As part of the band Aerosmith, singer and songwriter Steven Tyler is a deeply esteemed and admired rock musician, calling the Demon of Screamin' for his loud, powerful voice and expansive vocal range. However, he was also given another nickname, along with his bandmate Joe Perry who were known as The Toxic Twins for taking extremely high levels of stimulants, cocaine, and heroin.
Drug addiction has been a lifelong struggle for Steven, but he is continuing to do the hard work of pursuing recovery.
Drug use in the rock n roll world
Even before Steven Tyler became one of the world's biggest rock stars, he grew up using drugs. His memoir states that "I'd been getting high since I was sixteen," regularly consuming speed, acid, and hash as a teenager.
His early love of music and drugs culminated together during the more stressful and busy times of performing in a band. When Aerosmith was at its biggest, performing three of four shows every night, he would consume large amounts of cocaine and alcohol, even being infamous and celebrated for it, thinking he needed it to get through.
After more then a decade of very heavy drug use, he first attempted to achieve sobriety in 1983, Gradually, after being temporarily kicked out of the band and the collapse of his marriages, he faced a point where he recognized the harm he was doing to himself. In an interview with Dr. Oz, Steven explained it, "I did it so much I couldn't stop, and then I had to ask myself and face myself to see why couldn't I stop."
It "cost me nothing less then everything," to make him realize he needed help, loosing money, his relationships with bandmates and children. He struggled with the recovery process, in his words, entering rehab "enough times to wind up being sober as I am right now."
But after a long struggle, he had a successful recovery in 1988, and stayed sober for 12 years. Speaking to a group of graduates at a Maui Drug Court, he commented on the seriousness of pursuing recovery, saying "If you stop going to [recovery group] meetings, you end up using again." It is a lifelong, day-by-day decision that requires a total commitment.
Relapse into pain medication
However, recently, he fell back into addiction painkillers, after recovering from foot surgery. He told Dr. Oz, "I wasn't following the program, and just kept the drugs by the side of my bed."
He reflected that I am a very good drug addict...because I've had so much practice." He has experienced some tensions with his doctors, whom he called "the new drug dealers," because they would prescribe mood altering medications, with Steven recognizing the danger that "I can't stop at half a pill...If I take something at all I'll want to take it again and again, and just ride it."
This time, he was able to recognize the patterns of addiction much sooner, he checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic in 2009, and is now enjoying three years of total sobriety.
What we can learn from Steven Tyler's story
Addiction is not something that we can be totally "healed" from in a flash. Rather, recovery and sobriety is a continuous struggle. Steven Tyler recognizes just how hard recovery can be, but also offers hope that it is possible.
He is careful know to always stay in touch with himself, unlearning a lifetime of being out of control and engaging in compulsive behavior, he is learning how to get his life back.