Phil Collins on His Battles with Booze: 'It Took Me Until Age 55 to Become an Alcoholic'
The singer admits his drinking led him to a Swiss intensive care unit.
“Night after night I find myself lying on the bed, staring out of a skylight at grey Swiss skies, rueing my life,” Collins writes about the impact that retirement, crippling back pain and a third marriage breakdown had on his mental state.
“I’m all alone, save for my good friends Johnnie Walker and Grey Goose. ‘You’ve got everything,’ I think, ‘but you’ve really got f—-all.'”
For Collins – who announced a nine-date comeback tour on Monday – this resulted in a near-death experience inside a Swiss intensive care unit while suffering from acute pancreatitis, where he heard a doctor whisper the fateful words to his family: “Is Monsieur Collins’ will in order?”
He adds, “It took me until the age of 55 to become an alcoholic. I got through the heady Sixties, the trippy Seventies, the imperial Eighties, the busy Nineties. I was retired, content – then I fell. Because suddenly, I had too much time on my hands.”
Collins continued, “The huge hole, the void, I had to fill somehow. I filled it with booze. And it nearly killed me.”
Worse, Collins admits that his alcoholism also affected his sons Nicholas, 15, and Matthew, 11, and their nanny, Lindsey – a personal shame that he continues to carry, despite now being sober.
“I got up to give them a hug. Bang. My teeth went into the tiles in the living-room floor,” he reveals about an incident at his home in Féchy, Switzerland. “The bloody lip’s long healed but what hasn’t healed is the memory of Matthew shouting, ‘Lindsey! LaLa! LaLa! Daddy’s fallen over!'”
This personal torment also came at a public cost. Being one of the most famous musicians on the planet, Collins had to sit by as the likes of David Bowie turned him into a figure of ridicule by describing his own mid-’80s creative slump as his “Phil Collins years.”
Collins says he will also never forgive his one-time idol Paul McCartney for calling him “little Phil” in public.
“I thought, ‘You f—, you f—.’ Never forgot it,” writes Collins.
Thankfully for Collins, this career and personal slump wasn’t destined to last forever. A song-writing collaboration with Adele – who calls him “such a genius” – brought him back into the radar of the music world and a major back operation in 2015 repaired the serious nerve damage that had left him unable to feel his right foot or play the drums.
“She thinks I’m awesome. That’s cool,” he writes of Adele. “It was a lovely little interlude and, for sure, great for my self-esteem.”
The seven-time Grammy winner – who also has an Oscar and 150 million solo album sales to his name – then took his first tentative steps at a return during an event for his own Little Dreams Foundation in 2015.
Collins followed this up by performing two of his biggest hits at the opening of the US Open tennis in New York in August and is now set to play five dates at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall in June 2017, followed by two apiece in Paris and Cologne as part of his Not Dead Yet tour.
More crucially, the “Easy Lover” singer has managed to repair his relationship with third wife Orianne, whom he had divorced in a record-breaking $46.76 million settlement in 2008.
“I mean, when you’ve been married three times and you’ve got five kids, you don’t live with them, and you’ve been divorced three times, you start to wonder whether it’s you, you know? Can’t – it can’t always be someone else’s fault,” Collins tells CBS Sunday Morning in an interview airing this weekend.
The couple now share a home in Miami, and plan to remarry.
Thanks to the turmoil of his recent past, the ex-Genesis drummer is also not going to let something so insignificant as $46.76 million get in the way of his own Groovy Kind of Love a second time around.
“She didn’t give me the money back,” jokes Collins.
Not Dead Yet: The Memoir is on shelves Tuesday.