Billy Joel said depression caused by 9/11 send him spiraling into alcoholism in the mid-2000s, a period that ended with a drunk driving arrest and rehab.
The singer said that alcohol wasn’t really to blame for his spate of car accidents in the 2000s, as many have assumed. Instead it stemmed from much deeper problems that arose after the terrorist attacks on New York.
“I was kind of in a mental fog, and it had nothing to do with the booze,” he told The New York Times. “My mind wasn’t right. I wasn’t focused. I went into a deep, deep depression after 9/11.”
Billy Joel added that the depression was compounded by a break-up he had went through at the time.
“It took me a while to get me back on my feet again,” Joel said, adding, “I used booze as medication.”
Joel said he still has a drink once in a while, but said his dark days are behind him.
The musician doesn’t seem too eager to revisit that period, either. He said he regrets a 2008 interview with Oprah Winfrey that focused on his alcoholism.
“I was very uncomfortable,” Joel said of the appearance. “I was in shock. I didn’t realize behind me there were these screens of, like, auto accidents and things about drinking and divorce. I thought I was going to come talk about music. I did the show because [Joel’s ex-wife] Katie had a book coming out. She said, ‘Please, help me get on the show.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to do it, don’t make me do it, don’t make me do it.’ But I said, ‘O.K., I’ll do it, and it’s going to suck.’ Sure enough, it did. My daughter saw the show, and she cried, she thought it was so bad.”
He also wrote a memoir, but backed out of a reported $3 million deal to publish them when he learned they were being marketed as “Divorce, Depression and Drinking.”
Billy Joel said his depression and alcoholism didn’t exactly fit the mold of exciting rock star publishers were hoping for, saying, “They wanted more sex, drugs and rock-and-roll, and there’s not that much in my life.”