Sixx's battles with heroin addiction nearly killed him on more than one occasion and dogged him throughout his 20s. Since getting clean in 1988, the rocker-turned-activist says he became sharper than ever creatively and it became his "life purpose" to help other addicts get help.
But it also put into perspective the place rock and roll's posing and narcissism has in the real world.
"Bands think they're important," Sixx told Forbes. "Let me tell you right now, bands are the least important thing on Earth. What's important is making a difference."
While what musicians do may be important to them and their fans, Sixx says, the opioid crisis must be addressed hands on. People fighting it need to reach out beyond their immediate circles of influence.
"I know it doesn't make fans happy to say I don't really care about being in a band," he said. "That's really not my life purpose. This is my life purpose.
"Being in a band is fun. And, for me, it's just a way to express myself. But I also paint, I write poetry, short stories, books. I don't define myself by this thing of being a rock star, which is fake by the way. I define myself by what I'm gonna do after I die. No one's going to be listening to Mötley Crüe going, 'That guy made a difference.' They're gonna be maybe going, 'That guy raised tens of millions of dollars for people and help open up organizations to pop culture, to legislation, to getting it into schools, getting the stigma diminished or erased."
This year, Sixx recruited a group of famous friends, including Slash, Def Leppard's Joe Elliott and Slipknot's Corey Taylor and others to get the message out the old-fashioned way: in a song to benefit a charity.
"Maybe It's Time" arrived in late-August. Proceeds from the track will benefit the Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation.
The song is also featured in the new film Sno Babies, one of many projects Sixx has taken on to depict the reality of addiction among otherwise normal, healthy people.
Sixx tells Forbes that he hopes projects like Sno Babies and the musical adaptation of his 2007 memoir, The Heroin Diaries, will do for the opioid epidemic what Rent did for the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The most crucial step, he says, is to start talking about what addiction really is — a disease, not a character flaw.
"The stigmas are deadly with addiction," he said. "And to break down those stigmas, get in there with people with early recovery, help them to understand a better set of tool sets so that they can lead a healthy life. In the end all I'm trying to do is pass it on. I've survived my own demons, I've been able to be sober and give back. I've donated millions of dollars to charity to help with addiction and to pass it on."
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