What Chester Bennington Taught Us about Addiction and Depression
I remember in junior high school when the guys and I pressured my friends mom to drive through a snow storm to the concert. After bugging a couple buddies to pitch in and buy me and my friend Chris tickets to see Linkin Park live in Columbus, Ohio for their 2003 tour with Hoobastank, Story of the Year and POD. While some of my crew preferred these bands I had history with Linkin Park albums:
- Hybrid Theory
I mean come on; Meteora was one of the highest selling alternative music albums of all time! Hybrid Theory went multi-Platinum in several countries! You don’t have to love Linkin Park to acknowledge the impact this band had on music.
We were only 13 or 14 years old, and it was a massive crowd, probably full of lost kids just like us. Linkin Park is that sometimes melodic, sometimes growling scream that spoke to something in so many people. At 11 and 12 years old, when their fame was just beginning, their songs put words to things I didn’t know how to say. It was gloom and rage that inspired millions of people.
Granted in years since, I have grown away from their changes in sound and style. But I remember having the LP patches and stickers all over my stuff, next to my Tupac and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
I remember wanting to dye my hair and spike it out… because punk rock! And to freak out my mom.
And I remember listening to Reanimation on repeat trying to learn all the new words to remixes of my old favorites.
I remember when they did a remix album Collison Course with Jay Z.
And I remember stomping around the street in my small Midwestern neighborhood, late night in the pouring rain, banging my head to “One Step Closer” feeling like the most misunderstood kid ever.
So when the news broke today that the lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington had died it was so surreal. But when you look back at the artists music and his life, we have always been given a window into his pain, through a fierce puncturing scream and emotional lyrics.
Initial reports from TMZ were later reiterated by various sources of Bennington’s passing. Brian Elias, the chief of operations for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, confirmed the death reports. At the tragically young age of 41, Chester Bennington leaves behind 6 children from two relationships. Not to mention a loyal family of musicians and millions of fans all over the world.
According to Elias the singer’s death is currently being investigated as a possible suicide. Chester Bennington was close friends with the other legendary rock vocalist Chris Cornell, who recently committed suicide in May. On what would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday, Bennington appears to have taken his own life.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter were lit up in a matter of hours with thousands and thousands of fans sending their love and support to Bennington’s family and the band. Celebrities from Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to director Joss Whedon, rockers like Corey Taylor of Slipknot and graphic artists like BossLogic, to Chance the Rapper, Killer Mike and Cypress Hill took to the internet to pay homage and talk about how Linkin Park’s music helped them through tough times.
Chester Bennington: Pain and Addiction
With songs that were full of dark and deeply personal themes and words, it is not hard to imagine that Chester Bennington faced his demons. But Bennington himself has been open about his fight with drug and alcohol addiction throughout his life, and his battles with the abuse he faced in his childhood.
Skimming through multiple sites and past interviews, you find that in life Chester Bennington had seen his fair share of darkness. In an interview years back he opened up about being molested and beaten by an older male friend beginning at age seven. At 11 years old, his parents divorced and he was forced to live with his father. After discovering drugs, he used:
At one point saying in an interview in 2016 he was taking 11 hits of acid a day:
“I dropped so much acid I’m surprised I can still speak. I’d smoke a bunch of crack, do a bit of meth and just sit there and freak out. Then I’d smoke opium to come down. I weighed 110 pounds.”
Benning was able to avoid heavy drug use for a while, but after becoming hugely successful, drugs found their way back into his life. For a few years after getting clean in 2006, Bennington went on to openly discussed how his fight with addiction and his recovery fed into the roaring rage and agony in his music. In an interview in 2009 with Noisecreep, Bennington stated:
“I have been able to tap into all the negative things that can happen to me throughout my life by numbing myself to the pain so to speak and kind of being able to vent it through my music,”
“I don’t have a problem with people knowing that I had a drinking problem. That’s who I am and I’m kind of lucky in a lot of ways cause I get to do something about it.”
One of the most well-known songs Linkin Park ever released was the haunting and heartbroken song “Crawling” from their debut album Hybrid Theory. The video was pretty cool visually for its time, and the song itself is pretty much the pinnacle of emotional screaming “nu rock” of the early 2000s. Linkin Park later won the Grammy for best hard rock performance in 2001 for “Crawling”.
You want to see something intense, watch the clips of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington sing “Crawling” live on stage in 2008.
Later on Bennington was quoted as saying this song particularly was,
“- about feeling like I had no control over myself in terms of drugs and alcohol.”
He went on to explain the feeling of being able to write the words, sing that feeling into his music and win a Grammy after selling millions of records. In another interview, when discussing his back and forth battle with addiction and relapse Chester Bennington talked about the song “Breaking the Habbit” and how upon reading the lyrics, he broke into tears because he felt that at the time his band mate and fellow vocalist Mike Shinoda was writing about his life.
In His Own Words
In an interview that recently became on viral video in light of the tragic death of Chester Bennington, the singer himself made a profound statement about struggling with life on life’s terms, depression and the desire to give up, saying:
“None of us are immune from just shit happening to you, and not to you but just making poor choices or being human. There’s always that element and for me life got really weird and really hard all at one time.
There was a few times over the last couple years where I was just ready to throw in the towel and just give up on everything, but I found that, for me most of my suffering is self-inflicted.”
He later continues stating:
“I’ve always had this depressive side, and I think that’s something some people may not have gone down the road of injecting and living on the streets and that kind of stuff, so they think ‘Oh my story’s not that bad’. Dude, no man, if you’re here, if you’re here, it’s that bad.”
His words have always been good for striking a nerve. Now especially these words are easy to relate to, and easy to see how Bennington was desperate for something… what, we may never really know.
In death, Bennington has shown us that we don’t always know what people are going through. Back in 2016 he had told an interviewer from Metal Hammer,
“The idea that success equals happiness pisses me off. It’s funny to think that just because you’re successful you’re now immune to the full range of the human experience.”
It has become another tragic and heartbreaking example of how success in the professional or monetary sense does not make someone happy. That recovery and sobriety can be a battle, and no amount of money or prestige can make someone content with their own mind.
In life, Chester Bennington used his music to teach us about experiencing our pain as a beautiful thing, and to find ways to express it. His music showed a lot of young people they were not alone, and that being hurt did not mean they had to be afraid. And even if you were afraid, he admitted that fear is how we fall. He spoke openly in interviews countless times over the years about the traumas he personally had to face, and about the devastation he had put himself through in that process. Chester Bennington taught us we didn’t have to be perfect to be transparent, and for some of us gave us a reason to relish in the fury of youth.
Bennington talked about finding something worth fighting for, whether it was freedom and human rights, or identity and creativity. By uniting so many people from all over the globe in common emotional intensity, it is music like that of Linkin Park that also removes some of the stigma surrounding depression, addiction and trauma. And this news has inspired a greater call to action for anyone struggling with substance use disorder, depression or abuse to reach out and find help any way they can.
From one kid who knows depression, anxiety and alcoholism… and who discovered unique forms of self-expression through your music and the various projects you were involved with visually and otherwise, thank you for all you gave us.