Ex-HINDER Frontman AUSTIN JOHN WINKLER Went Through 'Seven Rehabs And Eight Sober Livings' Before Achieving Sobriety

November 24, 2023

Former HINDER vocalist Austin John Winkler recently appeared on the "Side Jams With Bryan Reesman" podcast to take about his long and difficult road to sobriety. He departed HINDER, the band he fronted for over 12 years and over four albums, in 2013 when his addictions hampered his ability to perform with them. HINDER had a triple platinum album with "Extreme Behavior" and a gold album with the follow-up "Take It To The Limit". They are known for the songs "Get Stoned" and "Lips Of An Angel". Winkler recently re-recorded the latter song as a duet with country singer Shaylen.

On "Side Jams", Winkler said that he had always been drawn to something to make him escape since he was a kid, and that escape continued for 20 years. The cumulative effect of his drinking and partying before, during, and after his time in HINDER led to the point where he was on dialysis for nine months. He went for four to five hours for four days a week. The singer was fortunate enough to not need a liver transplant.

"It was obviously over time of me just partying and drinking and [taking] tons of opiates," Winkler told "Side Jams". "Just anything that's bad for your liver. I love opiates, I love drinking, and it all caught up to me probably around 2019. I got to the point where I was so bad that all I needed was two shots of vodka and then I wouldn't drink anymore. I would just be hallucinating. And I was completely yellow. I hadn't looked in the mirror, and the doctor was, like, 'Why are you so yellow?' And I had no clue I was yellow. It was not pretty towards the end. Like I said, just two shots and that was just to keep me from shaking and so I can think that I was functioning. But, man, I thought that I had the cast of 'House Of 1000 Corpses' [stalking me]. The last month of me using was waking up having a couple shots back so I could just function, and I would just peek around the room thinking that these guys are going to come out and get me. It was full blown paranoia. And I would tell this story two months after I hadn't had a drink in the hospital, thinking it would be true, trying to convince my friends and family. It was crazy. They were in the fucking closet. It was just from drinking two shots of vodka, and that was only to stop shaking. Then I would just hallucinate the rest of the day. I did that for about a month."

After going through dialysis, Winkler was given a two-week break to see how it went. He recalled going to Nashville and recording his 2021 single "SuperJaded" with a catheter sticking out of his chest.

"I took the long way to get there," Winkler said of achieving sobriety. "I had probably seven rehabs and eight sober livings and stuff like that. So it was gradual. Obviously I was something that I wanted to have happen and achieve because I just kept trying to do it. And it just wasn't wasn't taking. I'll tell you what, man, looking at yourself in the mirror, and looking like a 'Simpsons' character — and having the doctor say you may never get your color back — that will definitely scare you into sobriety. That played some part. Definitely when I saw myself I was like, 'This is my bottom. I hit it.' There's lots of different bottoms. There's lots of times that I thought that this was the bottom. [Then when] I spent three months in the hospital, 24 days in the ICU, that was the biggest gift. I mean, as much fucking hell as it was, it was a gift to me. Like, you get a second chance."

Winkler also gave props to MusiCares — a charitable wing of the Recording Academy which provides a safety net of critical health and welfare services to the music community — with offering him assistance.

"It definitely is an amazing program that helped me out," the singer said. "When I first started to try to get sober, they took care of me and put me up and helped me get a whole three months of treatment. They put me where I needed. MusiCares is definitely an amazing program that if anybody is struggling, if you know any musician struggling, reach out to them because they will definitely do all they can."

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