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This is Alice In Chains singer/guitarist Jerry Cantrell’s acceptance speech for the Stevie Ray Vaughn Award at last week’s MAP Awards at the MusiCares benefit show in Los Angeles. Jerry joked that the award was the ‘junkie of the year’ award
“And of course I’d really like to thank Sean [Kinney], that is my best friend in the world and I love him dearly. I can’t imagine going through life without him, and I’m glad we’re both here together.” Jerry talked about getting clean and sober in 2003, and the role Alice In Chains drummer Sean Kinney played in helping him. Sean also used to visit Layne Staley’s condo during his reclusive years in hopes of helping him conquer his addictions. Here are some quotes from Jerry’s speech:

“I crash landed here almost 9 years ago, in Los Angeles. Sean was at the door with my brother, so my choices were open the door and go to rehab or jump out the back window down a cliff into some black berry bushes. That’s the choice I took. Luckily they caught me because I couldn’t go anywhere, I was kind of stuck in a bush at the bottom of a cliff bleeding, and I ended up here. I didn’t intend to get here but I’m very grateful I am here, and it took a lot of people to help me get here.”

“I’m as imperfect as they come, and I just try to do what I can to not get high today. That’s pretty much got me to where I am today, I just don’t get high today and wake up the next day and try to do the same thing.”

He called Mark Lanegan a “brother.” Said Mark has, “one of the most magical voices I’ve ever heard in my life, and an inspiration.” He also called ex-Soundgarden/Alice In Chains manager Susan Silver his “sister.”

  • stevemealone

    Glad you made it. I miss Layne so much, what a voice for the world to lose.

  • Robert

    9 years is amazing man. God willing this July will be 2 years being sober.

  • Kris

    I am so glad to hear Jerry finally open up about this issues with addiction. He has been quite quiet about it and I think it’s wonderful for him to share his experiences and discuss them. More power to him and I’m glad to hear he came through it.

    R.I.P. Layne and Mike – you are missed dearly and forever.

  • Dennis

    Was Jerry a heroin addict as well? I didn’t know if that is documented or just speculation.

    With the songs on “Dirt” it’s hard to believe they didn’t try everything at least once.

  • GenXLady

    Love this! It is very inspirational to hear Jerry talk about this stuff. I’m so glad he is making it through – 9 years and counting. I hope all the Jerry bashers out there take note of the humility and humanity Jerry openly displayed here. You figure there has to have been even more behind closed doors for him to be getting this award in the first place. So good to see Jerry, Sean, Mike and Will still going. RIP Layne and Mike.

  • GwynnKatie

    Jerry, so proud of your recovery, what you have conquered and still battle… I am so happy for your health, thankful that you’re still here.
    Sean, you rock. Period. When I read that you spent night after night under Layne’s window endlessly calling out his name I cried. That takes love.
    A lot of love… I know.

    I pray for you guys every day.
    That’s how much your music has touched my life.
    I bet I’m not the only one either.

    On a side note – Jerry… It’s a damn good thing you were in LA when you tried to escape & fell into the Blackberry brambles.
    Had you been in Seattle and fell down a hill into a Blackberry thicket – well – you might have been seriously injured before they got to you.
    That was supposed to be humorous. Blackberry thickets in OR/WA are really dangerous.


  • Brett

    Dennis, Jerry identified himself as an alcoholic. There have been reports of him having some problems with coke in the 90’s, but I’ve never seen him talk about that.

  • Kris

    In “Grunge Is Dead” he sorta eluded to trying heroin but I don’t think he liked it. I have always heard he was addicted to crack but that is just rumor.

  • Cathy

    @Robert – Congratulations on you’re upcoming 2 yr anniversary of sobriety! :)

    @GwynnKatie – Nope, you’re not the only one. Those are my sentiments exactly.

    I also heard the rumors of him being addicted to heroin early on, then it was coke and alcohol, but regardless of whether there was any truth or not behind the rumors and so called reports the important thing is that he’s clean and sober now and here with us still….and continuing to share his incredible talents. Thank God!

    I love and miss Layne and Mike dearly, everyday…and I didn’t even know them on a personal level. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for Jerry and Sean to have suffered that loss.

  • redhead

    Sean is an inspirational example for me and he’s so handsome (lucky Rebecca),and he has such a great message for all of us-other addicts. hes a great,humble man. all of AIC has a strong message-you have to fight,life is full of choices..and as of this past month,ive too chosen to get sober for good this time. as for Mike Starr, he was a great person and I got a Mike-inspired tattoo and I love it.

  • Jenna

    I don’t think he was ever addicted to Heroin. He might have tried it but I would say his drug of choice would have probably been Coke or Meth. He is and has always been way to driven to have ever been addicted to Heroin. I’m surprised he referred to it as “junkie of the year award” I would never have guessed Jerry to be an IV drug user. I always wondered how much money those guys spent while in the deepest depths of addiction.

  • lollypop

    Crack is better than Herion and it’s cheaper!

    • http://Alternativenation Chrissy Poisson

      Oh yeah! Crack is SO much better than coke! In fact, its better than ANY drug! I mean, it so great people will pawn their wedding rings and any/everything that is worth a few bucks so they can get some more of this GREAT stuff called “crack”! Once they’ve started to smoke this wonder drug (oh, by the way, its non-addicting!) All their problems disappear. They become smarter! They become more popular! Their looks suddenly improve! Last but not least…they become the best parents, spouses, siblings, children, well hell…better eveything! Pfffft, big effing deal they drained their bank account and after that was gone the went ahead and spent the kids college funds (the little bastards probably wont even go anyway.) And their Ma and theirs Pops dont care they stoled their check book and spent their retirement nest egg and ruined their credit forever! They dont give a crap because their son/daughter smokes crack! Life just can’t get any better then this! He he, yeah! Life is good!
      So yes, crack is waaay better than coke , thanks for reminding us!

      P.S. Why can’t ignorance be painful?!

  • dakotablue

    I’ve always heard that Jer’s drugs of choice are coke and booze. Never heard anything about heroin for him, except maybe he tried it.
    If it’s true that he was really strung out, congrats on kicking the habit. But wonder if he got any insight into how asshole-ish he was hassling Layne when Layne was dope-sick. And Jerry started cleaning up right after Layne died, so that tells ya something too I guess.
    damn I miss Layne…

  • Marcelo

    Sean is definately a great person and a hell of a drummer.

    Glad to see Jerry happy and enjoying his moment.

  • Jason

    Whenever I hear celebrities (especially rock guys) talk about being sober, I wonder if they are including pot.




  • Jenna

    I wonder if Sean showed up at Jerry’s front door after seeing this picture of him.

    I’m just kidding. Everyone needs a friend like Sean and its nice to see Jerry say such kind things about his friends. Looks like he’s becoming soft and sappy in his old age. I bet Layne would have been that way to if he could have kicked those demons. It’s a shame we’ll never know.

  • Jarofchains

    Glad to see Jerry kick his habit – 9 years sober is great. From everything I have heard from Grunge is Dead/Everybody Loves Our Town and random message board posters is that Jerry’s drug of choice was coke. If you watch his video interview for the Metallica behind the music you can see he is yakked out of his mind. Some of the songs on Degradation Trip allude to this addiction as well.

    I am happy Jerry survived and am grateful that Sean helped him out much like he tried to help out Layne. The band members in Alice have been through hell.

  • GrungeJunkie

    Why hasn’t anyone mentioned Jerry’s self-admitted addiction to Xanax. He got bad into it after Layne died..

  • GwynnKatie

    @ Jenna:

    “…Looks like he’s becoming soft and sappy in his old age…”

    @ dakotablue (quoted from the Mustache article):

    “…Jerry’s lookin’ pretty good–for an old dude, that is…”

    Oh My God. OLD?!!! The man turned 46 years old on March 18th people. :::chuckles:::

    I know you meant well but jeez…*old*?

    You’re all gonna blink your eyes – then all of the sudden folks who are 93 will seem *old* to you.

    If ya’ll want to pick on someone old – pick on me.
    I’ll be 54 on 09/11. Peace.

    :::hobbles over to her cobweb-filled corner using her walker with the dirty cut tennis balls on the bottom:::


  • Dennis

    Thanks for the insight guys. I’ve always wondered. Considering how big of a band AIC was, there really is not a ton of insider stuff out there that I’ve found.

  • Jarofchains

    @Dennis – One of the most admirable things about the Alice guys is that they respected each other to never throw each other under the bus when all those rumors swirled especially about Layne. They really cared for each other – I am sure their was some volatility/hostility internally but they kept everything between them.

  • Jenna

    GwynnKatie, I didn’t mean like elderly old, I just meant like not a young man. Does that make sense? I’m a Generation Xer myself and I consider myself old and your right, it did happen in the blink of an eye. I’ve heard Jerry in an interview say something like “in my older age”, so I don’t think he takes offense by it. I hope you didn’t either.

  • GwynnKatie

    @ Jenna,

    No honey… It just hit my twisted sense of humor, that’s all. My son is 24 and I have a 16 month old grandson. It just tickles me when someone in their 20’s (like my son’s band-mates) call someone in their 40’s old… I did it myself when I was 22… heh… See? :)


    Anyway — nothing I said or wrote today was taken as I meant it, no worries. No offense taken dear. I’m betting Jerry laughed at every one of those mustache comments anyway. The whole band seems to have a really great sense of humor.

    /back to topic

    What I think is amazing is that photo you posted. When I read this article and watched his acceptance speech it is the 1st photo image that popped into my head. I have looked at that picture many, many times and always cringed wondering WTF he was strung out on in that picture. I mean look at his pupils… He just looks blasted and strung out. The energy isn’t right. I never liked that photo. But hell – maybe he was just cutting up and was only sleep deprived from touring. How are we to really know?

    At least after reading all of this — the guys know how much they are loved, and in the end – that is what really counts.

    And sorry that my posts are so damn long. I type for a living.


  • Jenna

    Jason, I wonder if when celebrities talk about being sober they include pot, alcohol and prescription meds? Once you’ve had a brain altering chemical dependency It almost seems impossible to go the rest of your life without at least one of the three mentioned. Unless celebrities have more will power that us regular people.

  • Jason

    Hi Jenna,
    True and true. It can be done for sure, so I don’t want to discredit the truly sober. I’m not passing judgment at all, I just have found in my own life that sometimes people who were addicted so something more hardcore like any form of cocaine, heroin, pain killlers, crank, etc. say they are sober when they are actually just sober of the more hard drug(s). Either way, I’m glad Jerry has found peace of mind.

    Saw AIC twice in 2010, they killed it. Super tight, fun show.

  • Rachel

    This is beautiful. All of the Alice guys did heroin together at least once on the Van Halen tour – Jerry’s spoken openly about that happening once. Sean has spoken openly about experiencing physical drug dependency on an illegal drug in the early 90’s and sporadically after until the band stopped, and was an alcoholic who was in treatment for alcoholism. But I think he got it under control before the other guys. Jerry’s thing was crack/crank and alcohol too, but it was the crack/crank he’s talking about here, and pills (benzos, don’t know if or if not painkillers.), in addition to alcohol. Jerry was a person who isolated and became vampiric as an addict, severely; but people don’t emphasize that because compared to Layne, typical isolating and vampiric behavior seems mild, but it wasn’t for Jerry, it was bad. Layne was so sadly in a league all his own, only John Frusciante was similar, but by some grace or strength saved himself before the absolute final showdown Layne walked ahead into. I think John was drawn to death, fine with it; Layne was determined to die, honestly. Like Sean said, the world’s longest suicide. That said that’s a decision Layne made having been a drug addict with other things since such a young age (pills, coke, speed – as a teenager) that emotionally and in his brain chemistry, he never really made a choice that wasn’t made by the drugs in him or the damage caused to him chemically and pscyhologically by being addicted while his brain was forming. I don’t think Layne spiritually wanted to die a junkie alone – I think the drugs that had caused him brain damage led to chemicals both of the drug and natural, but natural having been damaged, variety entrapped him into a state of mental illness. He was a human being who went against every human survival instinct; that’s true disease, true brain damage, not who Layne really was. in other words, Layne was as beautiful a soul as they come but never knew who Layne was. Demri’s death knocked the wind out of whatever breath he had to have a fighting chance to get well. Layne’s story is addiction at it’s most extreme, like the Manson murders were humans afflicting torture upon other humans at it’s most extreme. Terribly sad. His mother is the saint of mothers, as well. Mike Starr – such a sad story for a nice guy eaten up and spit out by the industry, some of his bandmates,label, even management, amongst them. He was eye candy who was not the brightest guy and taken advantage of time and again by people close and not close to him. But another gentle soul.

    I think if it wasn’t for the shining light that is Sean’s spirit, the story AIC would be not compelling, but almost too much for most people to bear. Thank Goodness two of the brothers were saved. Mike Inez being a weed/beer guy and not the addict type, I didn’t include him, but he too tried to help Layne and Jerry, I just think he didn’t feel it was his place to get involved beyond a certain point not having been part of the original band of brothers.

    RIP Layne and Mike. Jerry and Sean are an example of the best of what humans can do for each other in the fight against addiction.

  • Rachel

    Jerry has matured into such a humble, well-spoken, thoughtful man. It’s not that he was ever not a wonderful person, he had such a rough time as a young adult, he carried resentment and pain he didn’t know yet how to cope with, as is understandable and human, and he sought – hard – fame, and all the rock star trappings, as a way to make life fair again. Fell victim to the disease, but has come out the other end seemingly as strong as they come. I’m an addiction counselor and he bears every sign of a man who is several years into a consistent, beautiful recovery, which at it’s best – like this, is a rebirth of the spirit to learn who you are, organically, but with humility and empathy. I myself was an opiate addict for 15 years with two and a half clean years within the 15, and several shorter abstinent periods. What is amazing is if you can finally get to the place where you get well spiritually, and I don’t believe there is one way for everyone to do that except to live in truth, with gratitude and humbleness, and love for self; how you get there, isn’t always necessarily a 12 step thing, but – addicts do needs other former addicts to Big Brother/Sister them through it – usually many formers actively end up – not in a planned way, it just happens this way, where they are a group of friends to guide a newbie to the place where he’s swimming and not treading water or doggie paddling, (drowning having been accepted already by the newbie as not an option) and then relax the intensity, and like any friends one or two remain best friends, and the others are brothers/sisters forever after, always on call in case of an unseen emergency.
    Mark Lanegan fought hard for every friend with a problem even when himself was failing.
    DJ AM Adam Goldstein was as strongly recovered Jerry and as loyal a former to over two dozen newbies as they come. He was someone who, if we’re talking celebrities who helped others famous and non, is being forgotten when he should not be. Life at it’s harshest was what happened to Adam, for all that guy gave to the world and what he got back in return through life just being unfair at times. may be rest in peace –
    Steve-O is like Adam was, as devoted to helping others as they come.

  • GenXLady

    Very insightful, Rachel. Spoken as one who understands the big picture. Are these observations based on your line of work?

  • slt

    I am a huge AIC fan, and I am absolutely happy that they did that for Jerry. I know Sean has said he tried to get Layne to answer the door in the end with no response, but I just wish If they kicked Jerry’s door in they would have kicked in Layne’s and drug him out kicking.

  • anthony p. magda

    I don’t know what it was about seattle and it’s music scene in the 90’s, but hard drugs were always very prevelent, I know it is a small world, but I met layne on capitol hill in 94, and knew who he was because I got into AIC in 1989 (sean grew up in the same renton niehborhood as me, and also attended my alma matter Liberty H.S.) just to clarify, layne was a VERY SMART GUY, GENTLE also. He also was very humble and kind. He just wanted to be a normal guy, yet obviously his noteriety made that next to immposible. I can tell you this, he saw what heroin was doing to me, a friend, and told me that I was worth saving, and even guided me to MMT, which he knew worked, but not for him, because of touring and what not. Addiction, especially to heroin is a very private thing, and the poor guy had his trials and tribulations spread about by the press (yes you Rolling Stone Hacks) and in the end, after loosing his best friend and soul mate demri he litterally said F-this. I know sean calls it the worlds longest suicide, but the layne I knew loved life, but could’nt bear it. He was so handsom (I’am straight) he could have been a model, yet he hated his body image (note all of the different looks) and was damaged like many of us Gen-xers by divorce and an absent/and or neglectful father (yes YOU PHIL). Layne was THE COOLEST, MOST DOWN TO EARTH ARTIST to come out of seattle in this era, yes he was an addict, and a lot of his songs dealt with the issue’s involved, same goes for the whole band, but let us stop letting that DEFINE A GREAT GROUP OF ARTIST, SONS, FRIENDS and PEOPLE, THAT AVE US and continue to give SO DARN MUCH… love you layne, wish I could have said goodbye, and told you how much I loved and respected you as A MAN, screw as a singer/performer, though you remain ONE OF THE ALL-TIME great ROCK VOICES EVER… miss you EVERDAY BRO, PRAY YOU ARE AT PEAC jamming with Jimi H., Kurt C. Andy Wood and all the other greats we lost much to soon… you live on in your music, and the fund that bears your name at THS, you saved my life, and several others… YOU WERE AND ARE A SAINT OF A MAN, PEACE SLIM… ANTMOE….

  • devine

    I think that Jerry getting cean wasa great idea Layne would want all of aic to be clean.Now what happened to Mike starr should have never happened either, he was a great guy and a really talented musician and I think that all he needed waslove just like Layne. Anyway the fact that Jerry is clean is a really great thing and I hope that he does stay clean just like Sean.