Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, and Deryck Whibley: Rock Bottom for Some of Music’s Best Becomes the Redemption Story Everyone Needs

Originally appeared on BREATHEcast in 2014.

Rock stars have a name to live up to, and often times that “name” includes heavy partying, drugs, alcohol, and lots of promiscuous activity. Unfortunately as years go by it appears every couple of months one of these “music idols” falls down hard or even succumbs to their vices.

Thinking quickly most people can pull a few names off the top of their head — Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, and the list goes on and on. Now, while all of those musicians may not have directly died because of a substance they were taking, drugs or alcohol played a huge role in their demise.

Today’s culture plays up the party and drinking lifestyle. It is in our TV shows, in our movies, and even praised in our songs. Being drunk, getting high, and partying in general is a right and a badge of honor. However, sometimes the world is hit with a shock to the system. That shock is not in the form of a death, but in the form of someone who came back from the brink of it.

Deryck Whibley of the immensely popular punk band Sum 41, fits this exact criteria. Whibley has always been known for his carefree attitude, crazy persona, and energetic stage performances. Sum 41 fans fed on his energy, and loved his craziness as he at times would drunkenly make his way through songs. It was him, it was the character he created for himself, and that character finally made his final act.

This week, disturbing pictures along with a shocking admission came from the lead singer. He had been hospitalized for nearly month because of the abuse his body suffered from alcoholism. All the years of partying — sex, drugs, and rock and roll — caught up with him, and nearly killed him. In fact, it could still kill him. “If I have one drink, the docs say I will die,” Whibley said on his blog.

To take in the severity of his words, understand how many times an addict will fail, mess up, or sneak just once, and how detrimental that could be to their healing process. Now take his words and realize that if he messes up just once, he “will die,” not could die, “will die.”

Now take his words and realize that if he messes up just once, he “will die,” not could die, “will die.”

This is an extreme case, but also a golden opportunity for the singer to come back from beyond the brink and turn his life around. It is a redemption story for one of music’s hardest partying rockers, and a chance to inspire and reach people in a way his lyrics never could. “If Deryck could do it, so can you!”

“I was so freaked out. My liver and kidney’s collapsed on me. Needless to say it scared me straight. I finally realized I can’t drink anymore. If I have one drink the doc’s say I will die. I’m not preaching or anything but just always drink responsibly. I didn’t, and look where that got me,” he wrote on his blog.

His ordeal will undoubtedly make its way into Sum 41’s music, and may inspire some of the band’s best work yet. At 34-years-old, Whibley has a lot of living left in the tank, and he could buck the trend music fans see so many times of their favorite musician spiraling out of control until they are dead, locked up, or just a shell of what they were. Whibley seems to recognize what he needs to do and is looking ahead to healing himself.

“I have my passion and inspiration back for writing music. I already have a few song ideas for new songs. Soon it will be time to start making an album and getting back to touring again. See you all sometime!” he wrote.

BreatheCast spoke to punk guitarist of Radioactive Material, Kenny Klugz, who grew up listening to Sum 41, and has been undoubtedly influenced by the singer/guitarist.

“I think it’s a wake up call in the sense that we get so focused on drug abuse, that we forget that alcoholism can get just as bad,” he said. “The recent pictures of him can serve as an example to others struggling with abuse because he looks so damaged as if it were beyond just booze.”

Kenny brings up another good point. Many musicians, or people in general for that matter, feel that alcohol is the okay choice over drugs because it is not as powerful. While this might be the case, enough of anything can become dangerously bad. Also, the responsibility behind that drink is also an issue. One drink in itself is not so bad, but get behind a vehicle, and the story changes.

The lesson to take away from this story, is that Whibley despite severe damage, could get better as long as he stays true to his sobriety. He does not have a choice, so in his words, “scared straight” is the only option. Many other people do not have that fear of death with another drink, and feel invincible.

“As much as I would like to say it would be a wake up call for others, I don’t think it would be,” said Chris Brown on Facebook, who feels the story could fall on deaf ears. “Musicians love that wild party lifestyle, and unfortunately I don’t ever see the music industry as a whole being a sober industry.”

The final question left to ask is, “Is it all worth it?” Is the fame, fortune, and never ending party all there is?

Manny Mavrakis, drummer for Gospel/Rock/Soul band (I Am) Isis, saw a positive from this and likened to another star who came back from the brink, wrestler Scott Hall. “It would be nice if people would send him their love and support. Seeing people who struggled so long like Scott Hall coming thru so much, with hard work on top of all the support from ppl who loved him years ago and continue to send love his way,” he wrote in to BreatheCast.

What do you think of the stunning photos of Whibley? Do you think he has a chance to go on and be a great success story for artists, or do you think his story will be put on the back burner and forgotten? Sound off in the comments.

See more pictures of Deryck here.

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