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Judy Collins Talks Alcoholism and Her Recovery

Folk singer Judy Collins might be the last person you would think of when it comes to naming an entertainer who struggled with alcoholism. Known for her angelic voice and social activism, Judy Collins always seemed like someone deeply spiritual and concerned with social issues. However, as she noted recently when discussing her own problems with alcoholism, addiction is an equal opportunity disease, and can seriously affect people from any walk of life. No one is immune to the devastating affects that alcoholism can have, and people from differing economic and social backgrounds have had issues with alcohol.

Long Term Struggle

Judy Collins achieved success as a singer and songwriter, being nominated and winning a Grammy for best folk performance. One of her first hits was “Both Sides Now,” a song penned by fellow folk singer Joni Mitchell. At the same time she, like many folk singers, was very concerned about social issues, and was a part of the counterculture movements that existed during the sixties and seventies, when she was most popular.

However, she also has revealed recently that she has struggled with addiction problems much of her adult life. While she has dabbled with other substances, she confesses that alcohol was always her substance of choice and the one she had the hardest time recovering from. She has written very candidly about her problems in a book she released back in 2011, including her suicide attempt and the one that her son attempted also. Her father was also an alcoholic and a musician, and he apparently passed down those traits to his daughter.

She writes about how unlike some of her contemporaries like Janis Joplin who were known for their drinking, she was someone who was easily able to cover her drinking problem because of her flower child image. Everyone assumed that someone like her would never have a drinking problem, and perhaps this enabled her to become a long-term alcoholic. Interestingly enough, even with drinking, Judy Collins maintained a pragmatic attitude. She drank because it was cheaper than drugs, and she didn’t want to go broke buying expensive drugs. She eventually began to exhibit many signs of chronic alcoholism like:

  • Scheduling life around drinking
  • Blacking out from drinking so much
  • Friends wanting her to seek treatment
  • Drinking around the clock every day

An Effective Intervention

Judy Collins recounts that her assistant and her accountant were the ones to finally put their feet down and say enough is enough. They had witnessed personally a side of Collins that not many people were aware existed. They staged an intervention and forced her to attend rehab, despite Collins admittedly saying that she enjoyed drinking and didn’t want her good time to stop. However, the intervention and subsequent rehab may have been what saved her life and allowed her to keep singing until this very day.

Since then she has remarkably stayed sober for decades, and writes freely about her issues and the struggle she’s faced to overcome them. Collins believes that she came from a family prone to alcoholism, and inherited the predisposition from her father. She eventually got laser surgery on her vocal chords so that she still has the amazing angelic voice that first made her famous. The fact that Judy Collins is still alive and playing music well into her seventies is a testament both to her strength as a person and how fortunate she was that people close to her staged an intervention.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Interestingly enough, Judy Collins may have also suffered from co-occurring disorders at a time when there wasn’t yet a professional diagnosis for the issue. She mentions that she suffered from bulimia and had to work to overcome that issue as well as her alcoholism. However, since her intervention she has maintained her sobriety and lives with her husband in Manhattan.

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