Eric Clapton’s prayer for sobriety

By Steve Beard

Long considered one of rock ’n’ roll’s iconic guitarists, Eric Clapton had a problem. He was in the middle of a tour in Australia when he realized he couldn’t stop shaking. “For the second time, I’d reached the point where I couldn’t live without a drink and I couldn’t live with one.”

eric-clapton-the-autobiography1-e1270487491946As a new father, Clapton knew he had to get back into treatment. In his new autobiography, he states that he did it for his son Conor. “I thought no matter what kind of human being I was, I couldn’t stand being around him like that,” he writes. “I couldn’t bear the idea that, as he experienced enough of life to form a picture of me, it would be a picture of the man I was then.”

Clapton had been to rehab and tried to control his drinking, but once again it was controlling him. “I now had two children, neither of whom I was really administering to, a broken marriage, assorted bewildered girlfriends, and a career that, although it was still ticking over, had lost its direction. I was a mess.”

His love for his son was a prime motivation. Clapton wanted things to be different for Conor from what he had experienced as a boy. “I had to break the chain and give him what I had never really had—a father,” he writes. Clapton had grown up believing that his grandparents who raised him were actually his parents. His childhood was miserable and he was scrambling to make sure history didn’t repeat itself.

Ticking off the days in rehab, he came to the terrifying realization that nothing had really changed about his desires and that he was going to go back outside the safe confines of the treatment center completely unprepared to deal with his addiction.

“The noise in my head was deafening, and drinking was in my thoughts all the time,” he writes. “It shocked me to realize that here I was in a treatment center, a supposedly safe environment, and I was in serious danger. I was absolutely terrified, in complete despair.

“At that moment, almost of their own accord, my legs gave way and I fell to my knees. In the privacy of my room I begged for help. I had no notion who I thought I was talking to, I just knew that I had come to the end of my tether, I had nothing left to fight with,” Clapton confesses. “Then I remembered what I had heard about surrender, something I thought I could never do, my pride just wouldn’t allow it, but I knew that on my own I wasn’t going to make it, so I asked for help, and, getting down on my knees, I surrendered.”

That was in 1987. Eric Clapton has now celebrated 20 years of sobriety.

It took only a few days after that experience for him to realize that something profound had taken place within his life. “An atheist would probably say it was just a change of attitude, and to a certain extent that’s true, but there was much more to it than that,” he conveys. “I had found a place to turn to, a place I’d always known was there but never really wanted, or needed, to believe in.

“From that day until this, I have never failed to pray in the morning, on my knees, asking for help, and at night, to express gratitude for my life and, most of all, for my sobriety,” Clapton continues. “I choose to kneel because I feel I need to humble myself when I pray, and with my ego, this is the most I can do. If you are asking why I do all this, I will tell you… because it works, as simple as that. In all this time that I’ve been sober, I have never once seriously thought of taking a drink or a drug. I have no problem with religion, and I grew up with a strong curiosity about spiritual matters, but my searching took me away from church and community worship to the internal journey. Before my recovery began, I found my God in music and the arts, with writers like Hermann Hesse, and musicians like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter. In some way, in some form, my God was always there, but now I have learned to talk to him.”

In 1991, Clapton’s four-year-old son died from an accidental fall from a Manhattan highrise. “I cannot deny that there was a moment when I did lose faith, and what saved my life was the unconditional love and understanding that I received from my friends and my fellows in the 12-step program,” he writes. The song “Tears In Heaven” emerged out of the anguish of the tragedy in order to help him cope.

Clapton would go to his 12-step meetings and people would get him coffee and let him vent. On one occasion, he was asked to chair the session on the third step—the one about handing your will over to the care of God. During the session, he recounted the mystical experience he had when he fell to his knees and asked for help to stay sober. “I told the meeting that the compulsion was taken away at that moment, and as far as I was concerned, this was physical evidence that my prayers had been answered,” he relates. “Having had that experience, I said, I knew I could get through this.”

Much to his surprise, a woman came up to Clapton after the meeting and said, “You’ve just taken away my last excuse to have a drink.” He asked her what she meant. “I’ve always had this little corner of my mind which held the excuse that, if anything were to happen to my kids, then I’d be justified in getting drunk,” she said. “You’ve shown me that’s not true.”

Clapton came to the sudden realization that perhaps there was a way to turn his excruciating pain and tragedy into something that could help someone else. “I really was in the position to say, ‘Well, if I can go through this and stay sober then anyone can.’ At that moment I realized that there was no better way of honoring the memory of my son.”

Steve Beard is the creator of This article appeared in 2007 in Risen.

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13 Responses to Eric Clapton’s prayer for sobriety

  1. Kate says:

    I’m struggling with addiction. I have fell to my knees many times. This time feels
    stronger. I’m on day 5.

    Thank you for your words.


  2. Nicholas dimarco says:

    Hi im nick what a story cant believe he went through that with his son. Props to not picking up. I just had a little boy who i would do anything for. Been clean for. A little over a month i want to shoot dope almost everyday but then i look at my little boy and i know its the wrong thing to gonna get on my knees and pray to someone see if it brings any relief or luck.

  3. Amy Schifers says:

    Amy Schiffers

    Today I pray for my brother Pete. It is his 1st year of sobriety. He is a wonderful brother, father amd son of God. Please prayy for Pete, that he makes it thru the holidays with ease.

    I pray for all od us that we have the courage to face what demons life throws our way. CONGRATULATIONS my dear brother Pete. Love Amy

  4. Terri Lee Smyth says:

    I’m only on day 4 and in constant prayer. I need this for me and for my family. Please pray for me.

    • Mona says:

      Dear Lord, we know that you are the Redeemer and you save lives, and perform miracles. We ask that you fill our sister Terri Lee Smyth with the courage and strength to resist any and all temptations; that she be filled with the Holy Spirit as she conquers the demon of addiction. Bless her journey, and guide her steps, Lord as we thank you for leading her out of the shadows and into the light. Bless Terri and her family as they become whole. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen

  5. Kathie says:

    God bless you all. 30 years, but it’s a day at a time for me. OMG, life throws stuff at me and I use those as excuses maybe a drink of whiskey will ease the pain. I’m grateful that i am able to say to me, “God, help me, I need YOU’re help, I cannot do this alone. Amen.” I have come to strongly believe prayer is powerful. God listens, and answers if we believe in Him, and we trust that He will answer our prayers, and help us heal. Please kneel upon your knees, it’s very powerful. God bless each and everyone of you out there.

  6. Timothy Potts says:

    Thank you for the article. I have been researching Clapton’s faith on the internet. In the subject article the words “God” and “Jesus” do not appear; however, they do elsewhere. We have seen many cases of famous persons saying they had become Christians only to later see it wasn’t real. Eric’s looks real to me. For years, in his music and performances I have seen evidence of his faith in what he says and what he does and what he doesn’t do. This to me is just as impressive as his music because of where he came from.

    As to his music, he is by far the most impressive musician I have ever heard or seen. Not just in recording and playing, but in all aspects of the music and in his relationship with the other persons involved in making it. I have been semi addicted to his music for 52 years. I wish I could play guitar. I put him #3 on the list of persons I would most like to meet. Behind Jesus and Billy Graham.

  7. Larry G. Williams says:

    God bless all who are fighting addiction. I pray for all.

  8. Francis Schaeffer’s controversial son, Franky, was living in the L’Abri community Fran began in Huemoz (Switzerland) in 1955, to try to give “honest answers to honest questions” to anyone who asked them. Franky found a lighting job at the Montreux festival when Led Zeppelinwas the guest rock band playing that year, and Franky noted that guitarist Jimmy Page was reading “Escape From Reason”. When he introduced himself, Page told him that his father’s book was “very cool”. He also told Franky that Eric Clapton had given it to him after reading it himself. That is how widespread Schaeffer’s influence had become in the early 70’s.

    I also enjoyed reading Eric Clapton’s autobiography. I have read about 50 rocker autobiographies and Keith Richards and Clapton are among my favorites. About 90% of them say the same 4 things: First, I used to chase the girls! Second, I used to chase the $. Third, I used to chase the drugs/liquor. Fourth, I used to chase the fame, but I now realize that I was not satisfied with my life then but in my old age I realize loving one woman and loving my children has brought me the most satisfaction than anything I experienced in my foolish youth, and I am sad for those who are still chasing down those rabbit holes.

    Those autobiographies remind me of one written by King Solomon 3,000 years ago named ECCLESIASTES. His conclusion was that Liquor, Lust, Learning, Luxury, Labor, and Laughing can not bring satisfaction UNDER THE SUN, but we must look above the sun and serve God from our youth if we want to get a head start on finding the true meaning of life!

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