To mark the premiere of Rocketman at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, iconic artist Elton John has spoken to Variety, reflecting on his career, surviving addiction and living sober.
Now showing in UK cinemas, Rocketman is a musical biopic directed by Dexter Fletcher, based on Elton John’s early life and work between the 1970s and 1990s. The film shows how the legendary performer was affected by multiple addictions – including to alcohol, cocaine, prescription drugs, marijuana, sex and bulimia.
Today, at 72 years old, Elton John has almost 30 years of sobriety. “I am a survivor,” he said. “I’ve survived a lot of things.” In this blog, we take a look at John’s comments on addiction, recovery and the secrets to living sober.
Elton John – Surviving Addiction and Living Sober
Addiction – a matter of life and death
“From the 1970s to 1990s, it was a rollercoaster of emotions and success and happiness and misery.” Said Elton John, of a time in his life when he rocketed to stardom, yet increasingly relied on addictions that almost killed him. “I had to change my life really drastically; otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here.”
Speaking of the worst times in his addiction, John said, “There were a couple of times when I was having chest pains or staying up for three days at a time. I used to have spasms and I would be found on the floor and they’d put me back to bed, then half an hour later I’d be doing the same thing.”
Most addicts can relate to what Elton John describes – the overpowering nature of addiction, despite clear evidence of serious harm. Even when your life is threatened by addiction, it can feel impossible to change. However, help is available.
Addiction – a vicious cycle of fear and using
Elton John described his underlying anxiety as a performer and how his addictions made his mental state even worse. “Every creative artist does have doubt and has moments of, ‘Am I doing the right thing? Am I good enough?’ And that’s what turns us into monsters as well because I think you become unreasonable. And of course the chemical substances and the alcohol doesn’t help anything – you lose touch with reality.”
Self-medicating anxiety with addictions is, unfortunately, widespread. People use to feel better, calmer, happier, more alert, confident or in control – but as their addiction progresses, so does their mental distress.
Living sober – commitment to recovery
Living sober is much more than putting down drugs, alcohol or addictive processes. It’s about ongoing support and personal transformation. Of his recovery, Elton John said, “I did a lot of hard work. It didn’t just happen overnight.”
Committing to a structured recovery process gives you the best chance of establishing firm foundations in sobriety and building a new life. Countless addicts worldwide have rebuilt their lives in detox and rehab, counselling programmes and addiction recovery groups. Professional and peer support enable people to break free from addiction and sustain sobriety.
Living sober – learning how to communicate
A crucial part of living sober is expressing thoughts and feelings in healthy ways, without resorting to addictive habits. “What I couldn’t do when I was an addict was communicate,” John said, “except when I was on cocaine I thought I could, but I talked rubbish. […] I had a confrontation problem which I don’t have anymore because I’ve learned that if you don’t communicate and you don’t talk about things, then you’re never going to find a solution.”
In treatment for addiction, talking therapies include CBT, DBT, 12-step therapy, psychodynamic counselling and trauma therapy. There are also effective alternative treatments such as art therapy, music therapy, meditation groups and acupuncture. Good quality rehabs offer their clients a range of therapies, as people respond in different ways to each technique.
Living sober – facing challenges head on
“Life is full of pitfalls, even when you’re sober. I can deal with them now because I don’t have to run away and hide,” Elton John said. In recovery from addiction, there will still be good and bad experiences in life – but with treatment and support, you will develop new skills to handle what comes your way.
If you’re using addictively, including to escape problems or numb painful feelings, Addiction Helper is here to take your call. Addiction treatment can help you learn how to manage the challenges and impulses that drive your illness. Take the first step today towards your recovery – call, message or chat with us online.