sober, is suffering from the aftereffects of near-constant drug use, and cannot play the drums well enough to tour.
While these rock stars beat the odds and continue to live their best lives in their sobriety and recovery, not all of the rock stars are as lucky or as tenacious as the rock musicians described above. Many musicians come from a place of either excess or deprivation in their early childhoods that leads them towards alcohol or drugs as a way to hide their pain. Others use alcohol or other drugs to self-medicate, because they have a mental illness and can’t cope without using something. You also have some artists who firmly believe that substance abuse helps to enhance their creativity. Some go as far as to credit their addiction as the reasoning behind their success. Whatever their motivation was for using alcohol or drugs, these musicians should be seen as examples of both their musical genius as well as their dedication to working through their recovery and addressing issues in their present lives as well as their past lives to ensure they can live in a future without drugs and alcohol.