Creed's Scott Stapp on Mental Illness, Recovery, and Touring Sober

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Creed's Scott Stapp on Mental Illness, Recovery, and Touring Sober

By Brian Whitney 08/11/16

The 90's band Creed always gave off a good Christian vibe, but front man Scott Stapp had to face down his own demons of addiction and bipolar disorder.

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Scott Stapp's Sober Creed
Now clean and sober, Stapp abused drugs at the end of Creed's run.

If you were of a certain age in the late '90s, you remember Scott Stapp, who was the lead singer and frontman for the enormously successful band Creed. They were everywhere back then. They had three consecutive multi-platinum albums, one of which has been certified diamond. Creed sold over 28 million records in the United States, and over 53 million albums worldwide. Stapp even won a Grammy Award in 2001 for the tune “With Arms Wide Open.” There was no doubt that Creed was one of the most popular rock bands in the world.

And they were nice guys, too. Creed was always a band your parents would not mind you listening to. There was always an underlying Christian vibe coming out from behind Creed’s songs, and while other bands of the era were doing their best to embrace a drug-fueled, rockstar culture, Creed always kept things on a positive vibe—at least outwardly. 

The band eventually broke up and faded away, as most bands do, and people pretty much assumed that Scott Stapp was spending his time in a mansion with his family, living the good life. 

But there were signs that he was not doing quite as well as his fans had hoped. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he admitted that at the end of Creed’s run, he had been abusing alcohol, Xanax and Percocet. Later, Stapp made headlines for a suicide attempt when he jumped off a balcony during a drug-fueled binge at a Miami hotel.

For a few years, people heard nothing from Stapp until a disturbing video came to light, in which Stapp appeared a bit out of his head. “Right now, I’m living in a Holiday Inn by the grace of God, because there’s been a couple of weeks that I’ve had to sleep in my truck,” he said in the video. “I had no money—not even for gas, or food—and I went two days without eating because I had no money, and ended up in an emergency room.” It later came to light that Stapp thought that people were trying to kill him, and that he was being tracked by trained killers. He eventually was placed in a 72-hour psych hold after deputies found him wandering the side of a road and rambling that someone was trying to kill him.

This is where the story could have ended, but Stapp embraced his diagnosis of bipolar disorder and took on his addiction issues head-on. In an interview with People Magazine, Stapp said, “Alcohol and marijuana gave me temporary relief. The marijuana took me out of depression at times and alcohol took me out of my mania. After a long period of time of using those things to get balanced, that’s when addiction manifested. It took a number of years before it went from a self-medicating tool to full-blown alcoholism.”

Stapp is now taking medications for his bipolar disorder, and is clean and sober. He is currently on a solo tour in support of his album Proof of Life.

Scott recently talked to The Fix about what life and sobriety look like for him now.

I read in one of your interviews that you said you "began to feel different" in 1998. What was going on for you then? 

That's when I felt my first onset of major depression. I began using drugs and alcohol to change the way I felt. Initially, I was using alcohol socially. But once depression set in, I was using regularly and it became a problem.

Did you feel like your substance use was a problem when Creed was at its apex, or was your use just something you associated with being a huge star at that point?

It was definitely a problem. I was a binger in the beginning, and as Creed continued to succeed, it became unmanageable and progressed to daily use. There was an underlying issue with my addiction and it continued to progress as my career and the work was getting bigger.

You were self-medicating with drugs and alcohol before your psychotic break. Can you talk a little bit about what you were doing during that break? What was your bottom? 

It was a very scary and low point in my life. I was having delusions, hallucinations and massive paranoia. I was lost! My bottom was losing my family, sitting in a psych ward thinking I was undergoing experiments at the hands of the CIA. It was the most horrific living nightmare of my life. 

How did you start to turn it all around?

As I had fleeting moments of clarity, in despair, I reached out to my wife for help. She told me the only chance I had to get my family back was to get help in a dual diagnostic facility. That's where my journey to healing began. It was a different experience than a standard rehab because they focused on treating my psychosis and underlying issues. 

I have someone who is very close to me that has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, how difficult—or easy—was it to accept that this was what was going on with you? 

It was very difficult to accept, there was a grieving process. It wasn't until I had some sober time and had some clarity to reflect back on my life and see how my untreated bipolar disorder had manifested itself, that I began to accept it. I had many chronic relapses and displayed a lot of manic behavior, followed by dark depressions. 

You are currently on a solo tour called Proof of Life. How has that been for you? 

Initially, I was very nervous. I didn't know what to expect nor how I would be received. I feel like I've gotten a new lease on life. I never realized how much my music and performing is also a part of my healing. I've been flooded with a lot of love and support. It's awesome to hear some of my fans share similar stories to remind me that I am not alone in this fight. It is surreal to be back on the stage. It’s a miracle.

How is life, and recovery, going for you today?  

Definitely one day at a time. I'm in a program, my family and I live a life built around my recovery. My tours are sober tours and I have a very supportive band and crew. I'm learning to live a new healthy lifestyle treating my mind, body and spirit. I'm learning to live in the present and that addiction and bipolar disorder are not a death sentence. It can be treated. I keep my past in my rearview mirror to remind me of the places I never want to go. I've got a lot to be grateful for.

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Brian Whitney has been a prisoner advocate, a landscaper, and a homeless outreach worker. He has written or coauthored numerous books in addition to writing for AlterNetTheFixPacific Standard MagazinePaste Magazine, and many other publications. He has appeared or been featured in Inside Edition, Fox News, People.com, Cracked.com, True Murder, Savage Love and True Crime Garage. He is appearing at CrimeCon in 2019. You can find Brian on Facebook or at Brianwhitneyauthor.com.

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