The Australian singer Sia Furler, is commonly known as Sia, a very successful musician and songwriter, creating well-known songs both for herself and for Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, and Rihanna.
Like many successful and creative artists, success and talent does not protect from the painful realities of addiction. While Sia often makes an effort to not reveal many details of her personal life, she has recently opened up about her struggles with addiction, and her present filled with hope and sobriety.
Stress of success
She first became well known in music industry circles as a very innovative songwriter and producer, able to crank out unique, hit songs in a very short amount of time. She exploded onto the scene in her own right with the 2005 song "Breathe Me."
Although deeply passionate about music, Sia was resistant to fame and stardom, telling Steve Knopper of the New York Times, "I just wanted to have a private life." She did not respond well to the expectations placed on a typical touring musician, refusing to do "promo" like interviews with local radio stations, and rarely agrees to being photographed or interviewed. For several shows, she even performed in masks and black costumes, so she couldn't be seen on stage.
From the beginning of her career, Sia seemed comfortable with the behind the scenes creativity work of music creation, but had trouble projecting the extroverted persona of a performer. To become more of the passionate performer she felt like she had to be, she relied on alcohol to get her through performances.
As her success deepened, and more demands were placed on her to perform, she was became increasingly dependent on alcohol, and moving on to misusing prescription painkillers and antidepressants. Even as Sia began to become more and more successful as a performer, her intensifying addictions caused her moods and struggles with mental illness to get darker and more out of control.
The stresses of life on the road, irregular hours, and many connects to drugs and alcohol created a dangerous combination for what Sia calls her "addictive personality," whether it's alcohol, drugs, or even Nutella. She told Steve Knopper, "When you're in a different place every day, there's this kind of madness that sets in. It's easy to get away with getting high, because everybody's drinking on the road. None of my friends thought I was an alcoholic, and neither did I."
In May of 2010, she reportedly told a drug dealer she wanted "two of everything except meth and heroin." Things reached a bottom in September of that year, when she made plans for a suicide attempt, making plans to check into a hotel and taking every pill she had at once. Fortunately, a friend called, and was able to talk her out of it.
Recovery and Renewal
Being saved from a suicide attempt proved to be the motivation Sia needed to realize her need for recovery. She began a 12-step program, and put work in to change her life for the better.
Professionally, this meant taking a break from her solo career, and focusing on being a songwriter for others. She discovered how her painful past and struggles could help her identify with other people's feelings, able to listen to broken, famous people talk about their own insecurities and then create moving, catchy songs for them. Like many people in recovery, she has discovered underlying issues behind the addictions.
Throughout her life, it appears that Sia has felt pressure to fit into other people's definitions of what a rock star or great musical performer should be like, in ways that felt uncomfortable and inauthentic to her true voice. Thus, recovery is not just stopping her addictive habits, but actually undergoing the work of total healing, and gaining confidence in her own voice.
In June 2014, she released her next solo album 1000 Forms of Fear. This album is much more confessional, dealing with her personal struggles in an open way. In an interview with Billboard, she said, "I was too fearful, scared that I would be judged or somehow unlovable if people saw who I truly was.
After 14 years of songwriting, I feel less vulnerable about telling the truth about what's really mine." One example of this is hit single "Chandelier," which directly addresses her struggles with addiction, with heartbreaking honesty and poetic beauty. We wish Sia the best of success as she continues to discover the power of her own voice, performed her way, in her music, and in her life.