Sober Keith Urban Opens Up About His Abusive, Alcoholic Dad

By May Wilkerson 06/21/16

"My dad was an alcoholic, and I grew up in an alcoholic's house. No intimacy."

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Sober Keith Urban Opens Up About His Abusive, Alcoholic Dad

Father’s Day isn’t an easy holiday for everyone. Country music star Keith Urban, who himself has battled addiction, opened up in an interview this weekend about his complicated relationship with his late father, who was an abusive alcoholic. “My dad was an alcoholic, and I grew up in an alcoholic’s house,” Urban told Rolling Stone Country. “No intimacy.”

Robert Urban passed away in December 2015 after a long battle with cancer, and until now, his son has mostly spoken warmly about his father. “[My dad] is the catalyst for all of this,” the singer told the Tennessean at the opening of his exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame last year. “My dad is the catalyst for me living in America.”

But he now admits their relationship was often turbulent, largely due to his father’s drinking. “My recollection is that he was a physical disciplinarian,” Urban said. “Ten years ago, I would have said, ‘He never did anything I didn’t deserve.’ Now I realize it’s not about deserving it.” Aside from the physical abuse, Urban said his father was harshly critical and emotionally distant. “I don’t recall him ever telling me he loved me as a kid,” he said.

Keith Urban has had his own trials with substance abuse. The singer has described himself as a “functional” substance abuser in the ‘90s, who went through two unsuccessful stints in rehab. He said things ultimately spiraled shortly after his marriage to actress Nicole Kidman in 2006. "We had just gotten married and this entity in my life is coming just to crush and kill everything that I've got,” he said in a 2014 interview.

He credits his recovery to Kidman, who staged an intervention and helped him enter rehab in 2006. This time, it stuck. Urban has been sober ever since, and the couple have two children together. “I caused the implosion of my fresh marriage,” he tells Rolling Stone. “It survived, but it’s a miracle it did. I was spiritually awoken with her. I use the expression ‘I was born into her,’ and that’s how I feel. And for the first time in my life, I could shake off the shackles of addiction.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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