Elton John’s Story with Addiction

Sir Elton John is one of the music industries most renowned and influential artists of all time, starting his music career in 1969 at the age of 22 years old. In the decades since then, he has sold more than 300 million record globally, won 5 Grammy Awards and has had over 50 hits in the Top 40 across both the UK and the USA.

During his early career, he found fame quickly and sold out shows across the world but became heavily reliant upon alcohol and addictive substances that led to a severe addiction that he claims could have ended his life.

He has now been sober for over 30 years, having found himself seeking help for his addiction at the lowest of times during his career and life.

Elton John Story - Piano Player

The Early Years of Fame

Elton John was always drawn to music. As a child, he became known for his skills as a pianist, gaining a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music at the age of 11.

He started to gravitate towards pop following a time of rhythm and blues during the 1960s. During this time, he met and became good friends with Bernie Taupin, Sir Elton’s songwriter then for many decades to come.

Both Elton and Bernie responded to an advert is a magazine that led them to their first successful record ‘Lady Samantha’ in 1968. Following on from this success, Elton John found real stardom in the United States of America, releasing some of the iconic songs of the time right through into the 80s.

Some of Elton John’s most iconic and well known songs include:

  • Tiny Dancer
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
  • Rocket Man
  • Bennie and the Jets
  • I’m Still Standing

As his career continued to improve, he teamed up with a number of lyricists, working on music for well known films of the 90’s, including The Lion King, Billy Elliot and the West End.

Behind the Scenes of Stardom

Sadly, behind the fame and fortune, Elton John’s life was complex and a complete whirlwind. Finding himself in a constant hype, he turned to alcohol and drugs to help him cope with the pressures.

Very quickly he became stuck in a vicious cycle of substance abuse, using to excess and even to the point of endangering his life, without finding help for many years.

During this time of addiction, Sir Elton found himself not only losing his grip on reality, but he lost many friends and loved ones along the way.

Sir Elton’s addiction caused him to also suffer with bulimia for 6 years, whilst in the grips of substances and alcohol combined. He rapidly became a person with no rationality; he was highly irresponsible and became unreasonable with many.

The Point of Change for Elton John

It was in 1985 that Sir Elton John heard of a young man named Ryan White, a teen who had contracted HIV via a contaminated blood transfusion. During this time, in the 1980’s, HIV and AIDS were rife with the country and the world in the grips of an epidemic.

In 1985, Elton John meet Ryan White and his family, visiting his family and becoming a close friend. In 1990, Ryan White sadly died with Sir Elton at his bedside. He was a pallbearer at his funeral and performed during the service.

This experience changed Sir Elton in a number of ways, including his desire to help others and his perception of AIDS, and led him to set up his foundation, the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992. Although he has never had AIDS himself, he has successfully raised over $400 million over the last 30+ years, provided treatment and challenged discrimination against people who were affected by the epidemic.

The Road to Recovery

It was decades before Elton John took the steps towards sobriety, having found himself stuck in a cycle of substance abuse that he didn’t know how to break when at his lowest ebb.

Following 20 years of substance and alcohol abuse, Sir Elton John quit drugs and alcohol for good in 1990. His recovery and desire to ask for help stemmed from his experience with Ryan White.

He received 6 weeks of treatment from the Lutheran General Hospital, Chicago, for his drugs, alcohol and food addictions. Whilst he was receiving treatment, he joined Alcoholics Anonymous, a group that he is still a member of today. During his time in recovery, he also penned a letter to cocaine, acknowledging for himself that he would never again touch the substance.

Elton John has stayed sober ever since this admission.

This change in his life has led to his outward approach towards addiction in the following years. He has spoken openly about his addiction and his recovery and how, without the help during that time, he would have been dead many years ago.

He has been known to help other celebrities with their addictions, including Eminem and George Michael.

Sir Elton’s Story Continues…

In recent years, Sirt Elton John has been very open and candid about his addiction and his recovery, speaking to many all over the world about the downward spiral it has on his life, and how he picked himself back up with the help and support of those around him.

He has remarked on a number of occasions that it is vital to remember that those in the grips of any addiction must be willing to ask for help before others can help them. It took his 16 years to seek help and say the words himself; it can be a challenge for those in need of help for a long period of time.

Sir Elton John released both his biography ‘Me’ and his biopic ‘Rocketman’ in 2019, detailing his life from childhood, his battle with addiction, his recovery and his decades sobriety since.


It is vital to understand that when in the grips of addiction, whatever that may be, it can be difficult to admit the need for help; however, you cannot seek help and find yourself in recovery alone.

Take back control of your own life and find the way to start your recovery journey today.

If you, or a loved one, is struggling with substance abuse, contact New Leaf Recovery today to find out how we can guide you through the recovery process and start your life of sobriety today.

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