Whether they tour worldwide, work in the studio or play live gigs at intimate clubs, musicians work hard, putting in long, often unpredictable hours to do what they love. With that grueling schedule frequently comes the pressure to use addictive substances as a way to unwind, stay alert or party with fans. With the music industry’s reputation as a place of excess, it’s easy for musicians to get swept up in an expectation they must drink or use drugs to “fit in.”
Luckily, many musicians have made different choices, prioritizing their health, wellness and careers over substance use. We’ve compiled a few of their stories below as a source of inspiration for anyone considering a career in the music business and as a way to celebrate National Recovery Month.
All of the persons mentioned in these stories have been open about their recovery and have self-disclosed to the public about their struggles and successes with addiction and recovery.
One of the most legendary examples of sober success in music is Elton John, whose descent into addiction was chronicled in the recent film “Rocketman.” For years, John relied on stimulant drugs like cocaine to fuel his energetic performances and help him overcome shyness and stage fright. Fortunately, the Grammy award-winning artist sought help in 1990 and has been sober for 29 years. He recently posted an Instagram photo of one of his recovery medallions, noting, “29 years ago today, I was a broken man. I finally summoned up the courage to say 3 words that would change my life: ‘I need help’.”
While artists like John are vocal about their sobriety, others share their recovery journey through their music. Vocalist Scott Stapp, best known for his work with rock band Creed, recently released the album “The Space Between the Shadows” which explores his journey towards sobriety. Stapp had long struggled with mental health challenges and turned to drugs to help cope throughout his run as Creed’s vocalist. He finally sought help after his wife issued an ultimatum that forced him to either choose treatment or cease contact with his family. He told Men’s Health, “In finding sobriety, I was also able to get to a place where I was able to treat my underlying depression.”
Stapp isn’t alone as a famous lead singer who faced the consequences of addiction. Vocalist Deryck Whibley of rock band Sum 41 suffered liver and kidney failure due to alcoholism, prompting him to seek treatment for his addiction in 2014. Though he had often turned to alcohol to cope with childhood struggles and the pressure of fame, he told ET Canada, “One thing I noticed after getting sober, is that nothing really changed creatively for me. Whatever it was I didn’t really use alcohol to write music.”
Even musicians who have struggled with their sobriety are open about second chances. Singer Demi Lovato famously relapsed in 2019 after nearly seven years of sobriety. In the aftermath of a drug overdose in her home that made national headlines and left her hospitalized, Lovato returned to treatment. Her 12-step program “never shuts the door on you no matter how many times you have to start your time over,” she posted on Instagram. “If you’ve relapsed and are afraid to get help again, just know it’s possible to take that step towards recovery. If you’re alive today, you can make it back. You’re worth it.”
Other musicians who have embraced a sober lifestyle include:
- Rapper Eminem, sober since 2008
- DJ and producer Calvin Harris, sober since he was 24 years old
- Singer Sia, sober since 2010
- Country singer Tim McGraw, sober since 2008
- Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler, sober since 2010
For working musicians who are concerned they may have a substance use disorder, co-occurring addiction and mental health challenges, or other concerns, programs exist to help. One of the most popular is MusiCares, a charitable organization sponsored by the Recording Academy, the group that manages the Grammy Awards.
MusiCares can provide much-needed funding and assistance for artists struggling with addiction, including helping them to cover their rent, pay for addiction treatment, and find sober housing. Eligible artists must have worked for five years in the music business and released six commercial recordings or videos.
If you’re just getting started in the music business and struggling to resist the pressure to drink or do drugs, it’s wise to talk to an addiction recovery professional who can equip you with strategies to cope.
Just take it from two of the most legendary names in rock music: Joe Walsh of the Eagles and Ringo Starr of the Beatles. Both men have been public in recent years about their journey towards sobriety and spoke to Rolling Stone about their recovery. Starr told the magazine that the music industry is changing for the better as younger musicians more often choose sobriety. “I think their rebellion is to stay clean.”
Turning Point of Tampa’s goal is to always provide a safe environment and a solid foundation in 12-Step recovery, in tandem with quality individual therapy and groups. We have been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Substance Abuse, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987.