Addiction Recovery Advice From Metallica's James Hetfield

James Hetfield’s Alcohol Addiction 

Rock n’ Roll in the 1980s was synonymous with drugs, alcohol and partying. One of the most successful bands of all time, Metallica, was not immune to this lifestyle. For Metallica’s lead vocalist and guitarist, James Hetfield, the rock n’ roll lifestyle led to alcohol addiction. 

In 2004, Hetfield checked into rehab. Hetfield said he’d gotten into bad habits on the road and was bringing them back home. His wife kicked him out of their house and he feared losing his family over his addiction. Having come from a broken home, he did not want his children to suffer the same fate and he vowed to get clean. After a 7 week program in which he says he was “broken down and rebuilt as a better person,” Hetfield continued to do the work in aftercare programs. 


After 15 years of sobriety, Hetfield checked himself into rehab again in October 2019 , cancelling an upcoming Metallica tour in Australia and New Zealand in order to prioritize his well being. His bandmates Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammet, and Robert Trujillo released a statement at the time saying, “as most of you probably know, our brother James has been struggling with addiction on and off for many years. He has now, unfortunately, had to re-enter a treatment program to work on his recovery again.”

As a result, Hetfield received an outpouring of support from others in the music industry over his decision to make his relapse and recovery public, and to choose health over money in cancelling the tour. Many musicians have credited Hetfield as the reason they became sober. 

Since completing a treatment program, Hetfield has been back in the public eye. His first public appearance was in January 2020, when the Los Angeles Automobile Museum unveiled a new exhibit featuring Hetfield’s vintage cars. The band had plans for a Summer 2020 tour which was cancelled due to Covid-19. 

Addiction Recovery Lessons We Learned from James Hetfield

Which Dog Will You Feed? 

When asked if he missed alcohol, Hetfield had some wise words to share. “If I want to [miss it], I will. I could feed the dog that says ‘this was so great, remember this?’ or I can feed the dog that says ‘dude, look how great your life is now. Look at the crap you used to be in.’ It depends on how you look at it. I know that I could go back and fuck things up pretty quickly and I don’t need to do that.” Being honest about where you’ve been and how far you’ve come is a positive tool in recovery and reminds us why we choose to be sober. This is often why gratitude journaling is such a supportive recovery practice. If we focus on what we lack, we will always be missing something. If we focus on what we have, we will always have enough. In short, try to focus on what your recovery has given you. 

On Taking Care of Yourself

According to Hetfield, it’s important to take care of yourself in sobriety. “Being in the public eye and the criticism, how it affects me depends on my mood. If I’m in a good mood I can take just about anything, any time. But if I’m feeling insecure or tired or hungry or even afraid, it’s a different story. It’s why we keep the tour legs shorter now, because you get run down and your ego takes over. You start thinking ‘I’m so great. I can do anything.’” The acronym HALT describes common triggers and stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. Each of these triggers can make people feel low and therefore more vulnerable to cravings. Hence why it’s so important to prioritize your well being each and every day. 

Dealing with Criticism or Harsh Words

It’s also important to keep things in perspective. As Hetfield says, “People are people, man. We’re no greater than each other, we’ve all got the same size soul and we’re trying to feel happy and we’re trying to feel loved. It’s as simple as that. And some people think that if they can put someone else down, their ego comforts them a little bit. And so when someone is critical, I attribute it to that. It’s got nothing to do with me. Being able to let it bounce off you can be difficult but that’s the tool I like to use.”

Finding a Hobby

Since completing treatment, Hetfield has been finding new ways to express himself. We all know hobbies are beneficial in sobriety and it seems Hetfield has found his: woodworking. During the shelter-in-place period from March to May 2020, he made a series of handmade end tables in his garage. They were raffled off for Metallica’s charity All Within My Hands

Getting Help 

It’s important to remember that addiction is a lifelong disease. It can affect anyone from any walk of life Even after 15 years in sobriety, James Hetfield relapsed and sought treatment again. A relapse is never a reason to give up on your sobriety, you can pick yourself up and start again, just as Hetfield chose to do. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, we can help. Call us today. We’re here to listen. 

5 thoughts on “Addiction Recovery Advice From Metallica’s James Hetfield”

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  3. James, almost every day I tell my patients about you. With my Metallica flag hanging on my wall and your picture behind where I sit in my counseling office I tell people that you are in recovery and live in Vail so I want to go to a meeting there. Just celebrated 18 years; alcohol and cocaine; but got just one day. You are my favorite lead singer, guitar player and cool dude in pictures. I wish you all the greatness you deserve….and that is a lot!!!!

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