Ringo Starr And Joe Walsh Discuss Long-Term Recovery, Becoming Sober

By David Konow 03/20/19
The rock star brothers-in-law got candid about addiction, recovery, and Tom Petty in a recent Rolling Stone interview.
Ringo Starr and Joe Walsh
Photo via YouTube

Ringo Starr and Joe Walsh are not only rock legends, but they have also both been in recovery for many years. Now they are both speaking about their journeys to sobriety, and how they helped each other get there.

Eagles guitarist Walsh received a humanitarian award for his work in the recovery community at the 74th annual gala for Facing Addiction with NCADD last October. His friend and former Beatles drummer, Starr, presented him with the award.

When Walsh went to rehab in 1995, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever play guitar again. Eventually, Starr brought him back to music and became a sober buddy. (Starr is also Walsh’s brother-in-law.)

“I got sober because of a fellowship of men and women who were sober alcoholics,” Walsh told Rolling Stone. “After a couple years, I talked about [my sobriety] with other alcoholics and tried to help them. The only person who can get somebody else sober is somebody who’s been there and done that. I realized that I do more good showing people that there’s life after addiction.”

When Starr got sober, he put together Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, which included Walsh on guitar. Starr, too, was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to play once he got sober.

“I thought I don’t know how you do anything if you’re not drunk,” he said. “I couldn’t play sober, but I also couldn’t play as a drunk. So when I did end up in this rehab, it was like a light went on and said you’re a musician, you play good.”

Rolling Stone asked Walsh about the opioid crisis, given that a lot of musicians his age have been taking painkillers to deal with the rigors of performing.

“I don’t think America’s aware of how bad it is out there,” Walsh replied. “I’m talking about addiction across the board. Opiate addiction, it’s killing young kids by the hundreds—by the thousands.

“The problem is if you hurt physically, you can get prescription pills for that,” Walsh continued. "The problem is that after that pain is gone, whatever substance you used very subtly convinces you that you can’t do anything without it and then you have to deal with that. And people don’t know that.”

Starr then reflected on a fellow musician who succumbed to opioid abuse, Tom Petty, who died in 2017 at the age of 66.

“The discussion is very difficult, because we did as much as anybody did and we’re still here and we’re sober… I don’t know why Tom’s gone and I’m here. It’s unanswerable.”

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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.