Joel & His Drug Problems- Seventeen Mag Scans
"I had to go into therapy"
Good Charlotte's Joel Madden, 25, thought drugs made him feel better. But then he almost lost everything to them. [/I]As Told To holly eagleson[/I]
Being a musician, I feel pressure to do and say the right thing because I know a lot of you guys are watching me. But I'm human and I definitely make mistakes. I may not be the perfect role model, but what I am is honest. And the truth is I got out of control with drinking and drugs, and I had to change in order to save my family, my career- and myself.
How It Started
Back in high school, I never had the confidence to be comfortable with myself. Because I didn't really know who I was, I felt like no one in my life- not my friends, family, or teachers- understood me. I got so caught up in being loyal to my friends, thinking no one could be as loyal as I was, but I didn't exactly get that loyalty back. My first girlfriend cheated on me and broke my heart. Then my dad left my family when I was 15. Though I'd never use those things as excuses now, back then I was always blaming someone else for my anger- like my ex or my dad. The real problem was that I just didn't like myself, and I took those bad feelings out on other people: In high school I'd act really mean to nearly everyone I met.
My twin brother, Benji, and I formed Good Charlotte in high school, and after graduation, in 1997, we decided to play music full-time. We got a record deal in 2000, but we didn't become successful until our second album, in 2002. All of a sudden, my life was one big opportunity to do whatever I wanted. That sounds great, but because I could get unlimited alcohol and drugs (they're everywhere on the road), I got really out of control with partying. Not only was I confused about how to just be myself, but I didn't know how to deal with fame: Half the world loved us, and half totally hated us. So I'd get so wasted at after-parties- and my dark, angry side would come out. Every time I got drunk or high, I tried to fight someone. If someone looked at me wrong or talked s*** about the band, I'd hunt them down and find out what was up. I got in serious fights a million times, but I can only halfway remember them because I was so out of it then. The day after a night like that, I'd feel so guilty, like, Why did I make an idiot out of myself? Then I wouldn't do any drugs for like two weeks. But I still couldn't express my feelings to anyone. I'd always been close with the guys in the band- especially Benji- but I couldn't tell them how miserable I was because I didn't know myself why I felt so bad. So sooner or later, my emotions would always explode.
In August of 2003, we'd just finished a successful world tour, but I was feeling totally hopeless because I'd ruined my relationship with the only girl I'd ever thought was perfect for me. Though I loved her, I was so unhappy that I kept picking apart our relationship until it literally disassembled. At that point, I felt so alone- I had nothing left except for this cold feeling in my heart. So when the rest of the band left Japan to return to the U.S., I decided to just stay by myself in this hotel room. Each day, I'd read and think a lot. I also started thinking about God again for the first time in years. My mom is a devout Christian, but I used to be like, Forget about what God wants, I'll do what I want. Yet once I thought about what I really wanted, I realized it was to get close to God. And I knew that I had to stop the things I was doing because God wanted me to respect myself.
After three weeks of reading the Bible and praying, I finally felt ready to go back to L.A. and clean up my life. One of the first things I did was get sober and start going to therapy. It's a personal thing, but I'm not ashamed to talk about it. I needed therapy, not only to get to know myself better but also to learn how to fix the things inside me that don't work. I have problems getting close to people, and I want to figure out why, so I can have a relationship that lasts.
How I Deal Now
I still go out with my friends, but I'm completely alcohol- and drug-free now. It helps that Benji doesn't drink either (he got sober two years before I did), but the main reason I don't need to get wasted is that I'm comfortable with myself. Now that I finally like who I am, I'm not afraid of my feelings- and I'll express them before I blow up. I also don't get so scared about what other people think of me, so it's a lot easier to open up to people who aren't necessarily my type. Like I never expected to like Hilary Duff, but I think she's really cool.
Now I'm just focused on my goals and what I want to do with the future. I plan on recording more albums, running a successful clothing label and record company, and producing and writing for other people. I even hope to get married and all that stuff one day.