Alex Van Halen says he and his brother Eddie Van Halen were fortunate to have eventually found a way to enjoy life and play music while sober, after years of unrepentant alcohol abuse.
The son of an alcoholic father, the Van Halen brothers began drinking, smoking and playing rock music together in their early-teens.
By their 20s, Alex and Eddie were the backbone of one of the world's biggest bands. As their stature grew, so did their tolerance for booze. By their 30s, the brothers were two of the biggest rock stars in the world, but their drinking had started to take its toll. Alex tells Modern Drummer in an interview given prior to Eddie's death but published this month that their bad habits only dulled their immense gifts.
"We spent the first 30 years of our lives trying to cloud what reality was ... but by the time you're 30, you'd better change your ways or you ain't gonna make it any further. I believe we're very lucky to be able to do this — to make music and make a living at it and to share it with people. We're very lucky, so don't f--- it up."
Alex says his most significant wake-up call was his father's death in 1986.
"...[W]hen our dad passed away, after our long life of touring and making music [where] there was alcohol involved ... I looked at him, and unspoken, I said, 'I'll try to make it better.' So I quit. You do have an obligation and responsibility to [work] without artificial inspiration."
Alcohol, Alex says, was a distraction from the brothers' true purpose: making music.
"We all look for some kind of meaning in life," he added. "But Ed and I were lucky that we found it early. So I can't complain."
Alex gave up drinking cold turkey in 1987. While Eddie continued to struggle with relapses over the next couple of decades, he managed to quit alcohol for good in 2008.
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