Billy Joel: Depression, Drinking Caused by 9/11

    May 26, 2013
    Sean Patterson
    Comments are off for this post.

Just over one decade ago, singer Billy Joel entered rehab for a drinking problem. He followed that up with trip to the Betty Ford Center in 2005. Now, Joel is opening up about his depression, his drinking, and why he was using alcohol to self-medicate.

In a new interview with the New York Times, the New York native told the newspaper that he used to drink during difficult times in his life, such as during his multiple divorces. He stated that he would use alcohol as a medication for his depression. Joel admitted he would drink scotch, or vodka when things got really bad, and that he still occasionally has a glass of wine.

Of his trips to rehab, Joel said he doesn’t “subscribe to 12-step stuff” and that he believes he simply “overdid it” sometimes. He emphasized that his multiple car accidents in the early 00s were not drinking-related and that he has never had a DUI. Instead, he said that he was in “kind of a mental fog” and a “deep, deep depression” brought on by the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Joel, from the interview:

“9/11 just knocked the wind out of me, and I don’t know even now if I’ve recovered from it. It really, really hurt that man could do that to man. And then there was a breakup with somebody, and it took me a while to get me back on my feet again.”

  • Greg

    Knocked the wind out of YOU, I was there Billy, I was there at the WTC, it did more than knock the wind out of me, and yes your feelings are what I felt too………I just dont have time to think about it, with a family and all. You have a little more money (lot) i’m sure so youo dont have to work as much,,, congrats! Get better, Love your music! how bout some NEW stuff.

    • Kevin

      We all felt pain from 9/11. To Greg and anyone else there, I can only imagine and empathize with you all. Some people are “stronger” than others and deal differently with stress. Some in positive ways, some in not so positive ways. It is sad that Mr. Joel has to deal with his stress in the spotlight, but that goes with the territory he lives in. It is sad also that he feels he needs to explain it in the media as well. Perhaps being private at a time like this is appropriate. But, then again, there is no such thing as bad publicity, is there?

    • Corn Brain

      In his defense, he is a New Yorker.

      • Roy Cohn

        You were always a nerdy little Brookyln boy who probably got an excuse to get out of gym from his mama but still got lucky enough to bang Elle Mcpherson and marry Christie Brinkley. And if you’re going to drink over 9/11, then why not drink over the Hindenberg and the Lindberg baby? The older I get, the less respect I have for musicians as men, except for Iggy and Stiv Bators. More for the latter, because he is dead and knows it.

        • real men stand alone

          If he went on a 10yr drinking binge due to 9/11, wait until he finds out it was an inside job orchestrated by the neo con bagel mafia. Commonly known as a false flag attack. History’s tried and true method for pushing the public to war. Pretty much everyone knows this, all except the baby boomer druggie generation. You can sell those folks anything.

          videos to watch: terror storm, loose change, the money masters: how international bankers took over america

          • Gerald Jackson

            You are absolutely correct.
            I spent two years studying 911 and came to the same conclusion. Anyone that disaggrees should check out the PNAC.

          • lady stardust

            You speak the truth. It irritates me *almost* to the point of drinking to see war criminals still spewing their nonsense as if anyone needs to listen to them or painting pictures of their doggie when they should be being tried for their crimes.

            Mr. Joel, I really liked your music until you married Ms. Brinkley and started writing happy shiny music. Write songs about your depression. You might be speaking for all of us.

        • anon

          You sound like a loser.

          • Ken Eisenberg

            Wake up, Anon. The New World Order is coming and our Navy “global force for good” will protect it. The globalists are making their move and the 9/11 false flag attacks were a big part of the plan.
            Get educated.
            Check out Alex Jones (even though it was Piers Morgan’s job to publicly discredit him).

  • Erasmus

    I appreciate Billy Joel’s candor about his issues.
    Once a famous person has been portrayed as an alcoholic by the media, it’s futile and self-defeating for them to try and refute that image since they would inevitably be perceived as being “in denial”.
    Joel’s explanation and acknowledgement of his past problems are refreshing and insightful.

  • http://www.bowsbymaude.com maude

    Occasionally having a glass of wine is not a good thing for someone with a drinking problem to do.

    • James Seitz

      I was thinking the same thing about the occasional glass of wine statement. Maybe he is an exception, I just know that it doesn’t work that way with me!

  • http://kirkpatrickart.com Jim Kirkpatrick

    Doesn’t believe in that “12 step stuff”? and still has a glass of wine occasionally? Well I believe in that 12 step stuff and I’ve been sober 30 years today. Joel has been sober since his last glass of wine. His claim of drinking because he was depressed after 9-11 is proof that an alcoholic will use any excuse to drink. Here’s a man who will take yet another trip to rehab.

    • Bill in NY

      You are so right a glass of wine ????????? He has not hit the bottom he is a Drunk who still thinks he can control everything He need to get REAL with himself Sober 4 years

    • Corn Brain

      I don’t believe in the 12 step stuff and I’ve been clean for a long time, longer than I ever imagined, simply by doing it myself and wanting it.

    • mike s

      billy is going down the river of denial it has killed a lot of drunks he needs to go to the kingsway group brooklyn ny he likes a glass of wine port will make you a sport and muske will make you husky gee billy you dont like 12 step programs and god who were you talking to on all 4s with your head in the toilet saying o–god not again its not the yets it is the agains if you think you have willpower try it with diahrea

      • http://BillyJoel Raymond Stemmer

        I’m not ripping just Mike but all the 12 steppers, I wish I could be an all knowing human but all those MEETING!!!. AA 5% recovery is a little bit over the truth but that’s for 3 years. My educational career is over 90%(3.3GPA), 5% is for special ED drop outs! Are you AA people sure you got it right as to judge others? I admit I’m just an average chemical engineer an X teen drug experimenter in the 70ties. I don’t drink XXX. I’m glad it works for you but don’t knock 95% of users(abusers).

  • Barbara

    “It really hurt that man could do that to man”?? Billy, have you heard of the Holocaust, Spanish Inquisition, Crusades, slavery in U.S. and elsewhere,? The list goes on but your ignorance is showing. Man has been “doing that” to man for thousands of years.

    • http://cons_versus_libs@yahoogroups.com carolyndavis


      • Barbara

        No where did I say that war is a good thing. I was commenting on the fact that Mr. Joel said he could not believe that man could “do that” to other men.

        • http://msn Beverly

          Barbara…it is a GOOD thing people still get upset by atrocities. Just because it has happened other times in history, doesn’t mean that we should be numb to it happening now. It is human nature that one would feel something more strongly if experienced directly rather than learning about it through a book or television. All of those crimes against man that occurred before we were born or old enough to remember them clearly were most definitely things that we know were horrible, but those that we have experienced first hand carry more trauma with them because if this.

    • Corn Brain

      So nobody should be shocked up upset by 9/11? Everytime something like that or the holocaust happens we should just say “oh well” and move on?

      • karen

        You cant help what happened, so don’t get stuck in the past, have as much joy and happiness as you can, you only have one life, let go and let God, find joy and happiness, and the people that died will be looking down from heaven with a smile on their face, that you are enjoying the only life you have… What does alcohol have to do with it? I have had many sad moments in my life, alcohol did not come into my mind, but God did.

        • James Seitz

          And God has blessed you Karen for sparing you the disase of addiction I pray you are sober the rest of your life. God Bless You!

  • http://yahoo Betty

    Get over yourself!!!!
    You are an alcoholic.
    Stop putting the blame on depression, 911, or whatever.
    Those are just excuses.
    It doesn’t matter why you “think” you are an alcoholic.
    This is what you are and always will be.
    So face up to yourself and deal with it.
    And, please, stop whining about it.

  • MauiPete

    If Billy didn’t have a problem he wouldn’t be so defensive about his drinking. Blaming 9/11? I don’t think so – the problem was there long before that. The great thing about being a drunk is that there is help available if you want it – if you don’t avail of it please don’t hurt anyone due to your addiction before you end up insane (depression!), dead or in jail. 96% of alcoholics die of their illness mostly because they couldn’t change or didn’t change their behavior in time. Good luck Billy :)

    • http://cons_versus_libs@yahoogroups.com carolyndavis

      I have been seriously depressed since 9/11/01 but have
      been somewhat depressed since the assassination of JFK
      in 1963. The American people do not know the TRUTH
      of these events! It is TRAGIC!

  • carla

    His daughter suffered from depression and it does run in families so this 911 excuse is questionable.
    Having an occasional glass of wine or whatever is just asking for trouble.

  • frank

    I’m bipolar, but I’m an alcoholic that has been sober since Nov 11, 1986. I spent 90 days in a rehab starting on Nov 11th and have not had the desire to have a drink from that day forward. I have had the pleasure of standing on stage with Billy when he was in the Hassles and Billy is a great guy; extremely talented, but Billy is in a state of denial. He may very well be “depressed” that’s very possible, and he may have been medicating his depression and that may be the reason he BECAME an alcoholic. It doesn’t really matter.

    He should probably see a top psychiatrist and be in therapy for 3mos and then see what the psychiatrist says and the psychiatrist may put him on a good anti depressant, but Billy needs to stop drinking NO WINE. everything. NO WINE. NO OCCASIONAL BEER!!

    Billy needs to go to 2 AA meetings everyday, 7 days a week and get a sponsor; somebody he can look up too.

    • karen

      Bless you brother for stepping up to the plate, and being a truthful friend. I like celebrate recovery,, its a Christian program , that uses the word of God, the celebrate Recovery Bible is wonderful.

      • Lou Bator

        Karen, it appears to me that you are misrepresenting the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is a spiritual program that is open to anyone of any faith who wishes to live a life of freedom from alcohol. There are many different programs out there, and yours with the “Recovery Bible” may work for you, but AA works, it really works, and I would like to reiterate that AA is open to anyone and everyone of any faith who wants to get and stay sober. Peace.

        • stan zand

          thankyou lou

        • Christian

          Seems to me that Karen was only stating what works for her…just another example of the response when anything Christian or bible related are uttered. How are Karen’s comments re celebrate recovery misrepresenting the 12 step program? Was it misrepresented in the words Bless you brother? Or, I like celebrate recovery? Seems to me that she simply expressed what works for her. Celebrate recovery is another one of those great programs available for anyone who would choose to use it, and just like the 12 step program, one that anyone from any faith can avail themselves to. The point to all of them is to provide help to those that need them and chooses to use them to get free from addictions. Mentioning one does not cancel out or reduce the effectiveness of the other. Get a grip lou.

  • Linda Caruso

    Get over it! We are all affected with depression at some point in our lives over instances and circumstances. You are an artist and musician. Use your music to get through this and start recording and getting back on the road. Your fans miss you. Don’t sit around and dwell on the past; there is nothing anyone can do to change yesterday. Focus on the todays!!!!!!

    Love You

  • sherri

    he is a drunk thats why he has depression

    • Joel in TX

      Jeez. Still so many non-educated people on the subject of major depression and mental illness. Shame on any of you for posting negative comments on ANY subject that your aren’t educated about. When your opinion is not backed by research or education on any matter, then you have no opinion. Save the wear on your keyboard and instead READ your screen on articles about major depression and mental illness as you would any other seriously debilitating medical illness, and educate yourself before you post foolish and negative comments about someones medical illnesses. Medical professionals and experts will step right up without hesitation and tell anyone that the most debilitating medical illness that anyone can have is chronic unrelenting major depression. Research before you post. Make yourself educated on a subject or otherwise it’s easy to brush you off as being anything but intelligent. Stop the ignorance on major depression and mental illness.

  • Sharon

    Wow, lots of preachy or insensitive comments on here. Sometimes a terrible life event that is beyond our control can push us toward depression. And we can self-medicate with booze, with food, with work, with drugs, with sex, or with something else. Don’t judge someone till you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

    • karen

      We have, we are trying to help, I know , we are not in denial anymore, the truth will set you free… God tells us in the Bible to be truthful with one another and if your brother is hurting to help him, we are trying to help Billy, not judge him, You actually sound, by your , defensiveness, like you may have one of these problems, and you are defending it.. I pray right now, that god shows you how to get help… Bless you and your walk pray that god is walking next to you leading you down the right path.

      • Maureen

        Being raised roman catholic……..GOD helps those who help themselves……he has to admit he has a problem totally not the way he did before he can get any help from me.

  • karen

    Try celebrate recovery, it is a Christian Program, using the word of God to help. You are at the stage, that we studied about, called denial, Denial is a big part of , if you will recover or not, if you stay in this stage, you will not recover, you need to confess that you are an alcoholic, and that you have no control over it, you ask God to help… Its not a higher power, its God, he is the only way… If you are still drinking, wine is drinking you still are in denial.. Alcohol, is a depressant, it causes depression, so that is why you are depressed,, its a demon, and if you drink you cannot have a relationship, with another person, because your main squeeze is that bottle of booze, or glass of wine that’s in your hand, that you are hiding behind, that’s your relationship, and sooner or later the person you are with, gets the drift, and drifts away, I know I am an enabler and have been with 4 alcoholic’s, I have the disease, of trying to be the helper and you have the disease, called alcoholic.

    • JS

      AA is a SPIRITUAL program, NOT just a CHRISTIAN program…get over it. And being spiritual, or religious, is NOT a requirement. The only requirement is having the DESIRE to stop!! Get it right! Or you don’t fully understand what Bill W. was trying to do!

  • karen

    I forgot , a very important message to you,,, The truth will set you free,, confess your sins , and ask for Gods help, and ask for forgiveness from those that you have hurt, by your drinking, believe me, it hurts your loved ones. and so in the end, The truth ,will set, you free, and asking for forgiveness.

    • lady stardust

      Is there no help for people who are not Christians?

  • John Dodge

    Joel is an addictive personality, no matter what. He needs to face it and get cured.

  • Maureen

    Just remember the one song you wrote Billy and it will help….

    WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE…..Don’t blame 9/11 for your depression….you either treat it or don’t. I’m a depressive person and going through treatment for it….and 9/11 made me depressed but most of all it p!@#$% me off.

  • gonnagetemville

    Unfortunately Billy J is not likely to read this. BUt here it goes any way.

    Billy, Stop blaming it all on 9/11…..Sure, it was devastating for all Americans. Face it, your problems stated longggggggggg before 9/11. The drinking was just a symptom of a deeper rooted problem…YOU!

    My guess is, you had your first drink or Drunk around age 14 or so. Your drinking progressed once you became a BIG Star. you had the $ to cover it all up until the Booze started taking you over and a bottom (not necessarily, THE BOTTOM, occurred. Keep in mind one very important thing. You never lost anything (Including Christy…..You gave it away! All for the Booze. All you need to do now is start facing the truth, accepting it and believing there is A Solution To Every Problem.

    Best of luck and Stay True.

  • Cambria

    9/11 was clearly a traumatic day for all. That should be no reason to dismiss its power to trigger depression in some. And those some should not dismiss themselves as “less” or “weak” because of it. I see the drinking as an attempt at self-medication, nothing more. Clearly, self-medication does not work.

    Mr. Joel, I would take a look into possible PTSD. I believe it might help.

  • lex

    He is an idiot (look up the Ancient Greek word idion and you will get what I mean)Yes his piano playing is beautiful, but to blame his depression on 9/11 is utterly wrong. I am a New Yorker and I do not blame my woes on it.

  • Effective




    • Woody

      I think this entire country lost its mind after 9-11.

  • js

    oh please Billy..using the 911 disaster as an EXCUSE to drink!!! Seems to me the ones who were actually THERE have more of a reason to use that excuse!!!!!!


    And Judaism for Terrorism in the Occupied Territories (Palestine)?

    Individuals, not religions,
    carry out inhuman acts.

    Islam is a religion of peace, accepted and practiced by more than 1.25 billion people worldwide. It is the fastest-growing religion in the world, and if it was what some critics claim, why should the people from all walks of life from around the world keep embracing Islam?

    Where is the sword now?

  • The Dude

    Billy, 911 still sucks. Man’s inhumanity against man. Anytime you want to have cocktail let me know. Screw these noobs talking trash!


  • joycd kennie

    This article caused me to have a lightbulb idea. Our country seems to be in a terrible state, our People along with our country. Maybe our country, our people en masse, still have unaddressed PTSD from 9/11. Did we really ever fully address the trauma and grief, allow ourselves to, or as Americans, did we just try to keep a still upper lip and move forward. We are strong, and that does not, as we so often mistake, preclude the need to grieve, cry, seek comfort, for those are not signs of weakness, but are the very things that keep us pliable enough stay strong without breaking. Right now, we seem to be breaking. Maybe we need, collectively, to take a step back and fully grieve and heal from 9/11 (not to discount the many of you that have already done this, not to discount in any way those who were there, I am more about the rest of us who were not there, did not lose a loved one, and maybe did not feel as entitled to grieve or recognize it as trauma for us as a nation as well, though certainly not of the magnitude as those who suffered first hand)

  • http://kgbvictim@angelfire.com Arthur Guziel

    I have been traumatized whole life by KGB genocidal henchmen, incl. attempt to throu me out of prom on Baltic Sea,using my father Alojzy Guziel,just over 3000 attempted assassination over 60 years and no good medical doctors, just Kremlin KGB subverted genocidal servants.
    Guziel VS PUTIN, 661-367-6806

  • The Dude

    Billy, don’t pay any attention to these comments. We are here for you.

    The dude

  • KJ

    Oh get real. Sounds like Billy Joel is reaching for a excuse to tie his depression and alcohol problems to. Sure 9/11 was a horrible,sad event. But his disbelief that “man could do that to man” is a bit much. Look at the Spanish Inquisition, the annilation of native Americans (like giving out Small pox contaminated blankets and Wounded Knee), the recent Boston marathon, and many other events. Nope man never has trouble thinking of ways to be cruel to other. I am sorry he has depression but….now if he had really been involved in that horrible event that would be something else.

  • Suzanne Payne

    If you “buy this excuse”, please contact me about some swamp land that I have for sale!

  • Kristin Rhudy

    Eventhough you probably won’t be reading these postings; but if you do Billy her it goes. I have been back stage at your shows on multiple occassions. I was there well before 9/11 hit. You had a problem prior to 9/11. It irritates me that you are being shallow and blaming 9/11 for the “depression & alcohol”. I suffer from depression to but I don’t go injesting drugs and/or alcohol to cope. You have to find it within yourself to want to change. Forget god and everything else. The answer is finding that higher power within YOURSELF to change. And if you think I wasn’t at the shows perhaps Blue and Red Solo cups will jog your memory. Best of luck to you in admitting that you are hiding behind excuses.

  • Rip

    Give us a break, Billy. What happened on 9/11/01 did not cause your depression and alcoholism. Your inablity to believe man could do that to other people is pathetic. History is full of atrocities people have done to other people-how about the Boston marathon, the anilialation of native Americans giving them small pox infested blankets and killing women, children, and old men at Wounded Knee, the Holocaust, etc, etc. 9/11 was a horrible event, but it hardly tops the list. Typical cop-out, Billy. Now if you had actually been involved in the Towers tragedy you would have a claim it caused your depression. Still a lot of depressed people don’t become drunks.

  • John C

    boo hoo cry me a river, sounds like an excuse for his drinking issue, and chasing things that dont really matter..

  • Janet

    Let it go Billy Joel, Let it go. In times of pain, when only sorrow remains, cry out and let it all out. Hold tight to the one you love and bury your face in her breast, pour out your feelings and then give it your best. The world is a beautiful place, but the heart of man is a deceptive face. Trust the one you hold tight to let her turn your grey to blue. Look up and the sky and feel the sun and wind and rain fill your eyes, turn back to life, step ahead and try. Don’t give in to despair, I am your friend and I will always be there. Turn back to the talent God blessed you with and pull yourself and Americans black to wonderful bliss. New Yorkers are special in their own right and they will always reach to greater heights. Stand with your fellow American against the blackness in the depths, hold tight to our freedoms and take our rest! You need someone to love you, hold you and understand, when that is filled, you will be grand! Love Ya, William be strong and cry it out! Jesus loves you and so do I.

  • http://Bing Dave B

    Hey Bill, You may not read these but like you, I have suffered from major depression for years (it is a disease) and within you. Can’t blame it on anything as you either have it or not. It can be exacerbated by events or by indulging in alcohol and or drug abuse (whether legal or not). Anyone commenting that does not have this disease has no idea of what someone may go through. There are days I can’t get out of my chair(it is not laziness)it is simply the disease. I hate it but deal with it as I know there are always much better days ahead. I don’t drink nor do I do drugs and it cost me the love of my life when my wife left me. It was the most difficult time in my life, but I got through it as I am sure you will as will. Find strength in Our Lord and do what you have to do Bill to get better. I have been a fan since you began and always hope you will come through with some new material!!

  • RodneyG

    It doesn’t really matter what the reason is for depression and his drinking. It also doesn’t matter what program anyone chooses to use to help get over these things. The important thing is that you need to do something about it. The best therapy I have found is good friends. People who are honest with you, support you and certainly do not actt as enablers when it comes to drinking.

  • sean

    This guy is one of the most talented singer/songwriters of all time. When you have the ability to listen and take in all that is going on around you, not to mention translating that into some of the greatest music anyone’s ever heard. You tend to get a little jaded from time to time…

  • The seeker

    Alcoholism is a disease, period. It is chronic,progressive and in the end fatal. Its will stalk you and hunt you down .It is no respecter of persons or mans attempt to explain it in psychological terms.Once you become one wether, it ends up being discovered as a genetic or you drink yourself into one,you are one for life. You can have one day of freedom per allotment and then you can have another if you do 12 things. Until you expose it by admitting you are one and unplug it by admitting your powerlessness, you will be swinging at air until it kills you. If you do the first two then you will need to get off the throne of your life and let God direct things. No one can serve two masters,self and God. When you relinquish that throne to God the disease cant have power over you and its system that has its roots woven into your being will crash. It can only be rebooted when you get back on the throne. It reminds me of that great line in LOTR when ” Strider says “Are you frightened?” Frodo”Yes.” Strider replies: “Not nearly frightened enough. I know what hunts you” So when you are in this kind of trouble do you want a person who has walked through the jungle to freedom or some psychobable? Half the people on those reality tv shows didnt take it seriously and now they are dead. Its not a game. Find a Strider and live. The disease has many ways to deceive you .

  • Donna Wilks

    It never ceases to amaze me that when certain individuals become sober, they make it their sole purpose in their lives to pontificate to others the how, what, when, where, and why of sobriety. They are actually exemplifying a complete and total contradiction of the 12 steps that they are alledgedly living, eating, and breathing… that being…to accept the things they can NOT change, the courage to change the things they CAN.. AND THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE. One of the tenets of 12 step recovery is to NOT judge others..LIVE AND LET LIVE. So.. my question is… why do so many 12 steppers have the sheer audacity to pontificate on and judge Mr. Billy Joel? Why doom him to a trip to hell in a handbasket? Do ANY of you actually rent space inside of his head???
    I applaud the fact that 12 step programs work for YOU, however, it often seems that certain 12 step participants take on a “holier-than-thou” attitude, and preach to others, as well as IMPOSE their beliefs and values….believing it’s “the 12 step way, or the highway”
    Only Mr. Joel knows what he has experienced, and believe me.. he has absolutely NO motivation to decieve either the public nor himself at this stage in his life. There is nothing for him to gain. How can anyone possibly deny another human being’s feelings? Just because he is in the public eye gives others’ the right to question Mr. Joel’s validity?
    Congratulations on what works for you.Too bad 12 steps left out the part about compassion and support for others…even if they DON’T subscribe to drinking your purple kool-ade.