Tom Waits has been sober for fifteen years now. He told the Guardian about it in 2006, saying:
"Oh, you know, it was tough. I went to AA. I'm in the program. I'm clean and sober. Hooray. But, it was a struggle."
Does he miss it?
"Nah. Not the way I was drinking. No, I'm happy to be sober. Happy to be alive. I found myself in some places I can't believe I made it out of alive."
Has sobriety affected his creative process?
"No. I don't think so. I mean, one is never completely certain when you drink and do drugs whether the spirits that are moving through you are the spirits from the bottle or your own. And, at a certain point, you become afraid of the answer. That's one of the biggest things that keeps people from getting sober, they're afraid to find out that it was the liquor talking all along.
"I was trying to prove something to myself, too. It was like, 'Am I genuinely eccentric? Or am I just wearing a funny hat? What am I made of? What's left when you drain the pool?'"
NPR Fresh Air's Terry Gross asked him about this last comment in 2011.
WAITS: You know, maybe the drugs and alcohol are more of a vacation from reality, you know? Yeah, am I just wearing a funny hat? Am I just trying to say weird stuff, or am I really peculiar, genuinely?
GROSS: Did you want to be peculiar?
WAITS: Well, I wanted - I've always wanted to be curious and provocative, I guess, and interesting, and interested in this kind of sparkling, you know, sapphire we all call home, you know. I always wanted to be mystified by it all - and rather fascinated with life itself. I think maybe when you drink, you're probably robbing yourself of that genuine experience, even though it appears what you're doing is getting more of it. You're getting less of it. And it takes a while, when you've had a rock on the hose like that for so long. It takes a while for the hose to be a hose again, you know, and for things to start flowing.