Guitar master Eric Clapton has had an incredible career playing in the legendary sixties group Cream, and as a solo artist. He also had many years where he suffered from addiction before he finally got sober over thirty years ago. His life and struggles have now been chronicled in the documentary Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars.
As Clapton told Rolling Stone, looking back on his life was often painful, especially the years where he was suffering from addiction. Watching one particularly painful and embarrassing moment of his life, Clapton says, “I just have to face the guy that I became when I was fueled on drugs and alcohol. It’s incomprehensible to me, in a way, that I got so far out. And there was no one to challenge me. People said they couldn’t challenge me because I came back twice as strong.”
Finally, Clapton’s manager convinced him to get help, saying, “You’ve got a problem.” When Clapton arrived at rehab and wrote down who his significant other was, he listed the manager who got him help “because he was the only one who would stand up to me and call me out.”
Clapton’s love of music is one thing that saved him, along with following the twelve-step program. “Listening to music became just as important as being able to play. During all those periods of my life, I found new or old music that helped me, that got me through even when I wasn’t playing well or I wasn’t playing at all.”
Clapton knows he’s lucky to be alive, and as he told The Fix, “I thought that if I stopped drinking and I stopped using drugs…I would not be able to play anymore. But my experience now tells me in a long time of being in recovery that I can be a good musician with or without that…I wouldn’t be here today-I’d probably be dead-if I hadn’t gotten straight.”