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Book Review: Heroin Diaries – A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star by Nikki Sixx

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The year 2007 had its share of celebrity addiction and drug abuse stories. Babyshambles front man, Pete Doherty, and funky jazz singer, Amy Winehouse, both got plenty of press for their addiction struggles. The Mitchell Report, the document that named over 80 major league baseball players as steroid users, was released in December. Another drug-related story of the year was the September publication of The Heroin Diaries, Nikki Sixx’s extraordinary autobiography that follows a hellish year and then some during his addiction to heroin and cocaine, and his life with Mötley Cruë.

Sixx begins with an introduction that includes an alternative medical dictionary written by Lemmy of Motörhead (“Depression: When everything you laugh at is miserable and you can’t seem to stop,” Or “Psychosis: When everybody turns into tiny dolls and they have needles in their mouths and they hate you and you don’t care because you have THE KNIFE!”).

He also lists a cast of characters – those who were part of his life at the time: former drug buddy Vanity, his mother, his grandfather, former managers and recording label reps, his ex Hell’s Angel security chief, and his Cruë: Mick Mars, Tommy Lee, and Vince Neil.

The timeline for the Diaries is December 1986 to December 1987. As if flaunting his precarious self-esteem to the fates, Sixx begins the journaling at Christmas, one of the most emotionally fragile times of the year. As one might think, his mood isn’t the greatest, and it never improves much during the course of the next year.

It gets much worse.

The entries are not all invites to a slammin’ pity party, though. Sometimes the writing is boastful, whether about how great a particular show was or how much Jack Daniels everyone just drank. Other times Sixx is just chronicling events and attitudes. From June 1987:

The Rolling Stone writer is hanging around asking us questions. I wish he would leave us alone. He doesn’t know shit about rock ‘n roll. The same typical stupid questions: how many girls do we fuck? How much do we party? No questions about music, spirit, lyrics, soul, no questions about the Dolls or Angus Young, just the same old bubblegum magazine bullshit.

Sprinkled throughout the book are mention of musicians and celebrities that were part of Sixx’s world. Of Gene Simmons he says, “But I can’t possibly like him as much as he likes himself. That would be impossible.” There’s also an answering machine message from Steven Tyler, “…asking if I was OK. So weird – this guy who I idolized as a kid is looking out for me as if he is my dad. Which is more than my dad ever did…”

Then there’s the bit about hiring some bikers to go after General Hospital’s Jack Wagner. Yes, really. And Richard Pryor? “It never even came to my mind that Richard was black and my mom was white. I’ve never cared about important shit like that.” My favorite ‘celebrity sighting’ is the casual mention of a younger band on the cusp. From November 1987:

I’m going over to see Slash and the guys…they join the tour tonight.” “Guns N’ Roses was awesome last night…Anyway, I think they’re going to be huge but what do I know? I thought the same about the Ramones.

For as many nasty rocker boy war stories, there are the real killers, when Nikki Sixx is at his most deluded, strung out and — as he’d put it — fucked up. His private (okay, maybe not so private) anguish that came after doing coke usually involved a strangling paranoia. Sixx would get so freaked he was convinced his house was under surveillance or attack by all manner of police, military, or some sort of drug fueled bogeymen. Many nights that began with a few lines ended up with Sixx in his closet (his private insane drug den) with his journal and a loaded shotgun. Heroin would ease the jittery paranoia, but at an extraordinary price.

When I’m losing my mind, the only thing that can save me is heroin. I love the ritual of heroin. I love the smell and the way it looks when it goes into the needle…I love the moment just before I push…Then I’m under that warm blanket once again, and I’m perfectly content to love there for the rest of my life. Thank God for heroin…it never lets me down.

He adds, “I’m off the methadone, it didn’t work.”

Sixx wasn’t the first entertainer to bring his personal torment to print and he won’t be the last. Even his history that led up to his drug years and acting out was not terribly unusual, horrifying, or unique, but that’s not to say his past didn’t contribute to his addiction and depression. As he explained in his introduction, he would have found drugs, even without the band and the fame.

People over the years have tired to soften the blow by saying maybe being in Mötley Cruë turned me into an addict…but I don’t think it did. That stroke of genius was all my own work. Even as a kid, I was never inclined to dodge a bullet….I was stubborn, strong-willed and always willing to put myself in harm’s way for the betterment of chaos, confusion and rebellion – all the traits that made me famous and later infamous. The ingredients for success and failure wrapped up in a nice package with the emotional stability of a Molotov cocktail. When I moved to LA in the late ‘70s and discovered cocaine, it only amplified these charming characteristics.

Perhaps though, Sixx would have cleaned up faster if his entourage made his well-being a priority instead of cash. Rock ‘n rollers seldom had an E.A.P. (Employee Assistance Program) in the mid ‘80s. Even as today’s steroid-tainted ball players are contending, sometimes management is all about profit and turn blind eyes to what is really going on. Don’t ask; don’t tell.

Today, Nikki Sixx is truly a changed man, yet he’s the same as always. Lots of creative energy, lots of the wise-ass in him still. It took him several more years to really quit everything, but he’s replaced drugs with his children and many projects including Sixx AM, the band that recorded the well received Heroin Diaries soundtrack, and Running Wild in the Night, a charity to help runaway kids through the Covenant House, and of course performing with a happier, cleaner Mötley Cruë

Reading the alternately somber, sick, and often humorous pages of Sixx’s book makes you want to reach out to Nikki Six and the rest of the Cruë. Depending on which passage you just finished, you may want to shake, slap, or hug them, but one thing is clear. The Heroin Diaries should do what the “cautionary tale” Reefer Madness film never could – scare the crap out of you.

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  • Seth

    ive allready read this book, and thought it was rediculously good and disturbing at the same time. but i have to say, if i hadnt read the book allready and only read your review,it would undoubtedly force me to go out and read this book. great work.