David Crosby Reflects on Sobriety

By David Konow 09/30/16

“There’s only four answers if you get really, really strung out—you die, or you go into a mental institution, or you go to prison, or you quit."

David Crosby Reflects on Sobriety

Released in May 1969, the self-titled debut album from Crosby, Stills & Nash was an instant hit, and the band would put out a number of legendary albums that eventually earned them a well-deserved place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet Crosby, Stills & Nash, like many rock groups, was a volatile combination of personalities and egos. Eventually greed and harder drugs took over, with David Crosby taking an especially bad fall from cocaine abuse.

By the eighties, Crosby became more well known for being a drug user and an outlaw than for his music. He said it took a prison sentence in 1986 to finally set him straight. (Crosby was busted for a number of crimes including a DUI, drug possession and weapons charges.)

Currently touring for his latest solo album, Lighthouse, Crosby reflected on his near-fatal relationship with drugs that lasted for decades, and how jail finally saved his life.

He told the Observer, “There’s only four answers if you get really, really strung out—you die, or you go into a mental institution, or you go to prison, or you quit. If it takes going to the joint to quit, well, I don’t regret it. Y’know, being a junkie is a prison you carry around with you.”

Crosby told Rolling Stone, “Prison is a very effective tool for getting your attention. When I went in, I was a junkie and a freebaser—as far down the drug totem pole as you can go. And I was psychotic. But what happens is, it’s no longer a matter of choice: You’re there and you can’t get any drugs. Eventually, you wake up from that nightmare you put yourself in and remember who you are.”

“You have to understand that I wanted to quit,” he confessed to the San Diego Union-Tribune in a 1989 interview. “But I was so severely addicted that I probably tried to 10 times, and failed. If you try enough times and fail, you don’t believe you can. And I had pretty much given up. I thought I was going to die on drugs.”

Today, Crosby credits his family and music for his survival. He has never shied away from confronting his past.

As he told the Observer, “I used to go to [12-step meetings] for a long time, man, and they really stress that thing of try’na be as straight with people as you possibly can. It’s the simplest, honest, best way to deal with it.”

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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.