Since the age of 14, Jelly Roll has been in jail upwards of 40 times on a variety of drug charges. But the 39-year-old “Save Me” singer (born Jason DeFord) told People that before he became a best new artist Grammy nominee and landed three No. 1 country chart hits he realized he needed to make some serious changes in his drinking and drug-taking.
“I had to learn that you could drink alcohol without doing cocaine. It took me a long time to learn that,” he told the magazine. “I’ve never said that, but that’s real. There was a long time where I just assumed, when people told me they drank without doing cocaine, I was like, I thought we only drank to do cocaine.”
That complicated substance tangle continued to be challenging once Jelly tried to figure out his relationship with alcohol outside of drugs; he said that he “never really had a problem with alcohol” and still has the occasional cocktail, even as he tries to stay away from drugs. “I thought [drinking] was to make us not feel like drug addicts. Nobody wants to snort cocaine sober, then you’re a drug addict,” he said. “But I had to re-look at my relationship with alcohol like that.”
And though it sounds like he was able to get those vices under control without the help of rehab, Jelly said that stark wake-up call inspired him to spend his downtime on the road visiting facilities across the country and delivering warm meals while playing a few songs to “do a little encouraging” for those in recovery and youth in juvenile centers.
“I always said that if I ever got in this situation, I would do everything I could to give back,” he said. “The fact that just me showing up places can make people happy is such a gift, and I feel like if God gave me that gift, I should show up.”
While he does still drink a bit and smoke some weed, Jelly said he also drops in on meetings from time-to-time if he’s struggling with his thought patterns. “I just, out of an abundance of respect for the people who really got off the drugs completely, and the alcohol and the weed, I don’t necessarily claim to be a part of the program, because I respect their work and I would never want to diminish it with some of my actions, but AA has done a lot for me,” he said.
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