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How Elton John Tackled His Long Battle with Addiction

Sir Elton John is a singer, songwriter, composer, and pianist who has won five Grammys and made a huge impact on the world of music. He also had a long struggle with addiction. By learning about how John’s addiction started and how he rose above his addiction, this world-famous singer can serve as an inspiration to all.


John was born to a mother and father that did not show love for each other. His father, Stanley Dwight, was an officer in the Royal Air Force Naval Reserve and was not present much in his life. In 1949, his father received a two-year post in Iraq where he was gone for a long time. John’s father was also very strict where John felt too scared to even make a sound around his father. He felt like his lack of self-esteem was as a result of his father not showing him enough love in that he gave him so much criticism on the way he looked like his weight or how he had to wear glasses. 

The distance between his mother and father made his parents fight a lot when his father came back and they both eventually divorced and got remarried to others. This left an emotional scar on John, especially when he saw his father develop an emotional bond with his four sons that he wished his father could have had with him. 

The Start of Addiction

Throughout the 1970s, Elton John and his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, were writing 13 top-selling albums. While John was performing confidently onstage in his sequined outfits and catchy hits, John was introduced to the world of drugs offstage. In 1974, John was introduced to cocaine when he walked into one of the backrooms of the studio recording “Caribou.” Because he always felt like an outsider for feeling he was not attractive, he thought that doing drugs would help him fit in. His cocaine use led to a drinking habit. He attempted suicide when he swallowed 60 Valium pills and jumped into his swimming pool in front of his mother and grandmother saying he was going to die. 

The stress was getting to John as him coming out as bisexual in 1976 caused his album sales to slip. He picked up more unhealthy habits like developing bulimia. John would use the drugs as a way to escape the stress and negative feelings he was experiencing, only to discover that drugs were just making him feel more insecure and doubtful. 

The Start of Recovery

When Elton John saw his boyfriend, Hugh Williams, also struggle with addiction and check himself into a rehab, John decided to try to turn his own life around. He saw the same struggles his boyfriend was going through in himself. He felt like yelling at Williams to sort out his own problems without realizing he needed to do the same for himself. When Williams returned from the Arizona clinic for the second time, he and John decided to see a counselor for their relationship and were told to make a list of complaints they had for each other. In Williams’s list for John, he wrote that he hates that John does drugs, drinking, and sexual activities. 

When John went for treatment, he would get turned away. At the time, there were no clinics in Los Angeles that would treat him for both drugs and bulimia. He could not believe that he was seeking help only to be turned away from it. Eventually, on July 29, 1990, John was able to find find a hospital in Chicago that would treat him. There were two attempts where he tried to run away, only for his thoughts to stop him about where he would run away to and if he would continue doing more drugs wherever he would hide. John realized that this was his last chance to get better. 

A New Life for Elton John

When Elton John completed his treatment, he knew it was time to start a new life. He told NPR that coming back from rehab was like learning to walk again. He was happy to be living a life without drugs and was thankful to not be like others who found their new sober lifestyle as difficult. Good things came his way such as in 1993 when he met his partner David Furnish and wrote music for “The Lion King.” After getting married to him on December 21, 2014, they raised two sons through surrogacy. 

With 30 completed studio albums throughout his career, John decided to retire from music to raise his kids, with a three-year farewell tour to end in 2021. He had a movie come out this year about his life called “Rocketman” and created the Elton John AIDs Foundation which has raised over $400 million to support HIV-related programs in 55 countries. What we can learn from Elton John’s long journey is that the trauma you experience from childhood can still shape the person that you become today. He used drugs as a means to escape from his negative thoughts only to feel worse later. It may have been a long journey to get himself treatment, but he eventually was able to live a sober life and find love that he was always seeking. By being open about your addiction and realizing that the sober life is worth living, you will have a successful recovery.


Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center using evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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