August 3 marks the 60th birthday of James Hetfield, the legendary frontman of Metallica. Throughout his remarkable career, Hetfield has faced ups and downs that affected both his personal life and music career with the band.
His long struggle with alcohol has been publicly known for years. In 2001, during the recordings of Metallica’s ‘St. Anger,’ the singer’s battle with alcoholism became apparent, leading him to seek help through rehab. After seven months of treatment and four months of recovery time spent with his family, James rejoined Metallica.
In the documentary ‘Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster,‘ released in 2004, viewers got a glimpse of the difficult period during ‘St. Anger’ recordings, where the band postponed their work until Hetfield’s return. Unfortunately, the battle with addiction was not entirely over.
In a June 2013 interview with Juice Magazine, the frontman shared his journey to sobriety and the turning point that made him realize he needed to make a change. He revealed:
“Well, it was really not my choice. Things happen for a reason. My lifestyle caught up with me. I was bringing the road life home to my wife and family. That’s what happened. She saw that and put a stop to it. I had hit a bottom. I got thrown out of the house. I had a reality check around the fact that I was going to lose this family too. My family was huge to me.”
Further recalling that period, James continued:
“Growing up in a family that had fallen apart as a teenager, having my own family fall apart was enough to kick my a**. There was a big godsmack at that point to wake up and see, ‘You’re losing another family that you’ve created.’ That fear was a big motivator for me to get my sh*t together.”
The vocalist added:
“At one point, I was kicked out of my house; I was living on my own, I was in rehab, my band was falling apart, and pretty much everything was crumbling around me. I had some friends that were helping me through stuff that were already in recovery, and I had no clue that they were there for that reason. They were there to help me through all this stuff.”
He also shared how his rehab process helped him, saying:
“Rehab taught me a lot of stuff that I had refused to see or had no clue was there. Once I got detoxed and was able to take a look at myself basically stripped down to the bone, and then rebuild. It was a huge life college for my head and heart. I learned a lot about people, myself, life in general, and I came out of there a new person. It took a long time to get back into the good graces of my family, but I was able to get back in there.”
Reflecting on his transformation after rehab, Hetfield explained:
“I had to shine my new light on how I was. I was like, ‘Are we going to survive this? Are you going to be able to understand the new me? Am I going to be able to survive in the road life and all that stuff?’ It took a lot of talking. At the end of the day, I think everyone benefited from the sobriety.”
He lastly added:
“Without forcing anything upon anyone else, it was like, ‘I have to live my life this way. Please respect it. It’s as simple as that. Now let’s go out and kick some a**.’ That’s what the philosophy is now. We have a lot more respect for each other, and we’re all a lot more help than we used to be. Every one of us goes through tough stuff all the time.
We’re as family as it gets with Metallica. We’re always going to have some problems. Obviously, my family of origin molded me into what I knew about family. Now I’m taking the good and the bad and passing it on to my family as best I can.”
Unfortunately, the battle with addiction was not entirely over. In 2019, Hetfield entered rehab once again after 15 years of sobriety, prompting the band to cancel the Australia/New Zealand leg of their WorldWired tour.