Linkin Park's Chester Bennington: Band's Intervention Saved my Life

By Paul Gaita 12/12/16

"I had a choice between stopping drinking and dying. I had no idea I'd been such a nightmare."

Linkin Park's Chester Bennington: Band's Intervention Saved my Life

At the height of their fame, the members of Linkin Park found themselves at a crossroads. With two Top 5 records under their belts, including 2004's "Meteora," and a pair of Grammys, among numerous other accolades, the Agoura Hills, California rock band had vaulted to the top of the mainstream music scene, but at the same time, teetered on the edge of implosion. Their co-frontman, Chester Bennington, was in the grip of a powerful and long-term addiction to drugs and alcohol that by 2006, was threatening to undo the tight-knit unit and all of their accomplishments. And as Bennington noted in a new interview with Metal Hammer, it took a hard line intervention by the band to help him see the extent of the damage he was doing to himself and those around him.

Bennington had been using an array of drugs and alcohol since his teenaged years, spurred in part by sexual abuse suffered at the hands of an older friend and his parents' divorce.

"I was on 11 hits of acid a day," he recalled. "I dropped so much acid, I'm surprised I can still speak! I'd smoke a bunch of crack, do a bit of meth and just sit there and freak out. Then I'd smoke opium to come down. I weighed 110 pounds. My mom said I looked like I'd stepped out of Auschwitz."

Bennington's drug and alcohol use continued unabated as Linkin Park shot to worldwide fame on the strength of their multi-platinum debut album, 2003's Hybrid Theory. But his substance abuse problems began to take their toll.

"I lived on alcohol," he recalled. "It got to a point where my wife said to me about seven months after we got together, she goes, 'I don't think there's been a day since I've known you that you haven't drank.' And I was like, 'What are you talking about? That's crazy!' As I'm drinking a Jack and Coke. That's where my life went."

Finally, tensions within the band over Bennington's behavior reached a flashpoint in 2006. "I had a choice between stopping drinking and dying," he said.

"I did some counseling with the guys, and they really opened up and told me how they felt. I had no idea I'd been such a nightmare. I knew that I had a drinking and drug problem, and that parts of my personal life were crazy, but I didn't realize how much of that was affecting the people around me until I got a good dose of 'here's-what-you're-really like.'"

Bennington said that the band was keenly aware of a schism between his sober and addicted behavior. "They said that I was two people – Chester, and then that fucking guy. I didn't want to be that guy." Bennington said that sobriety has since become one of the band's hallmarks.

"We're not a clichéd rock band where everyone is messed up on drugs. We're decent people, so that makes me proud, too." Bennington and Linkin Park are currently finishing a new album, slated for release in 2017.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.