“My higher power became vodka and cocaine. Nobody wanted to work with me…I turned into this godless, hateful thing,” Walsh said in his speech.
Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh and his wife Marjorie were honored this month for their work in advancing the cause of addiction recovery.
The rock ’n’ roll couple, whose recovery advocacy spans more than 20 years, were presented with the Adele C. Smithers Humanitarian Award by friend and former Beatle Ringo Starr at the 74th annual gala for Facing Addiction with NCADD on Oct. 8.
“I was one of those really nice pass out/black-out drunks,” Ringo Starr said before presenting the award, next to his wife Barbara Bach Starkey. “I came to one night, out of a black-out the next day, and I’d done a lot of damage. I was about to lose the love of my life, Barbara, and everything else.” That’s when Starr finally got help.
While receiving the award, Marjorie Bach Walsh, who is Barbara’s sister, addressed her own recovery. “My son who is here this evening, and who does incredible work for addiction, had suffered for a long time before this woman got sober. And for that, Christian, I am beyond sorry. My life is a living amends to you,” she said.
Joe Walsh has been sober for 25 years. As a kid growing up in the 1950s, he felt different, and thus isolated, from other children. “In my late teenage years I tried to play guitar in front of some people and I couldn’t do it. I hyperventilated. I started shaking. I started crying.”
But after a “couple of beers” he was able to play. “That planted the seed. I thought alcohol was a winner.” This gave him the courage to make music, and early on he attributed his success to alcohol.
“My higher power became vodka and cocaine.” But his substance use reached a tipping point. “I burned all the bridges. Nobody wanted to work with me. I was angry… I turned into this godless, hateful thing.”
He turned to Alcoholics Anonymous, where he met some old-timers. “Gradually they showed me that I’m not a unique individual, one-of-a-kind person. I’m just an alcoholic, and for the first time in my life I felt like I was somewhere where I belonged.”
“I don’t know why I’m alive. I should not be alive. I hadn’t planned on living this long, I don’t know what to do,” Walsh said to laughter.
“I decided to drop my anonymity because most of the world knew I was a mess anyway, and go public, and speak out and try and help other alcoholics because that’s what we do.”