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Ronnie Wood Details Excesses, Sobriety In New Documentary

By Paul Gaita 10/18/19

Somebody Up There Likes Me explores the highs and lows of the prolific guitarist's life.

Ronnie Wood
ID 132211992 © Michael Bush |

Veteran English rocker Ronnie Wood said that he was once so entrenched in his drug addiction that he would carry a personal burner to parties in order to freebase cocaine.

The story and other harrowing incidents are detailed in a new documentary, Somebody Up There Likes Me, which explores the heights of the guitarist's fame as a member of the Rolling Stones and Faces, as well as the lows experienced along the way, including dependency to drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and a bout with cancer.

Nine Years Of Sobriety

Wood told The Mirror that after getting sober nine years ago, he works daily to maintain his music career and new life as a husband and father to three-year-old twin daughters. "I probably like things too much, which is harmless for some things, like music, but harmful in ways like dope or drink."

Wood said that he "enjoyed the s—t out of" freebase cocaine and took his burner with him everywhere, including parties. "I would go, 'Everybody try this,' get a great big Bunsen burner out, the pipes, the works, freebase and everything. And people would be going, 'You're f—king crazy.' But I would love it."

But the potency of the high and the novelty of the portable works fell away, and Wood was left with a crippling dependency on cocaine. "I had no control over it," he recalled. "It's incredibly powerful. It ruled everything. Getting high with that pipe was frightening. [You] do anything for it, and I can understand why people went out and killed for it."

Eventually, Wood realized that he could die as a result of his addiction—a fate that had befallen some of his friends. "I have seen enough people go over the top," he said. "Some of them didn't make it. It was a really horrible thing, and you would learn a lesson from that."

Intervention Time

The intervention of friends and peers, like his band mates in the Rolling Stones, as well as artist Damien Hurst, helped to steer Wood into treatment. Hirst recalled receiving an urgent call from professional snooker champion Ronnie O'Sullivan—both of whom had recently binged on cocaine and alcohol—to take Wood to rehab.

"I picked him up with his son, [English musician] Jesse [Wood], and of course, he's drinking," said Hirst. "We went out and we went to a local pub on the way." Wood reportedly underwent treatment seven times before gaining sobriety nine years ago.

Wood's circle of friends and collaborators stated their relief at his life change in the documentary. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards—no stranger to dependency and recovery himself—said, "[Wood] has a great immune system. In fact, he is very like me, with a great pain threshold." Drummer Charlie Watts—ever the sole of brevity—added, "If I was of some help, I am glad."

As for Wood, the work of remaining clean and sober is a daily requirement. "It's very difficult, because you go through a period of dry, and you go, 'I've done it. I've cleaned up now. I can have just one.' And that is a big mistake, because you can't have just one."

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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. 

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