Alice Cooper on Sobriety And Mental Health

By David Konow 01/30/17

“I didn’t realize that I was an alcoholic until I realized that the alcohol was not for fun anymore. It was medicine."

Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper has been called the original shock rocker, one of the pioneers of heavy metal who opened the door for incredible theatrics in rock 'n' roll. His influence on Kiss and countless other bands is clear, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Thankfully, Cooper’s still alive and well to enjoy his victories, because at the height of his fame he came dangerously close to drinking himself to death.

Cooper, who has been sober for decades, recently spoke to CTV News about his struggles with sobriety and depression, and how he finally cleaned up his act back in the eighties.

When Cooper was coming up the rock ladder, his “big brothers” were Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. “And they were already doing every drug in the world and drinking every day and living this lifestyle that was very appealing, especially for a Christian kid. And so I fell right into it.”

As the sixties progressed into the seventies, Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin wound up on the deceased list, but Cooper kept drinking every day, not realizing it was a problem until he was in pretty deep. “I didn’t realize that I was an alcoholic until I realized that the alcohol was not for fun anymore. It was medicine.”

As Cooper told the Toronto Star in 2011, he'd finally had enough when he found himself puking blood in his hotel room, so he sought out a doctor. “He told me that if I stopped drinking, I could probably record 20 more albums, but if I didn’t, in two weeks I’d be playing with my friends Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix up in heaven.”

Cooper, who slips into a third person alter ego when he’s on stage, recalled his past self, looking back at pictures of himself performing live when he was drinking. “Alice was an outcast, a victim, a pathetic figure. When I stopped drinking, he stood straight and proud, he was an arrogant Alan Rickman kind of villain…”

Cooper also admitted that he briefly struggled with depression; even in the short period that he wrestled with it, it was “horrible," he said. "All of a sudden for three days, I could not find a bright side to anything ... Now when I hear people are clinically depressed I go, 'Oh my gosh. I can't see how anybody can live with that.'”

The rocker, who founded a program called Solid Rock to give back to troubled kids, encourages people to come forward and speak about their mental health issues if they’re suffering. “I really believe everybody has a certain amount of mental disability,” he says. “I think we are born with certain phobias, certain things we are afraid to talk about.”

Cooper is currently working on new music with his long-time producer and collaborator, Bob Ezrin, who also produced Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Ezrin has suffered from depression as well and tells people to seek help if they need it. “What we're trying to say here is don't wait for us. If you feel a certain way, talk about it. Express yourself.” 

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.