Stevie Nicks once made her PA take her prescription drugs and it saved her life
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine to look back at a moment which likely saved Stevie Nicks’ life, the moment she made her PA take all her pills.
During her most hedonistic years with Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks claims that she and the band spent “millions” of dollars on cocaine. Their lifestyle and their growing habit had left the band on tenterhooks — their substance abuse coupled with the group’s notorious bed-hopping left the group in disarray.
In 1986, a plastic surgeon advised the shining singing light of the band that if she enjoyed the idea of her nose remaining on her face for the rest of her life, she would have to quit cocaine. A hole had been burned in her nose by her extreme cocaine use. Not just a small tunnel, but a hole roughly the size of a 5¢ piece. Finally, the penny had dropped.
Nicks checked herself into the famous Betty Ford clinic, a rehab facility which has seen its fair share of very gaunt but very 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. It was a moment that shaped her life and saved her career.
The acclaimed singer and double Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer, Nicks reflected on her time there and surviving an almost lethal dose 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,” she said.
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 people that there is it no doubt they would’ve felt invested in her and her professional success. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a genuine worry that Nicks could fall back into her cocaine habit, it is a very real possibility for any addict. “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 Nicks on a path towards total destruction. It started when he prescribed a powerful tranquiliser called Klonopin. Nicks was initially hesitant about the drug but her doctor persevered with the prognosis, “he said to calm my nerves a little,” she revealed. “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, losing her self-confidence and falling deeper and deeper into a state of depression.
The press 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 leading her further and further into a state of irreconcilable 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 emboldened Nicks to begin to take control of her life once again, for the first time in many years.
The singer 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.”