KIX Guitarist RONNIE YOUNKINS Opens Up About His Battle With Alcoholism: 'I'm Just Glad To Be Alive'
February 19, 2022
KIX guitarist Ronnie Younkins, who is unable to tour with the band because he has been placed under house arrest after repeatedly getting in trouble with the police, discussed his battle with alcoholism in a new interview with Adika Live!. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I'm just glad to be alive, and I'm glad that my daughter and my son and my wife talk to me. And I'm glad the guys in the KIX band still talk to me.
"The message that I have to share is that if you get sobriety, do everything in your power to stay there because if you go back out… The disease of alcoholism and drug addiction is progressive. It's categorized as a disease. And it's potentially fatal. This is a disease that causes poor behavior, bad behavior, insane behavior. I mean, I would become — it talks about it in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous — Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I would turn into Mr. Hyde. And even when I wasn't drinking, the physiology of my brain was all messed up so I was always kind of distant from everyone and just not with it. I tried to straighten up and do shows and stuff, and the guys could tell I wasn't playing up to par. I wasn't kidding anyone; I was just kidding myself. And it took my third arrest and being locked down and put in jail and then to getting locked down — thank God — from jail into a rehabilitation center for six months. And I thanked the judge for locking me in there for six months because now I could drive to work and if I see a liquor store, I just go by and [think] 'poison.' Anything that would ruin my life — I don't entertain the idea of a drink. I go to meetings every day. I try to share with others. I'm reading my 'Big Book'. I'm working on step four right now, which is searching and personal and moral inventory of my life. It's got to do with resentments, angers and fears. So I'm working on that right now. And I'm in a good place — I really am."
Ronnie, who is being temporarily replaced in KIX by Bob Paré, an accomplished musician who studied at the Music Institute in Los Angeles and taught music theory and guitar at several institutions, including Western Maryland College and Maryland Institute of Music, continued: "I miss the guys in the KIX band and everything, but they got tired of putting up with my shit. They gave me chance after chance after chance. A guy named Bob Paré — a great guitar player, a friend of mine, a friend of the band, of course — has taken my place, and it's all good. I miss 'em. I miss playing, I miss the whole ritual of it — working on the guitars, packing. I love traveling; I miss that."
Circling back to his recovery, Ronnie said: "I do everything told and I do everything suggested. And I will have one year sober and clean on the 28th of this month. And that's the longest I've had since my 21 years of sobriety. And I'm holding on to my dear life to that. So after the 28th of this month, I'll work on my second year. One day at a time. It's so true.
"I went through a lot of beautiful times in sobriety — a lot of beautiful things with my family, my daughter, my son and my wife. And the guys in the band talk to me; I'm grateful for that."
Last month, KIX singer Steve Whiteman told Canada's The Metal Voice that "[Ronnie] was pretty much being supervised in a halfway house for about a year. And I believe he's finally got his freedom. So we're just kind of waiting to see how he continues to recover," he said. "Because it got ugly there for a while. And we wanna make that he's got his family life together, his own life together, before bringing him back into this temptation that's just around all the time. So we're all pulling for him. We're in touch with him. It's a waiting game at this point — just to make sure that, unsupervised, he's gonna be able to keep it together.
"I know the fans would love to have him back, and we would love to have him back, but it's gotta make sense for everybody," he continued. "And right now we've got the guy that had come in to help us out to replace Ronnie, Bob Paré, is just doing an amazing job, and I don't wanna rock the boat at this point to take a chance. So it's a wait-and-see game to see how he continues to recover and can he continue with his sobriety and get his life back together."
Last November, Whiteman addressed Younkins's condition in an interview with "The Chuck Shute Podcast". He said: "Last I spoke to [Ronnie], he's working, like, two normal jobs. He's still living in a rehabilitation clinic, and he still has a ways to go. Even when he's set free to go out into the world, like he did before, we still have to make sure that he's gonna be able to stay clean and sober. But right now he seems like he's doing really well. He's following all the rules and he's doing everything he can to get his life back in order."
Steve went on to say that Ronnie was sober for 20 years before relapsing and spiraling back down into addiction.
"He got Hep C, and he had to use intravenous needles to battle the Hep C, before the newer treatment came out," Whiteman said. "And we all think that that just kind of took his mentality back to the days when he was using. I mean, that's speculation, and you'd probably have to ask him that, but it seems like that's when things flipped for him."
Whiteman previously discussed Younkins's battle with addiction in a June 2021 interview with Sonic Perspectives. At the time, he said: "It's been an up-and-down adventure with Ronnie over the past five or six years. Sometimes he doesn't show up to gigs, and Brian Forsythe has to take over and play all the parts. Then he comes back for several months and does really well, only to fall off the wagon or get in trouble with the police. This last time, he got into trouble with the police and is currently in a halfway house under house arrest. That's the biggest reason he is not out with us now. We were looking at Bob Paré a couple of years ago when Ronnie was going through a bad stretch, but Ronnie bounced back. When he shows up, he does great, so we didn't make the move back then. This time we were forced to."
Whiteman clarified: "I'm not saying that Ronnie is out of the band. We are just saying [he is not gonna tour with us] until he gets it together [and] his family and these people that are helping him say he is good to go. We are not going to bring him in until he is ready. He has shown in the past he can't be sober on the road. Being out there in a rock and roll band is a very bad environment."
He added: "We have a long history of 40 years together. You want to give him the benefit that he is going to recover and do well. There have been so many times over the last five or six years [when] we didn't know if he was going to make it."
Younkins previously opened up about his drug addiction five years ago, saying that his "disease had gotten worse" after he relapsed several years earlier following two decades of sobriety.
Younkins missed a KIX concert in Pennsylvania in March 2017 when the rest of the group was unable to reach him. He was eventually found "not in great condition and very upset," according to TMZ. A month later, his bandmates revealed that he was "headed to a rehab facility" and promised that his spot in KIX would be "waiting for him" once he was ready to resume playing with the group.
While Younkins was in rehab, he took time out to join his KIX bandmates for a performance in June 2017 at the Sweden Rock Festival, where he gave a wide-ranging interview to Metal Rules that also touched upon his continued battle against substance abuse.
Speaking about his health, Ronnie said: "My disease has gotten worse. I had 21 years of sobriety at one point. Got sober and cleaned up in 1989, but I'd get on… A long story short, what led me back out was complacency in my program. I wasn't doing enough of my work for the AA program like I did in the early years. Then I went on Hepatitis C treatment, or they should call it punishment, the old one that has many side effects, in 2010. One of them being insomnia, and the doctor put me on Ambien, and it fucked me up. It's a sleep drug, and I got hooked on it, and then I wasn't working the program, like with my mom's death — I worked through that at ten years sober. I worked through that with my sponsor. [My] dad died, like, in 2012. Some other shit had happened, and I worked through [it], and some serious things happened.
"We all have issues," he continued. "We all have shit happen in our lives and, you know, I worked through them in the program, but my when my father died, and I was complacent in the program, and I was already high on this fucking Ambien. I said, 'Fuck it.' And, I went out, and I started doing heroin and cocaine again within a month after my dad's death, and it's been nothing but downhill since. I've been through two rehabs, [in] 2014 [and] 2015."
Drug and alcohol rehab statistics show that the percentage of people who will relapse after rehab and even a period of some recovery ranges from 50% to 90%.
Most people do not manage to quit their addiction with their first attempt. They may try and fail a number of times before they manage to secure lasting sobriety.
For addicts that fall back into drug use, there is no guarantee that they will ever be able to stop again; their relapse may turn out to be a death sentence.
Over time, the life of the addict tends to deteriorate. This means that when people relapse, they may be going back to a life that is even worse than before.
Bob was a session musician for several independent label releases, and has spent most of his long career performing live in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area with various bands, including FORCER, EVER RISE, PROJECT: EUPHORIA and, most recently, the RUSH tribute band SUN DOGS with KIX bassist Mark Schenker.
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