Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy Discusses Addiction in New Memoir

By Bryan Le 11/12/18

In his new memoir, “Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back),” the singer-songwriter details his struggles with alcoholism and Vicodin.

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco discusses his addiction battle in his new memoir.
Tweedy doesn't shy from his demons in his memoir. Christian Bertrand | Dreamstime.com

Jeff Tweedy, singer and guitarist in the band Wilco, has penned a new memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back). In it, he recounts his descent into addiction and eventual decision to get sober.

Tweedy’s troubles began young.

“I honestly do not remember a time in my life when I didn’t have headaches,” he wrote. “I think I was six when I learned they were called migraines and that it wasn’t something that happened to everybody.”

Tweedy suspects the migraines are hereditary as he remembers his mother and sister also suffering from them. The severity and frequency also suggested that they were linked to an undiagnosed mood disorder, which ran in his family as well.

“Every school year I’d end up missing many, many days because of migraines. In addition to the pain, I’d get sick to my stomach and end up vomiting so much I’d have to sleep by the toilet…” he recounted. “One year I missed 40 consecutive days of school because of my migraines and vomiting.”

On top of the migraines and mood disorders, alcoholism was yet another hereditary hurdle Tweedy was saddled with. His grandfather on his father’s side died in a bar before Tweedy ever got to know him. He was frequently left in the care of his grandfather on his mother’s side, who he says never did not reek of alcohol. But perhaps the greatest impact on young Tweedy was his father.

“My dad was a lifetime drinker. He’d come home from work every day and drink a 12-pack of beer. That was his standard beer consumption,” remembered Tweedy. “If it was a day off or a weekend when he wasn’t on call, he could down a case of beer. This wasn’t just over the course of a rough year or two, this is how he subsisted for the majority of his life.”

Eventually, his dad was able to quit drinking, but in doing so allowed his mood disorders to manifest again.

“He got sober at 81 years old, on the advice of his doctors, and he did it on his own, without rehab or any type of AA support group. He had to stop, so he stopped,” wrote Tweedy. “Then he started having panic attacks for the first time since he was young.”

Tweedy himself picked up the bottle despite promising his mother he would never drink. Breaking a vicious cycle of guilt, he was able to quit drinking at 23, but soon found himself chasing new addictions. He started with Diet Coke and cigarettes, but in seeking avenues to medicate his anxiety—and migraines—he was led to Vicodin. Soon he was seeking out the pills wherever he went, but eventually his migraines and anxiety outpaced the drugs.

Tweedy attempted to quit cold turkey, but became a wreck.

“Five weeks later—theoretically, I was clean by virtue of the fact that I wasn’t on drugs—I suffered a serious mental collapse,” Tweedy remembers. “My brain chemistry crashed, and my body was revolting against me.”

His wife took him to the hospital, where he begged nurses to put him in a psych ward. Today, Tweedy is sober, with his memoir set for release on November 13, 2018.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter