Moby Recalls Abusing Pills and Drinking 20 Beers a Night at the Height of His Fame: 'I Was Miserable'

"I was anxious, angry and panicking because I couldn't figure out how to be happy," says the musician, who delves into his past struggles with addiction and depression in this week's issue of PEOPLE

In the late '90s, Moby seemingly had it all — fame, money and even a friendship with his hero David Bowie — thanks to the success of his fifth studio album Play, which eventually went on to become the biggest electronica album of all time, selling more than 12 million copies.

But behind the scenes, the musician, 55, was struggling with depression and out-of-control alcohol, cocaine and prescription pill abuse, which he delves into in a new documentary, Moby Doc (in theaters and on digital platforms May 28).

In tandem with his new documentary, Moby is releasing his 19th studio album Reprise, in which he revisits his hits with the Budapest Art Orchestra.

After decades in the industry, the star tells PEOPLE in this week's issue (on newsstands Friday) that he feels more inspired than ever. His new album — which features collaborations with Mindy Jones, Skylar Grey, Gregory Porter and more — is "completely different" than anything he's released before, he adds.

"Almost every record I've made has just been me by myself in my studio working with a bunch of random pieces of equipment," he explains. "There's something about actual cellists and French horn players and gospel choirs ... it's almost inherently human and emotional."

Moby. Travis Schneide

Getting the opportunity to confront his younger self during the recording process was a "fascinating" experience for the musician.

"It's paradoxical, in a way, to be who I am right now, which is kind of boring, happy and middle-aged, and look back 20 years ago to when I was selfish, narcissistic and addicted to alcohol and drugs," says. "I look at that person, and I don't recognize him."

Moby first got a taste of fame in 1991 after he released a remix of his song "Go" using the strings from the Twin Peaks theme song.

"One minute I'm walking around the Lower East Side of New York City on a Sunday morning picking up cans and bottles to return to the Food Emporium for money for groceries," he says, "and the next I have a Top 10 single in between Michael Jackson and Phil Collins."

That success was something Moby (born Richard Melville Hall) longed for ever since he was a young boy. He was raised in affluent Darien, Connecticut, by his mother, Elizabeth, a legal secretary, after his alcoholic father died driving drunk when Moby was just 2. He often felt like an outcast.

"I was the only kid in school who would buy clothes at Goodwill and food with food stamps," says Moby. "Until I was 18, I'd never met another poor person. I thought I was the only poor person, not just in my town, but in the world. It created this sense of shame."

At 10 Moby had his first sip of alcohol when his friend's mom passed him a glass of champagne at a New Year's Eve party. Then, he says, he began stealing alcohol from liquor cabinets and experimenting with drugs to impress his friends.

After an LSD-induced panic attack forced him to drop out of the University of Connecticut at 19, Moby moved into an abandoned factory and started deejaying in clubs around N.Y.C., making a name for himself in the techno and house music scene.

"If you told me as a teen that I would be signed to a big record label, be making money and be famous, I would have thought, 'Wow, I will be the happiest person ever,'" he says. "I was wrong."

moby in 1995
Moby in 1995. Catherine McGann/Getty

His 1999 album Play launched eight hit singles, including "Honey" and "Porcelain," and brought his career to new heights. But as his success rose, he fell deeper into depression and struggled with anxiety and panic attacks.

"I was anxious, angry and panicking because I couldn't figure out how to be happy," he says. "That's why I drank more and did more drugs ... And I started thinking about killing myself."

On his lowest nights he drank 20 beers and blew a couple of hundred dollars on cocaine. While under the influence, he says he'd turn into a different person.

"There's one Simpsons episode which I think sums it up," he says. "Homer and Marge have a cocktail party, and the next day Homer is remembering what he was like and he imagines himself wearing a tuxedo, holding a martini at the Algonquin Round Table. Then the camera spins and you see him as he is, and he is this fat, sweaty, disgusting, obnoxious alcoholic."

"When I was an alcoholic, I thought I was charming, I thought I was funny, I thought I was insightful," he continues. "Nope, I was just a drunken idiot like Homer Simpson."

After a night of binging, he'd pop Xanax and Vicodin to get him through the terrible hangovers the next morning. "I was miserable," he says.

While in Barcelona for the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2002, Moby felt pushed to the brink.

"I was like, I've had a career. I'm unhappy. I'm a lonely alcoholic," he says of the moment he considered jumping out of his hotel room window. What stopped him was that the windows didn't open wide enough.

"I was even annoyed at that," he says in his new doc. "Like, 'Wow, I can't even kill myself.'"

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Looking back now, Moby says he's learned to give himself grace.

"It's a hard place because no one wants to listen to an affluent public figure complaining. But when you can't figure out how to make yourself happy and you rely on alcohol and drugs, for a lot of people the only answer is [suicide]," he says. "I'm glad I didn't figure out how to end my life."

Nearly two decades later, Moby says he feels deep gratitude for his now "monastic" life in Los Angeles, where he moved from N.Y.C. shortly after he got sober in 2008. After multiple failed attempts, he had a moment of clarity that year while on the train home from an event.

"I played a fundraiser and then got very drunk after and did a ton of drugs," he says. "As I was taking Amtrak back into the city, this voice in my head said, 'You're done.'"

He began attending 12-step meetings and entered therapy for the first time — things he's remained committed to for the last 13 years.

"I started recognizing that fame and material success weren't going to fix my psychological and emotional issues," he says. "I'm actually quite happy with the simple things: hiking, sitting outside and looking at the trees I've planted. When you've spent your whole life struggling and pursuing grander things, it's hard to realize these things have the ability to deliver that much happiness."

A vegan since 1985, he also found a renewed passion for life by focusing on animal-rights activism, fighting against factory farming and advocating for shelter pets.

"I remember reading this interview with the Dalai Lama, and he was talking about how happiness comes from service," he says. "I've realized he's absolutely right."

Now he's sharing his struggles to help others.

"I've really appreciated other people telling their honest stories," he says. "I'm telling mine in the hope that people will feel less alone. I'm so grateful to have a purpose that's higher than myself."

For all the details on Moby's decades-long struggles with addiction and depression, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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