James Taylor’s Advice for Addicts

James Taylor’s Best Advice for Addicts: “Sweat It Out”

After James Taylor was introduced to heroin by the drummer in his band, The Flying Machine, this celebrated singer-songwriter says he was hooked. For about 18 years, James battled an addiction to opiates.

Then, in 1983, he says he finally got sober and did what he needed to do to clean up. “The addict himself has to want to quit,” James says. “To be in the position where you have to quit but you don’t want to is much, much worse than you want to quit, but you don’t know how to.”

Now, after more than 30 years of sobriety, James says his best advice for addicts is to get help as soon as you recognize you’re suffering from this disease. “The sooner you get over it, the sooner you get on with your life,” he says. “The 12-step programs are the best way we’ve discovered, so far, for recovering from addiction.”

James also credits physical exercise with helping him get his body and nervous system back on track. “You have to go to boot camp, and it makes you feel better,” he says. “Eventually, that sort of just scours the devil out of you, so that’s the best practical advice I can give—sweat it out.”

During the summer of 1967, James Taylor says he found himself going down a dangerous path in New York City. After his band, the Flying Machine, lost their record contract and his bass player quit, James spent most of his time in his apartment, getting high on drugs. “I could have disappeared down drain really quite easily at that point,” he says. “It just takes a week or two in the wrong place, and suddenly, very bad things can happen.”

One day, James, strung out and stranded in New York City, spoke to his father on the phone. “I don’t know if I called home or if home called me, but my dad got on the phone and he said, ‘How you doing, James?’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. Not so good, Dad.'” James recalls. “He said, ‘Stay right there. Do not leave. Don’t go out of that apartment until you see me.”

At that moment, James says his father, a successful physician in North Carolina, grabbed his wallet, got in his car and drove 13 hours to New York. “He showed up with the family station wagon,” he says. “And he picked me up and took me home, and I recovered for about, six months or so until I was ready to start the next chapter.”