Eddie Van Halen: Guitarist Battles A Life Full Of Alcoholism, Rehab And Cancer

on April 20 2012 12:58 PM
Eddie Van Halen
In a recent interview with Esquire magazine, Eddie Van Halen touches on his battle with cancer and his stint in rehab. Van Halen also pegs his bout with alcoholism in the past on his father, as he claims the fellow musician encouraged him to drink before performances. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

In a recent interview with Esquire magazine, Eddie Van Halen pegs his bout with alcoholism in the past on his father, as he claims the fellow musician encouraged him to drink before performances.

I don't mean to blame my dad, but when I started playing in front of people, I'd get so damn nervous, a now-sober Van Halen, 57, told Esquire. I asked him, 'Dad, how do you do it?' That's when he handed me the cigarette and the drink. And I go, 'Oh, this is good! It works!'

Van Halen, who plays guitar for the recently revived rock band named after him and his brother, Alex, also discusses his battle with cancer and his stint in rehab while opening up to Esquire magazine.

The guitarist says that although he had wanted to stop drinking at one point, and did for a period of time, the absence of alcohol in his life quickly led to an addiction to Klonopin. The muscle-relaxing drug became another problem for him, and in the article he described himself during that period of his life as a catatonic.

All I wanted to do was stop drinking, Van Halen said.  But instead, I literally could not communicate. Yeah, I was gone. I don't know what dimension I went to, but I was not here.

Alcoholism seems to run in the Van Halen family: Eddie Van Halen's father, Dutch musician Jan Van Halen, died in 1986 at the age of 66 due to alcoholism;  his brother Alex, Van Halen's drummer, also suffered from alcoholism.

According to the article, Eddie Van Helen began drinking when he was about 12. The musician made news over the years by undergoing several stints in rehab, andhe even became addicted an anti-anxiety drug while in treatment in 2007. He had to be weaned off the prescription medication to end his addiction to it.

You know when you see homeless people and they're literally not here, you know?, Van Halen said. I laid on the couch for a year. 'Just watching Law & Order. The doctors helped me out with this amino-acid treatment stuff, or whatever it was.

In April of 2001, Eddie confirmed to the world that since May 2000, he had been undergoing treatment for toungue cancer. The surgery removed roughly a third of his tongue before he was declared cancer-free in May 2002.

On Dec. 5, 2005, Eddie's wife, Valerie Bertinelli, filed for divorce in Los Angeles Superior Court, after four years of separation. On March 8, 2007, Van Halen announced on the band's official website that Eddie was entering rehab for unspecified reasons.

While much has gone right for him as of late, Van Halen has since revealed to Esquire that the tongue cancer returned in 2011, twice -- in the spring and in the fall. Doctors removed another piece of his tongue during a routine check-up, which he undergoes several times a year.

The cancer doesn't seem to be slowing Van Halen down as he and the rest of the band, including original front-man David Lee Roth, are in the middle of a full line-up of Spring tour dates.