Chester Bennington Opened Up About Struggles With Drugs, Alcohol + Abuse in Past Interviews
Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington tragically took his own life this week after struggling with a variety of demons throughout the years. Bennington was never one to shy away from his issues, speaking candidly in interviews about his struggles with drugs, drink and sexual abuse during his youth and even having suicidal thoughts in the past. Some of the darkness and the desire to overcome found its way into the band's music throughout the years, but he was very frank when it came to talking about what led him to those darker places.
Not long after Linkin Park's star skyrocketed, Bennington spoke with Rolling Stone about the lyrical content of his music. "It was like, 'There's a lot of songs about depression, fear and paranoia. Are you just making it up?'" recalled Bennington of a popular line of questioning early in the band's career. "I said, 'No," he continued.
Bennington grew up the youngest of four children, the son of a nurse and a police officer who split up when he was 11. It's been documented that Bennington was sexually abused in his youth, but not by one of his family members. "No one in my family molested me," explained the singer. "It was people who were around me. Coming from a broken home, it was easy to fall into thinking, 'This is OK.'" He later told NME, “If I think back to when I was really young, to when I was being molested, to when all these horrible things were going on around me, I shudder.”
As the singer entered his teens, he dabbled in drug use, a habit that started to get out of control. "I was a lot more confident when I was high," he goes on. "I felt like I had more control over my environment when I was on hallucinogens or drinking." He would add in 2016 interview with Kerrang, “I was on 11 hits of acid a day. I dropped so much acid I’m surprised I can still speak! I’d smoke a bunch of crack, do a bit of meth and just sit there and freak out. Then I’d smoke opium to come down. I weighed 110 pounds. My mom said I looked like I stepped out of Auschwitz. So I used pot to get off drugs. Every time I’d get a craving, I’d smoke my pot.”
Though he eventually stopped his drug use, the alcohol remained an issue. "I found myself not saying no to other things, things that would have made me another rock 'n' roll cliche," said the singer in 2002 to Rolling Stone. "It's easy to fall into that thing – 'poor, poor me,'" he stated. "That's where songs like 'Crawling' come from: I can't take myself. But that song is about taking responsibility for your actions. I don't say 'you' at any point. It's about how I'm the reason that I feel this way. There's something inside me that pulls me down."
Though he had attempts at sobriety, it wasn't until 2006 that he entered rehab to address the issues. This came on the heels of the dissolution of his first marriage and some particularly difficult times. “I felt like my life’s work had been given away. I drank myself to the point where I couldn’t leave the house and I couldn’t function,” he told Kerrang in 2009. “I wanted to kill myself. I could very easily not be the person who’s sitting here right now. I could be dead. It was a horrible, horrible existence.”
He added in a separate interview with Team Rock, "In 2006, I had a choice between stopping drinking or dying. I did some counseling with the guys and they really opened up and told me how they felt. I had no idea that I had been such a nightmare. I knew that I had a drinking problem, a drug problem and that parts of my personal life were crazy but I didn’t realize how much that was affecting the people around me until I got a good dose of ‘Here’s-what-you’re-really-like’. It was a shock. They said that I was two people – Chester and then that f--king guy. I didn’t want to be that guy.”
Opening up further about his demons, Bennington told Noisecreep in 2009 that he felt that the frank nature in which he discussed his issues was something that was beneficial. “I’m not one of those guys who thinks being anonymous is all that great,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with people knowing that I had a drinking problem. That’s who I am and I’m kind of lucky in a lot of ways cause I get to do something about it. I get to grow as a person through it. It’s kind of a cool thing. It’s not cool to be an alcoholic, meaning it’s not cool to go drink and be a dumbass. It’s cool to be a part of recovery. This is just who I am, this is what I write about, what I do, and most of my work has been a reflection of what I’ve been going through in one way or another.”
Bennington went on to be honored in 2013 with the Stevie Ray Vaughan award by the Musicians Assistance Program for his work toward sobriety and helping fellow musicians in need of substance abuse treatment.
However, even this year, he talked about his recent hardships, telling Rock Sound, "During 2015, 2016 … there was a bunch of other stuff in my personal life that just went f--king crazy. I spent a lot of those two years trying to hold my world together and everybody else was going through a lot of crazy shit too on a personal level… I feel like it was a legitimate breakdown of me as a human being and then going through all of the effort and hard work it takes to rebuild it and reaping the rewards. A huge part of that is being able to be open and honest and real with the people in my life, and that means my band members and being able to put it down in music and get it out.”
He ended that interview with this now harrowing sentiment, "So, it’s really great to be able to be doing what I do, especially for a person like me. If it wasn’t for music I'd be dead. One hundred percent."
So while Bennington had his struggles from early life well into his career, his dedication to get past his demons was definitely admirable. The path that he traveled to reach a positive place in his life was hard fought and the lives touched by sharing his story with others is impressive, which makes his death all the more tragic.
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