Red Hot Chili Peppers' Chad Smith on Addiction: I Was Spiritually Bankrupt

By David Konow 10/31/17

Fellow Chili Pepper Anthony Kiedis is also grateful for his recovery, saying "It keeps me working towards change, it gives me the desire for change."

Red Hot Chili Peppers Chad Smith playing drums.
Chad Smith Photo via Wikimedia/Stefan Brending

For the Trap Set, a podcast dedicated to drummers, Red Hot Chili Peppers skinsman Chad Smith has opened up about his battles with drugs and alcohol, and how he finally got sober.

Before quitting, Smith lost his driver’s license for two years in the late eighties for drunk driving, and even went to jail for a 30-day sentence in 1986 for hitting someone with his car. “Twenty-six days,” he says, “because you get one day a week off for good behavior.”

Smith added that his first marriage fell apart because of his addictions as well. “I just wasn’t ready,” he says. “As long as I kept being an addict with drugs and alcohol—I liked cocaine, but I wasn’t a big cocaine user. Mainly it was alcohol, and then kind of all bets were off. I just made a lot of poor choices.”

Smith finally cleaned up his act in 2008, and when he left drinking and drugs behind, “It was, like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to be there for my kids, I’ve got to be there for my wife.’ It was hard, this is nine years ago, and you’re used to a certain lifestyle and nobody telling you no. ‘I’m not in the gutter, I’m in a successful rock band, I’m playing great!’ Whatever. You can tell yourself all this stuff. Spiritually I was pretty bankrupt, so I was, like, ‘Okay, let’s try this.’ I went to rehab.”

The Chili Peppers have endured a lot of addiction struggles. They lost their original guitar player, Hillel Slovak, to an overdose in 1988, and lead singer Anthony Kiedis and former guitarist John Frusciante have had multiple rehab stays before getting sober.

As Kiedis told Team Rock, “Being a drug addict in recovery is actually a great place to be because you’re forced to be looking at the rancid layers of the onion that you’ve been carrying around for a lifetime. Whatever degree of struggle it offers me, I’m actually grateful for. It keeps me working towards change, it gives me the desire for change...I know what my sobriety date is, so it’s easy for me to add up the days and months since then. Sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago and sometimes it seems like yesterday. Sure I could go back there but I’m not interested in doing it...” 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

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.