British singer Ed Sheeran recently opened up to talk show host Jonathan Ross about a drinking problem he experienced while adjusting to fame early in his career.
“I think you need to, when you get into the industry, adjust to it — and I didn’t adjust because I was constantly working on tour,” Sheeran told Ross. “And all the pitfalls that people read about, I just found myself slipping into all of them. Mostly, like, substance abuse.”
Sheeran said that his alcohol use started harmlessly. He began drinking at parties, which gradually led to drinking on his own. Over time, however, he realized that he had a substance abuse problem.
In light of his drinking problems, the “Shape of You” singer told fans in 2015 that he was taking a break from his career, his phone, email and social media.
During his hiatus, Sheeran focused on making music. The British crooner said that he cannot write music while under the influence. So he frequently worked, avoiding alcohol. He also credited his girlfriend for helping him through these tough times.
Today, Sheeran is more cognizant of his substance use. He has not stopped drinking altogether, though he reduced his alcohol use.
“The first thing Americans say is, ‘There’s a problem, and you need to go to rehab,’” he said. “But I don’t wake up and drink. I don’t depend on drink.”
Like many other musicians, Sheeran has alluded to substance use in his songs. The trend is especially common in pop music and rock ‘n’ roll.
“The A Team,” the first single off Sheeran’s highly acclaimed debut album, was one of the U.K.’s biggest-selling songs of 2011. The song describes the bleak life of a prostitute addicted to crack cocaine. It was inspired by a woman Sheeran met at a homeless shelter while volunteering for charity.
In 2014, Sheeran told Spotify that “Bloodstream,” a song from his second album, is about an Ecstasy trip he experienced in Ibiza.
“I’m not a massive drug-taker, but that song was written after an experience in Ibiza, and it’s basically about all the feelings that I got from that time,” he said.
His third studio album, released in 2017, also alludes to drug use. The record included “Eraser,” a song that references using alcohol, cocaine and cigarettes to self-medicate.
In interviews, Sheeran has talked about his difficulties coping with fame. At one point, he stayed inside his West London home for 120 consecutive days because he did not want to be approached. His refusal to leave his home led to weight gain.
“I hadn’t got any balance, so I just stayed inside,” he told The Sun.
Other famous figures also have struggled with the celebrity lifestyle. Actor Daniel Radcliffe used alcohol to deal with fame before successfully quitting in 2010. And “Saturday Night Live” actress Gilda Radner wrote in her autobiography that fame fueled her anorexia.
Fellow British musician Adele also had a hard time adjusting to fame early in her career. In fact, the “Rolling in the Deep” singer told BBC Radio 1 in 2015 that it was difficult to overcome the pressures of fame.
“I find fame quite frightening, and I find it very toxic,” she said.
Adele had her own experiences with substance abuse. In 2012, she dealt with drinking problems after the birth of her son, Angelo.
However, neither she nor Sheeran attended rehab for their drinking issues because they were not addicted to alcohol. Addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes compulsive drug use despite known consequences. It’s possible to have a drinking problem without being addicted to alcohol.
Throughout music history, many musicians have developed addiction. The disease has killed countless singers, but many who sought treatment overcame their substance use disorder. Some musicians in recovery have continued their career in music.