Metallica's James Hetfield Reveals Motivating Factor For Getting Sober

By McCarton Ackerman 01/09/17
In an interview the Metallica frontman talked about his rehab experience and his family's impact on his sobriety.
James Hetfield

Everyone has a motivating factor for getting sober. For Metallica frontman James Hetfield, it was the fear of losing his family.

The rock icon spoke about the turning point in his life 15 years ago in an interview with The Joe Rogan Experience. Metallica’s partying ways during the ‘80s were of legendary status, even earning them the nickname “Alcoholica.” The singer's alcohol abuse and departure from the band to enter rehab was chronicled in the 2004 documentary, Some Kind of Monster, but Hetfield admitted his decision to enter treatment was hardly spur of the moment.

“Fear was a big motivator in that for me. Losing my family, that was the thing that scared me so much, that was the bottom I hit, that my family is going to go away because of my behaviors that I brought home from the road,” said Hetfield. “My family kind of disintegrated when I was a kid. Father left, mother passed away, had to live with my brother, and then kind of just, where did my stuff go? It just kind of floated away, and I do not want that happening. No matter what’s going on, we’re going to talk this stuff out, and make it work.”

Hetfield's interview on The Joe Rogan Experience

Although his fellow bandmates had expressed concern about his substance abuse for years, the catalyst was when his wife, Francesca, kicked him out of the house. Although Hetfield looked back on his time in treatment as a difficult experience, he said it was essential to maintain his relationship with those he loves most.

“She said, ‘Hey, you’re not just going to the therapist now and talking about this, you’ve got to go somewhere and sort this shit out,’ so that’s what I did,” he said. “What worked for me was seven weeks someplace, like basically tearing you down to bones, ripping your life apart, anything you thought about yourself or what it was … Strip you down to just … Here’s how you were when you were born. You were okay, you were a good person, let’s get back to that again. Then they slowly rebuild you.”

There were other benefits to Hetfield getting sober. The singer said he is now a more focused musician and has lost interest in the glitz of fame. The song “Moth Into Flame,” featured on the band’s latest release Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, talks about how fame itself served as an addiction.

“There was drink and drug and all kinds of stuff just thrown at you all the time. It starts off as a fun little thing, and then it turns into an escape, and then all of a sudden you don’t remember why you’re out there doing stuff,” said Hetfield. “I went on tour just so I could go to the strip clubs, or we’re going to drink here, but the actual playing on stage, it kind of got forgotten about a little bit.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.