BOOK EXCERPT: Elton John on the Friends He's Lost to AIDS
BY Elton John
August 06 2012 10:00 AM ET
Instead, I spent the ’80s sinking ever deeper into a drug addiction that began in 1974, when I was recording my album Caribou in Colorado. Even though I’d been a full-fledged rock star for years by then, I still hardly even knew what cocaine was. I was unbelievably naive. I remember walking to the back of the studio one day, seeing a line of white powder on the table, and asking my manager, “What on earth is that?” He told me it was cocaine. I figured I’d take a little sniff.
I knew some people who could casually do cocaine once a month. I was not one of those people. By the 1980s, I was completely hooked on coke, booze, and eventually food. Then I became bulimic, too. I was guilty of every single one of the seven deadly sins, except sloth. No matter how bad it got, I never lost my work ethic or my love of music.
But I had become numb to everything else. I had friends dying left and right of AIDS. I would go to the funerals. I would cry. I would mourn, sometimes for weeks on end. None of this changed my behavior. In fact, it just got worse. I was doing more drugs to block out the horror of it all. I was sleeping around without protection, drastically increasing the chances I would contract the very same disease that was killing the people closest to me. It’s no small miracle that I never contracted HIV myself.
I was extremely selfish and self-destructive. I could barely hold myself together, let alone be out there with the Elizabeth Taylors of the world as an AIDS advocate.
It took Ryan’s death to wake me up, to transform my life.