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Keith Urban opens up about 15 years of sobriety and effects of dad's alcohol struggles

The country music star also shared why he doesn't talk much about his sobriety and its relation to the views of his fans.
/ Source: TODAY

Keith Urban's career was flourishing, but his personal life was "on fire, completely the wrong way" before Nicole Kidman stepped in just months after their 2006 wedding.

The country music star spoke to the Australian edition of Rolling Stone about getting sober 15 years ago after having grown up with a father who had his own issues with alcoholism. Kidman, 54, staged an intervention just four months after they tied the knot.

Keith Urban
Country star Keith Urban says it took him "a long time to get sober," but a 2006 intervention by wife Nicole Kidman was instrumental. Mickey Bernal / FilmMagic

While declining to get into the "very personal" details about the intervention, Urban, 53, reflected on that time in his life.

"It's not an uncommon story,” he said. “You know, the career's on fire and the personal life is also on fire, completely in the wrong way. That was the case for me. I was a real binge drinker."

Despite his struggles with addiction, he had become a massive country music star after growing up watching his father's heavy drinking. His father, Robert Urban, died in December 2015 from cancer.

"It took me a long time to get sober,” he said. "Took me a long time to recognise my alcoholism. A long time because I didn't drink like my dad, so I compared everything to him. So it just took a long time for me. But I was able to finally make the right choice in my life, that I wish my dad would have made.”

Urban's move from Australia to the country music mecca of Nashville, Tennessee, early in his career also put him in some bad situations like rooming with someone who had cocaine.

"I'd never been around anything like that in Australia," he said. "Only pot smokers, you know, not much more. And suddenly I'm with a guy who is freebasing coke. That was a whole other world that I fell into really fast.”

Urban checked into the Betty Ford Clinic after Kidman's intervention and has now been sober for 15 years as his career has only grown bigger, with 24 No. 1 country hits on his resume. He spoke with Rolling Stone in 2016 about how tenuous things were with Kidman when he entered rehab.

"I caused the implosion of my fresh marriage," he said. "It survived, but it’s a miracle it did. I was spiritually awoken with her. I use the expression ‘I was born into her,’ and that’s how I feel. And for the first time in my life, I could shake off the shackles of addiction."

He told Oprah Winfrey in 2010 that Kidman's decision to stay with him after what was his third rehab stint in eight years ended up saving his life.

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Urban has credited Kidman with saving his life by helping him get sober in 2006. John Shearer / Getty Images for the Country Music Association

"That's the point right there where she really should've just walked," he said. "I'm just so glad she didn't, and she made a decision to turn around and initiate ultimately this intervention and it was done in such a way that the love in that room at that moment was just right. I was like, 'Put the cuffs on, let's go.'"

The four-time Grammy winner has since written multiple songs about his addiction journey in a genre where drinking is a frequent song topic, but doesn't want to impose his personal views on his fans.

"The reason I don't really talk much about sobriety is it's a very personal thing and I don't want anyone thinking that I have a negative opinion of drugs or alcohol,” he told Rolling Stone Australia. “I don't have any at all, none. I want people to come to my concert and do whatever the hell they want to do.

"I don't want people at my concert looking at the stage and thinking about sobriety. That would be the death of a gig for me. It's not what I want. I'm not there for that. I'm not an AA meeting. I'm on stage and I'm playing and I'm singing, and we're going to have a great time. We're going to let go of everything and be in the moment."