Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix Reflects on a Decade of Sobriety: ‘It’s Always a Work in Progress’

The hard-rocking frontman didn’t have the smoothest ride to sobriety, but he found a way to make it stick
Papa Roach
(Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Coachella)

“When I first quit drinking, I was kind of ashamed of myself in a weird way, because I was like, not the real deal,” Papa Roach frontman Jacoby Shaddix says, with a heavy air of sarcasm around the words “real deal.”

When he told his producer, Howard Benson, about his determination to get sober, Benson scoffed and told him sobriety was ruining rock and roll. “First off, fuck that,” Shaddix said in response. “This is not boring. This is a life or death situation for me, so fucking stand down.”

Shaddix has been sober since 2012, a road he first started down in 2005.

“I had a real rough time of it for some years, trying to stay sober and going on the road and touring,” he says. “I was trying to hide it and that wasn’t working out for me, so finally in 2012 was when I had my last sip of alcohol. I’m super grateful, that’s something that I can honestly say. I don’t ever want to fuck with booze again.”

As he looks to continue into the next stage of his career with Papa Roach, it’s important that Shaddix keeps his routine and lifestyle consistent and maintainable when he’s away from the stage. For a long time, his issues with drinking served as a long flame at the end of a powder keg.

“My drinking had really escalated and progressed and really just took off when I was touring and living that rock star lifestyle,” he says. “I’d go on stage and then come back and just go for it until I blacked out or was just a mess.”

Papa Roach
(Credit: Chiaki Nozu/WireImage)

Outside of his career, Shaddix knew the danger his addiction could bring to his family life. His own father had substance abuse issues, and as a father himself, he understood from a very early age that he never wanted to go down that path.

“I became somebody I resented,” Shaddix says. “I became everything that I did not want to be. I always vowed to myself as a young man, I will never become like him ever, and then here I am, looking like a wreck in the mirror.”

As is the case for many, Shaddix’s path to sobriety has seen its fair share of turbulence. He first saw that he needed to make a change when, in the midst of a blackout, he threatened to burn down his house. Instead of calling the cops, his wife called his parents and in the cold light of day let his mother fill him in on what he’d said. But even after that wake-up call, Shaddix struggled to maintain his sobriety on the road, often resorting to drinking while touring after months of sobriety.

In 2012, Shaddix’s wife asked him to leave the house out of fear and concern for his behavior. He moved into his brother’s basement just five miles away from his home — but even then his alcoholism strained that relationship. After a blackout had Shaddix acting like “an ass, just a total ass” at a club his brother, Bryce, worked at, his sibling confronted him.

“[Bryce] came to me the next day, and he said ‘Man, I used to look up to you. I really used to admire you. Now look at you, you’re just a fucking joke,’” Shaddix recalls. “It’s funny because the band said ‘Fuck, Bryce beat us to it, man. We were gonna sit you down a few days later. We had a whole plan!’”

As it turns out, that was the chin check Shaddix needed to make his sobriety a more permanent fixture in his life.

“It was a really hard reality check,” he says. “It would have been easy for me to fall off the wagon and go off the rails, but there was too much at stake. I wasn’t gonna go out like that. This is not my God-intended life. This isn’t how I see my life playing out. I had to stay sober because I wanted to stay sober — and I stayed sober.”

Papa Roach
(Credit: Adrián Monroy/Medios y Media/Getty Images)

One of the major lessons Shaddix learned that extended his sobriety was the dawning realization that he needed to do it for himself, not appease anyone else. Once he saw how much he had already lost —and would continue to lose — to alcoholism, Shaddix was left with the kind of clarity that can be uncomfortable for those who used substances as an escape. Now 10 years sober, he’s “relearned to exist” in ways that he wasn’t previously willing or able to.

“As I peeled away all the things that I medicated myself with, I was left with me — and I wasn’t happy with what I was left with,” Shaddix says. “I had to really take some time to rebuild who I was, who I am, and who I’m becoming. It’s always a work in progress.”

Like being given an entirely new toolbox to work with, sobriety armed Shaddix with new skills for working with a band that’s been steadily touring and recording since the ‘90s. Skills that he knows he’ll need to use to evolve as a musician and not get stuck being a nostalgia act.

“What I’ve learned about my life is that I gotta get good at failing,” he says. “I have to be a professional artist, get back up and learn to then try again — which gets frustrating at times. But I know that if I’m patient with myself and allow myself to see that process through, I’m going to succeed.”

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