The xx’s Oliver Sim Details Battle With Alcoholism And Newfound Sobriety

By Britni de la Cretaz 01/11/17

Sim revealed that the band’s upcoming shows will be the first he has ever played sober.

Oliver Sim
Photo via YouTube

The xx, an English band whose first two albums—2009’s xx and 2012’s Coexist—were critical and commercial successes, are getting ready to release album number three, titled I See You.

In an interview with Pitchfork ahead of the album’s Jan. 13 release, xx member Oliver Sim revealed that, in the time between albums, he struggled with alcoholism and is now sober.

Sim told Pitchfork that the band’s upcoming shows will be the first he has ever played sober. “I was going out a lot with the excuse that I was celebrating—‘celebrating’—the past few years,” he says. “And with alcohol, like a lot of things, it’s all or nothing for me. So right now it’s just nothing.” Sim says he hasn’t had a drink in over a year.

According to the singer and bass player, he realized that, along with drinking too much, he lacked some basic life skills like time management and self-care, he was intimidated by responsibility, and was “fighting the idea of becoming an adult.”

It wasn’t until bandmates Romy Madley Croft and Jamie xx confronted him that he finally took a look at his drinking. “Romy and Jamie confronting me independently was … the last straw,” he told Pitchfork.

However, “I was the last person to think that I wasn’t drinking … successfully,” Sim said. “Everyone had voiced their opinions. But the problem was that I was, I suppose, distancing myself, so I thought, how would they know?”

Sim says that another big factor for him in deciding to give up alcohol was the effect it was having on his music and creativity. “Never mind that I wasn’t leading a very healthy lifestyle,” he says. “The fact that I wasn’t being creative hit harder—and kidding myself that I felt more creative with a drink in me.”

As a sober person and sober musician, Sim says he’s “just trying to find [his] confidence a bit.” He tells Pitchfork that talking to strangers scares him and he feels a sense of social anxiety, which he used to mask with booze. But, he says, “The times when I actually do have, like, a successful conversation, I feel really good about it and it stays with me as opposed to … kind of not remembering.” 

Another thing Sim is trying to work out is what it looks like to celebrate and let loose as a sober individual. “One thing I can’t wrap my head around, to be honest, which makes me a bit sad, is: How do I celebrate and let go a bit? Which I’m still figuring out.” But, he says, “I’ve got lots of help.”

Ultimately, Sim says that sobriety, while a challenge, has been worth it: “While I’m struggling more now, I am actually happier.”

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.