Eric Clapton: The Person I Became on Drugs Is 'Incomprehensible to Me'

By Britni de la Cretaz 12/08/17

"I thought that if I stopped drinking and I stopped using drugs… I would not be able to play anymore."

eric clapton
Eric Clapton

A new Showtime documentary about Eric Clapton, called Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars, debuted last month. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Clapton discussed the film. He also touched on his history of alcoholism and drug addiction—a struggle that lasted 20 years—which is something he’s never shied away from in the past.

In regards to one particularly unflattering scene in the film, in which a drunken Clapton rants about foreign people while on stage in England, Clapton told Rolling Stone that it was a difficult film to watch, but it’s also part of owning up to what alcohol and drugs did to him as a person. “I just have to face the guy that I became when I was fueled on drugs and alcohol,” he said. “It's incomprehensible to me, in a way, that I got so far out.”

It’s something he’s alluded to in previous interviews about the film. He told reporters at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year that “to watch [him]self going through that was not easy.” He also said, “Right up until the time I stopped drinking, everything I said was complete blather.”

In the Rolling Stone interview, he also talks about the challenges of getting help when you’re a celebrity and surrounded by people who are deferential to you. He said there was “was no one to challenge” him because he had “become quite intimidating.” However, it was his then-manager, Roger Forrester, who told him he needed help. It was Forrester who Clapton called when he was ready to go to treatment.

“He packed me up and sent me off to [the rehab facility] Hazelden. When I got to Hazelden, I had to sign this thing saying who is your significant other,” Clapton told Rolling Stone. “Anyone else would have put a family member—or my wife. I was married. But I put him. Because he was the only one who would stand up to me and call me out.”

In 2013, Clapton told the filmmakers of the documentary Beware of Mr. Baker that getting sober from heroin and alcohol not only saved his life, but his career.

"I thought that if I stopped drinking and I stopped using drugs… I would not be able to play anymore,” he said at the time. "[But] my experience now tells me in a long time of being in recovery, that I can be a good musician with or without that… I wouldn’t be here today—I’d probably be dead—if I hadn’t gotten straight.”

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.