The Truth About Keith Urban's Time In Rehab

Fans of country music are gearing up in anticipation for the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards on Sept. 16, 2020, which will feature performances from some of the genres biggest stars. Considering the prestige of the ceremony itself, it's no surprise that the ACM Awards' producers netted another huge get in the form of this year's host, legendary country music superstar Keith Urban. Yet, while Urban's decades-long career has had a major impact on the industry, his success has also been marked by periods of personal struggle. Most significantly, Urban's history of (and subsequent recovery from) substance abuse plagued the singer-songwriter's first ten years in the spotlight. 

"I wish I'd gotten sober many years earlier than I did, but it is what it is," Urban told Austin's South by Southwest Festival in 2018 (per The Fix). "I knew I wasn't at my full potential, and that's what was starting to get to me," Urban added, noting that he also felt "enslaved" by his addiction and that he was "living a very, very small life." Though Urban battled his addiction to drugs and alcohol for years, he was finally able to make recovery stick once and for all, which he attributes to a defining moment in his life. So how did Keith Urban find the strength to embark upon the road to recovery? Read on to find out.

Keith Urban's turned to drugs as a coping mechanism

In a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, country singer Keith Urban recounted not only how he went into recovery for substance abuse issues, but the reason why he began turning to alcohol and various hard drugs in the first place. His story, while framed by the trappings of fame and success, contains a common thread among alcoholics and addicts: issues of self-esteem and fear of failure. 

According to Urban, the singer-songwriter first began using drugs — specifically cocaine — in 1992 after moving to Nashville from Australia. Despite the success Urban experienced in his home country with the debut of his self-titled album in 1990, the transition to the American country music scene was harder than he had anticipated. "When I was onstage, I felt good, but if I was not onstage, I was very, very insecure," Urban told Rolling Stone. "I felt like I didn't have much of anything to offer. I was just an alien." It was during this period of precarious uncertainty that Urban's roommate at the time offered him cocaine — an offer he accepted. 

While Urban recalled that "things didn't immediately go pear-shaped," the event marked the beginning of what would become a years-long struggle with the cycle of addiction — one that became all-consuming. Shortly thereafter, Urban's then-girlfriend broke up with him because his "novelty" had "worn off." Her rejection "devastated" Urban, and that's when "s**t started to really go awry," he said.

Keith Urban's history of substance abuse is more common than you'd think

The feelings Keith Urban described in the interview aren't uncommon among those with substance abuse issues. According to a 2011 study published by the scientific journal Addict Health, scientists found a definitive connection between self-esteem and drug users. Individuals with lower self-esteem are, in fact, at a higher risk for engaging in substance abuse. And while it's unclear as to whether or not Urban has ever been diagnosed with a particular mental health issue like depression or anxiety, the feelings of insecurity and alienation are common among those battling myriad types of mental health issues — a demographic in which self-medication through substance abuse has become overwhelmingly common and, in turn, the advent of dual diagnoses and specialized treatment for both.

Unfortunately for Urban, like many who attempt to self-medicate in this fashion, his use of cocaine led him to seek out other substances and spiraled out of control to the brink of suicidal ideation. "I'd go to sleep, wake up a couple of hours later, go at it again, drinking to take the edge off," Urban recounted in his 2016 Rolling Stone interview. At that point, Urban was also using cocaine, Ambien, and ecstasy in addition to alcohol. "I remember thinking, 'I'm probably not going to make it until tomorrow'... I remember thinking, 'Oh, good, this is the end of it, yahoo.' I was quite happy about it."

Keith Urban says Nicole Kidman 'saved' his life

According to Keith Urban, the country singer's addiction to drugs and alcohol finally began to take its toll in 1998, nearly six years after trying cocaine for the first time. Urban subsequently entered rehab for his substance abuse issues around that time — his first stay of three stints total over the next eight years. (It's important to note that relapses among those addicted to drugs and alcohol are not uncommon. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as many as 60 percent of patients diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder experience relapses, though many don't seek treatment until after relapse occurs.)

Urban's watershed came in 2005 after the singer first met actress Nicole Kidman. The couple tied the knot in 2006 after a year-long courtship, but despite their picturesque romance, Urban was in the midst of another relapse. It was only when Kidman staged an intervention soon after their wedding that Urban realized the stakes: Without treatment, he could lose Kidman forever. "I caused the implosion of my fresh marriage. It survived, but it's a miracle it did," Urban told Rolling Stone in 2016, crediting his love for Kidman as the impetus for his continuing recovery. "I was spiritually awoken with her... And for the first time in my life, I could shake off the shackles of addiction." 

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse and mental health, please contact SAMHSA's 24-hour National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).