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Superstar Elton John has a lot to celebrate lately—he recently commemorated 29 years of sobriety.
Taking to Instagram to mark the occasion, Elton posted a photo of his Alcoholics Anonymous coin, along with an inspiring message.
“Twenty-nine years ago today, I was a broken man,” he wrote. “I finally summoned up the courage to say 3 words that would change my life: ‘I need help.’ Thank-you to all the selfless people who have helped me on my journey through sobriety. I am eternally grateful.”
The post currently has thousands upon thousands of comments, with well-wishers sharing in his celebration. Fans and celebrities alike have flocked to the post to share their own stories and to commend Elton on his incredible achievement.
Among those who shared their own stories with the celebrity, there is a common refrain— “hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Now sober for almost three decades, Elton John has been extremely candid throughout his journey to sobriety. Nearly each year he makes a similar post on social media, with his 25thanniversary memorialized with a cake that read “one day at a time”—the famous motto of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The journey has not been easy.
Elton John, born Reggie Dwight, was an only child who would recall constant fighting between his parents, eventually leading to a split between the pair. The singer had a particularly troubled relationship—or lack thereof—with his father, recalling to PEOPLE Magazine that, “My mother had letters from him saying, ‘He’ll never become a star.’”
Of course, he did become a star—but not without significant challenges along his road to success.
One of Elton’s songs, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” recounts his 1968 suicide attempt, which occurred while he was struggling both personally and professionally.
“It was a little cry for help—there’s been a lot of cries for help,” he told Oprah Winfrey in a television interview about the event. At the time, Elton was engaged to Linda Hannon; after realizing that he was not in love with her, the two separated. Facing wide speculation about his sexuality, Elton publicly came out as bisexual in 1976.
Elton told Variety that he realized he was gay at age 23, and in the recent biopic about his life, Rocketman,it is suggested that Elton’s mother said he “would never be truly loved because he was gay.”
The 1968 incident marked the beginning of a long struggle with mental health and addiction.
In the 1970s, Elton had his first experience with cocaine, after his manager brought it into the recording studio.
In an interview with NPR, he stated that “[…] cocaine was the drug that made me open up. I could talk to people. But then it became the drug that closed me down, because the last two weeks of my use of cocaine I spent in a room in London, using it and not coming out for two weeks. And it completely shut me down.”
Reflecting on this time period, Elton cited his friendship with Ryan White, a teenager dying of AIDS in the early 1990s, as his wake-up call.
Of Ryan White’s death, Elton said, “And after he died, I realized that I only had two choices: I was either going to die or I was going to live, and which one did I want to do?”
Mere months after Ryan’s death, Elton got sober, and has remained so ever since. Later, he would reflect that it took him 16 years to ask for help.
The rest of Elton John’s story is rooted in success, both musically and personally, though his gratitude for life, and what it took him to find sobriety, is an ongoing theme.
Now married to David Furnish, and the father of two sons, the 72-year-old is one of the most recognizable stars of our time, with music that will play for generations to come.
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