In 2015, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Eric Clapton as the second greatest guitarist of all time, second only to the legendary Jimi Hendrix. Though the two emerged in the 1960s from very different backgrounds, in addition to sharing astounding musical gifts, they both also became enslaved to drug and alcohol abuse. Hendrix only lived to be 27. Clapton has made it to age 72, and it has been by all accounts an arduous, astounding, redeeming journey for him.
In his long career, Eric Clapton has been awarded 18 Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. His battles with drugs and alcohol were not confined to a single, definable segment of his life, but are now part of his past. In fact, he founded a medical rehab facility in Antigua in 1998.
Heroin, Alcohol, and Fame
Clapton has endured through heroin addiction, alcoholism, and the death of his young son in 1991 – battles that may appear all but unwinnable to an outsider. In the 1970s, he claimed to have spent $16,000 per week on heroin. Eventually, this drug was replaced by alcohol, something Clapton found difficult to face as he watched the new documentary about his life, “Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars.” At the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017, he told reporters: “To watch myself going through that was not easy.”
A Tragic Trigger for Sobriety
In 1991, Clapton’s four-year-old son Conor fell from a high-rise in New York City to his death, and in his 2007 autobiography, Clapton cited that incomprehensible tragedy as what triggered his sobriety after a two-decade addiction to drugs and alcohol. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he says that at the peak of his fame, “there was no one to challenge me.” Only his then-manager Roger Forrester was able to stand up to Clapton’s drug- and alcohol-fueled acting out. In fact, when Clapton finally checked into a rehab facility, he listed Forrester as his “significant other,” because Forrester was the only person willing to call him out on his behavior.
Personal Redemption Eclipses “What Society Thinks”
Recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, even for the superstars and icons in this world, is ultimately more about personal redemption than it is about being acceptable to society. In other words, Eric Clapton accepted that he had to recover from drug and alcohol addiction as part of his personal journey, separate and apart from the public figure he had become.
The same is true for the students, housewives, executives, cooks, bankers, florists, and teachers who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Though an external event may trigger a desire to achieve sobriety, ultimately the hard work of recovery must be done as a journey of personal redemption. In other words, you must be getting sober for yourself, due to your own acceptance and decision that it is necessary. Doing it for someone else will not work.
Music as a Haven During Hard Times
Eric Clapton, quite naturally, turns to his guitar during the difficult times that, of course, still happen whether one is sober or in the throes of addiction. He tells Rolling Stone that he will work on exercises, fundamentals, whatever will take him out of his head.
This is also a good plan for others battling drug and alcohol addiction. It may not be playing the guitar for you. Maybe it is chess, or gardening, or dog training. Perhaps it is writing poetry. It can take time to find an activity that takes you out of your head and gives you something on which to focus, but do not give up.
Drug and alcohol addictions do not discriminate. They hijack the lives of the rich and famous just like they do the lives of everyday people. The good news is that help is available right now. Please contact us to learn more about our admissions. There is no obligation, and we are always happy to hear from anyone who is ready to begin recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
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