“It got progressively worse, and the blackouts got worse, and I didn’t know where I’d been, what I’d done,” he said. “I knew I had the problem for years. But it plays tricks with your head. Very cunning and baffling is alcohol.”
Starr said he lost full years to alcohol and drugs before attending addiction treatment in 1988. He’s been sober ever since—more than three decades. Right after leaving treatment in 1989, he put together his first All-Starr Band, a shifting supergroup led by Starr that continues to tour around the country.
Starr says the fact that he started a band after getting sober is not a coincidence. “There is an absolute connection,” he said. “[When] I got sober, I had all this time and more energy.”
However, it took some time for him to get comfortable playing shows and being on tour without using substances. Starr says that with the Beatles, there was a lot of pressure in the music industry to use alcohol and drugs; he carried that with him in early sobriety. This was especially hard after a show, because he had learned to see getting wasted as his reward.
Regarding the moments after his first sober shows, he said, “I used to have to sit on the [drum] seat and just hold [still]…I’m just holding on because all my sinews and veins and brains were like, ‘Let’s get f*cked up.’ But I didn’t. That’s how it works. If [sobriety] is something you want, you can get it.”
While drugs and alcohol are still an issue in the music industry, Starr thinks this is shifting. “The good news is, though, a lot of new artists are sober people,” he said. “The part of it where musicians felt it was their right to get crazy has changed. And we lost a lot of really good [musicians] because of that…I think now in the new music age, it’s getting a bit cleaner. I think their rebellion is to stay clean.”
For Starr’s part, recovery has spurred on other healthy routines. He meditates every morning, exercises, eats vegetarian, and limits his sugar intake. At almost 81 years old, he looks—and seems to feel—much younger. After over 30 years, sobriety has become second nature for him. “I got over the mad first, second year, and now, this is how I live,” Starr said. “It’s a normal way of living now, and I have a lot of fun.”
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build a great life in sobriety. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.