Stevie Nicks once made her PA take her prescription drugs and it likely saved her life
During her most hedonistic years with Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks claims that she and the band spent “millions” on cocaine. Their lifestyle and their growing habit had left the band on tenterhooks – their substance abuse had left their mark on the band and its members.
In 1986, a plastic surgeon advised the shining singing light of the band, Stevie Nicks, that if she enjoyed the idea of her nose remaining on her face she would have to quit cocaine. A hole had been burned in her nose by her extreme cocaine use, a hole roughly the size of a 5¢ piece. Finally, the penny dropped.
Nicks checked herself into the famous Betty Ford clinic, a rehab facility which has seen its fair share of gaunt famous faces and began to get clean of cocaine. It would take 30 days of 9-5 meetings but Stevie finally had the courage to throw away coke once and for all. She reflects on her time there and surviving an almost lethal bout of prescription drugs in this 2007 interview with The Telegraph, “So when I left Betty Ford, I felt that I was fine. But my world was terrified that I was not fine.”
Her world, it seems, would see her as the sun. Radiating in both creativity and money, Nicks would’ve provided a life for so many it’s no doubt they would’ve felt invested in her. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a genuine worry that Nicks could fall back into her cocaine habit. “They were terrified I was going to start doing it again. I think everybody knew I wasn’t an alcoholic, because I’m not; but I drank.” Her friends and family were keen for her to join AA, but “the next best thing in everybody else’s eyes was for me to go see a shrink. I really didn’t want to go. But I finally just said all right in order to get all of you off my back…”
That psychiatrist would set Stevie Nicks on a path towards destruction. It started when he prescribed a powerful tranquiliser called Klonopin. Nicks was initially hesitant about the drug but the shrink persevered, “he said to calm my nerves a little. I didn’t want to do it. He said, ‘You’re nervous.’ And I was nervous; I’m a nervous person. So I finally just said, all right.”
As Nicks’ says in the conversation with Mick Brown, a pivotal moment came when her mother had read an article while Nicks was in England and, “[it] said, you could see Stevie Nicks in there, but she was very sad and very quiet and she was just a shadow of her former self. And that article broke my heart.”
Nicks continues, “And after that, it got worse, because he kept upping my dose. 1988 into ’89, I’m now not even writing songs any more. I was living in a beautiful rented house in the Valley, and just pretty much staying home.” It led to Nicks gaining weight and falling deeper into a state of depression, it continued to externally highlight the internal struggle she faced. The symptoms of which continued to worse “I started to notice that I was shaking all the time, and I’m noticing that everybody else is noticing it too. And then I’m starting to think, do I have some kind of neurological disease and I’m dying?”
By 1993, the dosage of Kloponin was still increasing, and Nicks was beginning to see a spiralling pattern of more prescriptions and a furthering into depression. She notes that her family and friend were all worried about her. None more so than her personal assistant and friend, Glenn. The pair decided to test out the effects of the drug on Glenn to see just how damaging they may be. Nicks remarks, “I said, it won’t kill you, because it hasn’t killed me, but I just want to see what you think.”
Glenn proceeds to take the beefed-up dosage of medicine. As he tries to put up a stereo he is stopped within 30 minutes of taking the first set of pills, “he said, ‘I can’t fix the stereo and I don’t think I can drive home.’ And I said, ‘Well, good – just stay there, because I’m studying you.’ And he was almost hallucinating. It was bad.” It empowered Nicks to begin to take control of her life once again, for the first time in many years.
She picked up the phone to her shrink and told him the situation she was for the first time witnessing and not experiencing. She told the psychiatrists that Glenn had taken the pills prescribed for Nicks. She picks up, “the first words out of his mouth were, ‘Are you trying to kill him?’ And the next words out of my mouth were, ‘Are you trying to kill me?'”
Nicks admitted herself into Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Venice Beach where it took her 47 days to fully detox. She reflects, “I nearly died. I moulted. My hair turned grey. My skin started to completely peel off. I was in terrible pain.” She worked hard to rid herself of the addiction to the drug which she says is wasted eight years of her life.
It the irony is still there for all to see. The ‘world’ or ‘powers that be’ which sent Nicks to the psychiatrist to keep her working (and making them money) would actually slowly add more and more cement to the feet of a floating Stevie Nicks. It would hold her back emotionally, physically, and creatively, it would almost end her career and life in music. She says, “It’s very Shakespearean. It’s very much a tragedy.”