Stephen King has written 63 books in 35 years and is estimated to be worth around $157 million, according to the Daily Mail. But the now 62-year-old spent much of his early years battling both drug and alcohol addiction. He even freely admits that he can barely remember working on some of is best-known classics.
In 1999, King was hit by a car while walking down the side of a road in his hometown Maine. The accident, which left him severely injured and bed-ridden for months, acted as a prompt for the author to finish and finally publish his autobiography/ guide to writing, which he had abandoned several months previously.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft gave readers insight into King’s literary technique, but also provided intimate details of his life as a writer from child to world-acclaimed author.
In the book, King writes that he first got drunk on a school-trip in 1966, aged 18, and did not manage to shake off the habit until it threatened to take his life.
“Alcoholics build defences like the Dutch build dikes,“ he writes. “I spent the first twelve years or so of my married life assuring myself that I ’just liked to drink’.“
King married fellow college student Tabitha in 1971 and the pair had children shortly afterwards. The stress of having to sustain a family on a meagre teaching wage fed King’s addiction and he admits to being surprised and thankful that his wife did not leave him.
By 1985 the writer had added drug addiction, mainly cocaine and marijuana, to his alcoholism, but continued functioning on a “marginally competent level“. The problem spiralled and, at his lowest point, King was found passed out with blood gushing from his nostrils due to the excess cocaine intake.
It was then that wife Tabitha stepped in: “She organized an intervention group formed of family and friends and I was treated to a kind of ’This Is Your Life’ in hell.“
“Tabby began by dumping a trashbag full of stuff from my office out on the rug: beercans, cigarette butts, cocained in gram bottles and cocaine in plastic Baggies, coke spoons caked with snot and blood, Valium, Xanax, bottles of Robitussin cough syrup and NyQuil cold medicine, even bottles of mouthwash,“ which King also drank.
Mrs King gave her husband an ultimatum and, even in his addled state, he decided to take the “rope ladder“, which was being thrown to him.
After initial depression and overcoming the fear that mind-altering substances were essential to producing good work, King recovered. He has since gone on to write bestsellers such as The Green Mile and the Dark Tower fantasy series.
Images: robbophotos and Wikimedia Commons