Steven Tyler is opening up about his sobriety.
The Aerosmith frontman just celebrated nine years of sobriety after four attempts. In the February edition of GQ, Tyler was interviewed along with nine other sober musicians, and he recalls his best and worst moments on his journey from addiction to recovery.
“I Couldn’t Get High Enough.”
“I was a beautiful little boy that lived in the woods of New England, New Hampshire,” Tyler told GQ. “So I grew up in the woods listening to the wind. It was jus the silence and Mother Nature, no one around – it was an awful lot of magic there. When I started smoking weed, in ’65, ’66, it kind of enhanced those magic feelings.”
The 70-year-old revealed that it wasn’t until he joined Aerosmith that using became a big part of his life. “It was more or less the thing to do,” Tyler noted. “I don’t think there were any bands that even knew what sober was.”
After asking what substances him and the mega-band drifted towards, the frontman stated, “we would do cocaine to go up, quaaludes to come down,” as well as persistent alcohol use. In Tyler’s 2011 memoir, “Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? ” a slew of drugs were mentioned including cocaine, OxyContin, heroin, methamphetamine, methadone and LSD were mentioned. “I couldn’t do enough,” Tyler stated. “I couldn’t get high enough.”
It Works in The Beginning
As the success poured in, so did the substances. The band filled arenas such as Madison Square Garden, and continued their heavy drug use throughout two decades coming to the belief that an altered state helped with the creative process.
“After two encores in Madison Square Garden, you don’t go and play shuffleboard or Yahtzee, you know? You go and rock the fuck out.” He added, “we believed that the road to wisdom was through excess. But it got really bad in the ’80s. Stupidly, naively, when I had an album that didn’t do as good as the one before it, my thinking was well, obviously I didn’t drink nearly enough.”
And while nobody is immune to addiction, overtime the consequences of his substance abuse started to come in full effect.
Tyler said, “what happens with using is, it works in the beginning, but it doesn’t work in the end. It takes you down. There’s nothing but jail, insanity or death.”
“I’d Be Dead By Now.”
Detailing the massive effects his using had on himself and others around him, Tyler noted that as time went by the sense of positivity began to diminish. “I was just an angry fuck when I got high,” recalling one trip to Anguilla where he “got thrown off the island by the police. And, you know, riding down the street on the windshield of a car. Stuff.”
The Father of four looks back and admitted that if he had kept the course he was on, “Well, I’d be dead by now.”
After a successful intervention from his bandmates, Tyler said the rest of the band members made their terms clear. “If I didn’t go away to rehab, then the shit’s over…but I’m grateful that that happened. ‘Cause I would have never seen the light.”
Tyler also noted that he was fearful the impact that sobriety would have on his creative process. “When you’re high and you create something out of thin air, and the whole world is singing your fucking song that you wrote stoned, it’s hard to think that getting high wasn’t the reason that all happened. However, I’d get so high that I couldn’t be creative anymore.”
However, it seems that sobriety squashed those fears, because it was the springboard that took Aerosmith to the next level.
“All the magic that you thought worked when you were high comes out when you get sober,” he noted. “You realize it was always there, and your fear goes away.”
The Risk of Relapse
The road hasn’t been easy for Tyler, as he’s attempted getting sober a handful of times. However, reflecting back on his journey he recognizes what he would lose if he relapsed.
“I got a band that’s still together, the guys are still alive, everyone’s healthy. We play better than we did 50 years ago.” He adds, “I mean, there was a certain rawness when we played clubs and we were all fucked up. Sure, I get it. But that band is still together and still sought-after. People still want us for a million-plus dollars a night. And that’s what’s at risk if I use again. And my kids. My dogs. My beautiful fucking house in Maui. My girlfriend. Everything is at risk.”
31 responses to “Steven Tyler Has 9 Years of Sobriety and He’s Opening up About It.”
It’s great that “tough guys” can have an example that a “tough guys” can also sober up and stay sober. And enjoy their lives. Congratulations to Steven for a good start in his recovery.
38 years here and what a ride! Congrats Stevie….always been one of my favs, and spent hours getting high to your music….still love it sober!
Amazing congratulations on your clean time
Stevie you are an amazing musician & you keep giving the gift of hope to the still suffering. I just celebrated 12 years of Sobriety & I now am able to “feel” the music way more passionately sober than when I was super flying high!!! Peace to you & keep giving it away with your Strong beautiful voice!
My daughter is named after a lyric in amazing which is my favorite Aerosmith song have battled addiction since I was a teenager currently have 2 years my 9 year old daughters legal name being journey Tyler with him having 9 years sober is just the icing on the cake n a boost to keep my own soberity advancing its been rough latey
Congratulations! I just celebrated 8 years sober March 1st. I wouldn’t trade this sober life for anything!
Being sober is normal. Big brave whup to stop poisoning yourself. Where’s my congratulations sober participation award? People beat all kinds of misfortune. I am glad he beat his.
What’s “normal”? Hahahahaha! You don’t have an alcohol addiction? That’s great! But it is a Big Brave Whup for us recovering Alcoholics.
It’s frustraing that so much media attention is given to those that do well in 12 Step, so much that 12 Step’s description of what it is like to take drugs and then overuse to the point of it being NOT healthy is taken as a kind of near Biblical truth.
And likewise the 12 Step solutions to drug overuse/abuse/habituaiton/dependency are taken as solid and trusted methods.
But the truth is that 12 Step only works for the minority. Studies indicate a success rate of 5-10% for alcohol with 12 Step and 12 Step is lower for drugs like opioids.
And a logical for this is that the methods of 12 Step are far more religous than anything else. It makes sense that most people do NOT learn to moderate or abstain when they choose if they are constantly telling themselves that they are “powerless” as 12 Step tells them to do in the 1st Step and to a certain extent all the steps.
I would go so far as to say that someone must misinterpret what it means to be powerless” for 12 Step to work.
There are other methods, HAMS, SMART, LifeRing, Women for Sobriety, and an innovate computer program developed at Yale that hasn’t received nearly the attention it deserves, as well useful medications like methadone and buprenorphine.
However, what seems to be the most effective overall strategy from coping with the condition that we call “addiction” is decriminalization, such as seen in Portugal and Switzerland.
And what is it that works better? Is there something !pre successful.
Something doesn’t have to even be technically successful to be better than 12 Step. Doing nothing is technically better than 12 Step for opioids. For alcohol, the rates of someone just getting up one day and moderating or abstaining for a while on their own is about 5%. 12 Step’s success rate for alcohol is again 5-10% for the 1st year. And anyone whose attended 12 Step (and I have attended 12 Step and a was a serious member for about 20 months) knows that the there is a huge drop off in attendance for 12 Step for alcohol after the 1st year. Thus, even for 12 Step’s most successful drug, which is alcohol, the success rate might well be zero when compared with doing nothing.
Stats for 12 Step and opioids are much worse. It’s hard to fish out how bad because there is a tendency to conflate 12 Step treatment with other treatment, but the stats for the OD for someone receiving rehab “treatment” (which has about a 90% chance of being 12 Step) is an OD rate that is 30x times, not 30% higher, not 2x as which would be bad, but 30x higher.
That isn’t just NOT successful that is a disaster.
As noted, methadone and buprenorphine, especially when both are offered have about a 50% success rate, and most researchers, and notably Yale, in particular,support the use of these medication instead of 12 Step. In fact, not that I think the term is ideal,but many refer to buprenorphine, as “the gold standard” of treatment. If one follows the model in Switzerland that also offers prescription heroin in addition to a choice of methadone or buprenorphine (if one doesn’t work the other is tried) and if neither of these work then prescription heroin to be injected in a clinic environment is offered. This has lowered OD, diseases associated with illegal IV drug use, and also the crime associated and fostered by illegal drugs down so low as to be close to zero.
I said all of this briefly in my first post, you just weren’t paying attention. It does contradict 12 Step teachings as well. So, it made sense to go into more detail here. The best and fastest way to check what I’m saying is to Google “Switzerland prescription heroin” and multiple articles will come up.
I’m sorry the program didn’t work for you, but your inability to comprehend statistics and the syndrome of addiction and how they work together is harmful to others trying to get sober. You sound resentful.
I agree that for heroin and opioids, medical assisted treatment is the standard, but for many other addictions, 12 step programs help people.
standard simply means the one that gets the most press and use.
Those of us who recovered without other drugs know what the real standard is.
My success rate is 100%
I respect your opinion,although i really don;t even know why your bashing the 12 steps? Where’s your reason for this? It was not even mentioned in this article!
signed a grateful recovering addict with 8+ years in a 12 step program! js
In respect to your first question. I’m posting this because I’m an AntiAA and anti-prohibition activist and I work to increase the knowledge on more effective as opposed to less effective treatment options. In other words, because I am aware that 12 Step doesn’t work for most people in terms of helping then moderate or abstain from substance consumption and is harmful for a substantial amount of people who try it, independent of whether they stop consuming substances while participating in 12 Step, I think it is helpful to tell people this. In short, telling people that 12 Step doesn’t help most people, works to save lives and increase the quality of life of those considering participation in 12 Step and those considering leaving 12 Step.
Anyone who knows 12 Step culture knows that Tyler is talking about 12 Step. I think it is dishonest that 12 Step isn’t mentioned and the mainstream thinks it’s just the normative treatment that anyone who stops using drugs uses. That isn’t the case.
Yes, I’m aware that those for whom 12 Step seems to work need to “attract” new members and also tend to, as you are doing in, defend 12 Step and insist that if it didn’t work for someone that it is the fault of the person it didn’t work for, as you seem to be doing here, and as doing such follows the 12 Step slogan “It works if you work it.”
Lance Dodes has written several books on how this aspect of 12 Step, what I would call “blaming the victim” is one of the reason that 12 Step is more dangerous than helpful. That it seems to help some people is canceled out by the fact that the 95+% it doesn’t work for are told by 12 Step that the fault is their own, that they are inferior, that they aren’t “spiritual.” But the truth is if something doesn’t work for 95% of the people who try it, it doesn’t actually work.
AA does not have a monopoly on the addiction problem nor asserts itself as being the only answer to sobriety. It’s members express that it works for them. I do not agree that AA “blames” those who don’t stay sober. That is an interpretation. And, I find it unfortunate that anyone who cares about wanting help for addiction suffers need to criticize one method they found didn’t suit them personally. For me, it’s about any and all methods. If AA doesn’t work for you fine. Why do you feel the need to criticize a program that helps? The more options available- the more ways those who suffer can find the path for them. I certainly know AA has been one successful option for many. Also, one never references AA on the level of press,radio,film. It is on of the traditions of AA.
I totally disagree with the 5-10% success ratio which I’ve seen in other studies. What constitutes a success and failure? AA was the origin of 12 Step programs and based it recovery on it being 24 hours at a time. If someone managed not to use and stayed sober for the day then is was a success. The way I see it, if a guy goes to AA meetings and stays sober for 4 months but then has a slip for couple of days, his 4 months still count. He stayed sober 118 days out of 120 which to means to me he has 98.33% success rate.
My success rate is 100%.
Because 12 step programs are anonymous the stats you reference can’t be supported. And because 12 step programs are anonymous members don’t reference it “at the level of press, radio and films.” Why would you want to diminish the hope for those seeking recovery?
Most people that are “alcoholics” or “addicts” cannot moderate. 12 step programs are not for everyone…but they have a better track record than most of the “new” programs. Recovery is different for everyone. If the 12 steps don’t work for you..fine. But don’t bash it as it may help someone else.
Why don’t you tell us the success rate of these other forms of treatment you mention ie; HAMS, SMART, LifeRing, Women for Sobriety? Or tell us how being anti-AA is helpful to you or anyone else? You also mention “other methods you are involved in”, tell us about those..
This so called very successful study being done at Yale, how many people in recovery are given access to that method? What’s that involve? AA is solution, and yes, spiritually based, sick people get well when they apply themselves to a certain set of principles. That doesn’t automatically make it harmful or a bad thing. Are you sober, if so what do you do to help others? AA isn’t for the faint of heart, it requires work and dedication. As far as recruiting, or drawing people in…
We don’t go out and cast nets over people, but “We are responsible”, and we are here to help not hurt. Have you personally ever given it a try?
If so, it obviously didn’t work for you. But to assume and to bash it, is not conducive to anybody who is trying to find their own path towards sobriety and happiness…
We are all thankfully given choices and options which we are free to explore, that’s the gift!
so you don’t have to do it- to change.
I love you Steven. You are brave for opening up about this and your story will inspire others.
19 Years. Some happy – some not so happy. Life on life’s terms, right?
Congrats Congrats Steve keep doing the work on urself it’s a life long process ur disease is just arrested.
I celebrate 17 years sobriety in one week. It’s a very, very tough road. No one can understand what Steve has been through, until you yourself has traveled that road. Congratulations on Steve for his successful journey!
so, 30 yrs. ago I was at my 3rd or 4th AA meeting at 373 group in Quincy , Mass, I was sitting there shaking just wanted my life back,and family to love me again, Steve Tyler came in and sat right in front of me.. OH MY GOD! I was in awe to say the least. I could not even breathe. I didn’t hear a thing? but I came back every Thursday , waiting, watching to see him come through those doors again. needless to say he never did, BUT I met some amazing woman in the meeting, listened, joined the group, and tommorrow will have my 30 yrs ,Aug.15th. Never did get to thank you Steven Tyler… for showing me you don’t have to be drinking out of a paper bag to be a drunk. God puts people were they are most needed.
Thanks, Steve and the writer, for upholding Tradition 11 and 12.