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Stories of Recovery: John Mayer

by Landmark Recovery

December 12, 2018
John Mayer performing at a live concert

If you don’t know John Mayer by name, chances are you’ve probably heard a few of his songs on the radio. Mayer has had a number of hit radio songs including “Daughters”, “Waiting on the World to Change”, and “Gravity”. He is a seven-time Grammy Award-winning artist and has released seven studio albums during his career, he has also worked with a number of other artists including Frank Ocean, Kanye West, and the Grateful Dead.

He has sold millions of records worldwide and has four platinum and three gold albums. He has also been featured in a number of television shows and feature films including Chappelle’s Show and Get Hard. Despite his complete success in the music and entertainment industry, Mayer didn’t feel as though he was giving all he had to his art and in 2016 he quit drinking and has lead an alcohol-free life since then, he even spoke about his sobriety in a recent interview with Complex.

“I looked out the window and I went, ‘OK, John, what percentage of your potential would you like to have? Because if you say you’d like 60, and you’d like to spend the other 40 having fun, that’s fine. But what percentage of what is available to you would you like to make happen? There’s no wrong answer. What is it?’ I went, ‘100.’”

John Mayer was born on October 16,1977 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Mayer first became interested in music, and guitar specifically, after watching Back to the Future and seeing Michael J. Fox’s guitar performance of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”.

When he was 13, Mayer’s father rented a guitar for him and he was gifted a Stevie Ray Vaughn cassette, music that sparked his fascination in blues music. From Stevie Ray Vaughn, Mayer went on to discover other blues greats like Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and many others.


John Mayer performing at a live concert

slgckgc, John Mayer at the Barclays Center (December 2013) 03CC BY 2.0


After taking guitar lessons, Mayer went on to playing bars and other venues while he was still in high school. Mayer considered skipping college but was eventually enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in 1997. However, his college days didn’t last long.

After two semesters, Mayer and a friend moved to Atlanta and formed a band, performing in local venues and coffee shops. However, due to creative differences the two parted ways and Mayer began his solo career recording his first independent release, the Inside Wants Out EP.

After the release of his EP, Mayer gained the attention of Aware Records and Columbia records through his music and performances. He appeared in festivals and in 2001 released his major label debut Room for Squares.

The album created numerous radio hits for Mayer, including “No Such Thing” and “Your Body Is a Wonderland”, and thrust Mayer into the mainstream spotlight.

Since his initial commercial success, Mayer has continued to reign. He went on to release six more albums and help with production on many more. Despite the victories, one thing kept getting in the way of Mayer realizing his full potential: alcohol.

In a 2017 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Mayer reflected on his relationship with alcohol.

“Drinking is a fucking con. How much is enough? Every time I drank, I was looking for some sort of regulated amount. It always feels wrong for me. I always feel like I went overboard. ‘I said two, now it’s three, now we’re at four?’…I remember looking around going, ‘This feels rigged. I’m taking a break.’ There’s never an amount that felt like I was succeeding at life. It always felt wrong.”

Mayer went on to say that he doesn’t feel a need to use alcohol anymore since he has aged and understood who he was more and more.

“I was always the guy saying that I didn’t like altered states. Once you know who you are, then it becomes OK. I’m much more open-minded to small changes in consciousness. I remember every trip I ever took. I remember every thought I ever had when I laid there.”

Mayer also was on the Ellen Show in 2013 and talked about his love for scotch and how it was affecting him at the time of the interview.

“I’m getting to that age now your body doesn’t just shake everything off and it didn’t help that I really loved, love, loved scotch. It’s just like applying poison to your body. It’s like applying a shellac of poison. It’s just delicious, wonderful poison. That makes you not care how late you’re out till or where you’re going but I had to really say I like singing and writing more than I like delicious scotch so I had to really dial it down.”

Eventually, Mayer dialed it down entirely.

In a tweet on October 27, 2017, Mayer announced that he had taken a break from drinking and had been sober for one year. In a follow up tweet he explained why he went public with his sobriety.

“I post this because I want people to know that ‘that’s enough for now’ is on the menu so to speak.”

In a recent interview, Mayer expanded on this idea of getting rid of the negative stigma of sobriety and alcohol rehab and talked about how he could have an impact on others who may want to stop or take a break from drinking.


John Mayer performing with fellow musicians

Nan Palmero, John Mayer at WES Conference 2008 – 04CC BY 2.0


“You have to fight really hard to look at it from a critical point of view because it’s constantly pushed on you. Every Friday and Saturday, on social media, there is enabling going on for drinking. What if I woke up every morning on Saturday and Sunday and put my feet on the ground and I just went “not hungover” and put it on social media every day? That would be an influence on people because I think you forget that’s an option.”

Mayer has mentioned that it took him a decent amount of time before he was ready to take a break from alcohol and that he needed some wake-up calls. Maybe if he had someone telling him that it was okay to take a break, he would have done it sooner.

Part of the reason for Mayer’s sobriety was his commitment to making the most of his life. He has learned over the years that all is not guaranteed and that everyone should make an effort to enjoying the, sometimes short, time that we have available to us.

“I’ll go until the doctor tells me bad news. I swear to you, until that day, I’ve got it figured out, and this is the most fun… Every morning I wake up, I go, “I get another one of these.” And most people figure that out much later on in life. Not drinking has a lot to do with plugging into that a little earlier than other people, but I go, like, “I still get to ride the ride.” And that’s why, when people we love pass away, we go, like, “Oh, you can’t stay on the ride?” When Mac Miller passed away, my first thought was, You don’t get to stay here. You don’t get to keep riding this ride.”

Since giving up alcohol, Mayer has said that he has become happier and more productive. However, he did note that the initial feeling of giving up drinking is not fun, but if you continue the process it can be life-changing.

“That next year, I did four tours, I was in two bands, I was happy on airplanes. So what happens when you stop drinking? The level feels like boredom at first. But if you stick with it, the line straightens out and it goes kind of low. You’re like, “Oh, I’m not having these high highs.” But if you work, you can bring the whole line up.”

John Mayer, by all accounts, seems to be thrilled with where he is at in his life and that is, in part, due to his dedication to giving up alcohol and throwing himself into his art.

“I’ve hacked this game. I pay very little of the price of fame now. I get to play the music that moves me the most. I’m having the time of my life.”


In Conclusion

John Mayer’s ability to get past his alcohol use and focus on his music marked a turning point in his life and he believes that it has helped him in recent years. Alcohol addiction, and substance abuse in general, are serious issues and it may be hard to get through these diseases alone. If you or a loved one is going through a substance abuse disorder it may be time to reach out for help. At Landmark Recovery, our drug treatment and alcohol treatment staff have the tools and knowledge that is needed to provide your loved one with the specialized care that they require.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.