"I had a conversation with myself. I was in my sixth day of the hangover. That’s how big the hangover was," the musician recalls

By Sarah Michaud
November 12, 2018 11:15 PM
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John Mayer had his last drink on Oct. 23, 2016 — and “made quite a fool” of himself while doing so.

The musician tells Complex in their November cover story that the impetus for quitting alcohol came after he “went deep one night. I remember being like, ‘What happens if I keep going? I always stop here. What if I keep going?’ It was really kind of, oddly, a playful kind of thing … It was Drake‘s 30th birthday party, and I made quite a fool of myself. It took me weeks to stop doing this [makes pained face] every morning I woke up.”

Although Mayer “was pretty far gone” the night of the birthday bash, he later found out he “wasn’t as bad as I thought” — though the hangover certainly was, ultimately leading him to put down the booze.

“I had a conversation with myself. I remember where I was. I was in my sixth day of the hangover. That’s how big the hangover was,” he tells Fear of God designer Jerry Lorenzo and Complex‘s Joe La Puma in a roundtable discussion.

“I looked out the window and I went, ‘Okay, John, what percentage of your potential would you like to have? Because if you say you’d like 60, and you’d like to spend the other 40 having fun, that’s fine. But what percentage of what is available to you would you like to make happen? There’s no wrong answer. What is it?’ I went, ‘100.’ The voice in my head said, ‘Okay. Do you know what that means?’ I went, ‘We don’t have to talk anymore. I get it.’ “

John Mayer
Emman Montalvan for Complex

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Although abstaining from alcohol felt “like boredom at first” — and Mayer admits to missing the “high highs” that come with drinking to excess — he came to believe it was the best decision he could have made.

“If you look at drinking the way you would look at anything else — which is risk-reward, what am I giving up? What am I getting? — it’s some of the worst odds that ever existed,” he says. “You have to fight really hard to look at it from a critical point of view because it’s constantly pushed on you. Every Friday and Saturday, on social media, there is enabling going on for drinking.”

The change in lifestyle quickly had an impact on Mayer, now 41.

“That next year, I did four tours, I was in two bands, I was happy on airplanes,” explains the guitarist, who toured with Grateful Dead offshoot Dead & Company and released his seventh album, The Search for Everything, in 2017. “It’s the most personal thing to people. It just is so particular to your own spirit and your own psychology that it’s almost impossible to develop one way of explaining it to someone else.”

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Jerry Lorenzo and John Mayer
Emman Montalvan for Complex

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Mayer continues to try, however, by marking his milestones with a message.

“One year ago today, I decided to give drinking a break. A very personal thing for everyone. For me, a constant return on investment,” the “New Light” singer wrote on Twitter in 2017. “I post this because I want people to know that ‘that’s enough for now’ is on the menu, so to speak.”

He first revealed that he quit drinking in a New York Times profile earlier that year — though shared he wasn’t completely sober. “I’m actually very thoughtfully entering cannabis life,” he remarked.

The musician later elaborated on replacing alcohol with smoking weed, telling Rolling Stone, “I put it where drinking used to go, and the quality of life has gone up considerably…. Drinking is a f–ing con. How much is enough? Every time I drank, I was looking for some sort of regulated amount. It always feels wrong for me. I always feel like I went overboard. ‘I said two, now it’s three, now we’re at four?’”

Mayer added that he “never had a serious issue with it,” but felt like he needed to take a break: “There’s never an amount that felt like I was succeeding at life. It always felt wrong.”

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To acknowledge his second year sans alcohol, Mayer spoke directly to his Instagram followers late last month on his Sunday night show, Current Mood.

“Tuesday will mark the second year of my ‘not having a drink.’ I say ‘not having a drink’ because I am not sure if I want to use the word ‘sobriety.’ I think that the language around drinking is very tricky and people don’t like locking themselves in a certain language. So, I will say that come Tuesday it will have been two years since I had anything to drink,” he said.

“Those two years have been really, really great. Drinking and not drinking is a very personal thing for each person. It is wired into your particular psychology and your history. I can only tell you in the first person who I was, what I did, how it has made my life better. I don’t think you have to wait until everything is lost to stop. If you are doing a little bit more than you wanted to, it is always a good decision to do none of it.”

Mayer continued, “I just want to be an example of somebody who said, ‘That’s enough.’ I don’t know that there are enough examples of people who are saying, ‘I just had enough.’ The next time the ladder appears in front of you to climb out of the hamster wheel of drinking if you’re getting tired of it, take it. I climbed out. I had a great time. I haven’t turned into a bore. But I want to be an example of someone who went, ‘That’s enough.’ We’re out there.”

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