Last November, Scott Stapp called his son’s school to report some shocking news: “I’ve uncovered that the core of ISIS is within my own family,” he said in a voicemail. “Please call me immediately.”
The call, which Stapp never explained, was one of the most disturbing incidents in a pattern of erratic and paranoid behavior for the former Creed frontman — so troubling that his wife, Jaclyn, demanded he move out of the house they shared in southern Florida. Stapp spent about a month driving aimlessly around the country and posting unhinged videos to Facebook. In one, he ranted, “There are people who have taken advantage and stolen money from me, and they’re trying to discredit me.” In a phone call around the same time, he went on to suggest his life was in danger. Deeply concerned, Jaclyn called 911. “He thinks he’s part of the CIA,” she told the operator. “And he’s supposed to assassinate Obama.”
In the early 2000s, Creed’s Christian-infused message and Stapp’s shirtless-messiah charisma helped the band sell 50 million albums. But the frontman’s drug and alcohol abuse led to their eventual breakup. Stapp, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was involuntarily placed in a psychiatric facility late last year. After treatment, including medication to control his condition, Stapp was released, and not long after, he and Jaclyn were tentatively back together.
Stapp stayed largely quiet about his recovery until this month, when VH1 began airing the sixth season of the reality series Couples Therapy, which features him and Jaclyn sharing a house with model Janice Dickinson, Mob Wives‘ Angela “Big Ang” Raiola, RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Carmen Carrera, New Jersey rapper Joe Budden and their respective partners.
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For Stapp, the show is an opportunity to prove to the world that his breakdown — which he blames on an interaction between his antidepressants and an unprescribed medication — is behind him. We spoke with Stapp about his mental health, his decision to appear on a reality show and the status of Creed.
What was your first reaction when you were approached about appearing on Couples Therapy?
It was, “I appreciate you reaching out, but I’m not interested.” They had approached us probably two or three times over the years, and we just didn’t feel it was appropriate at the time. But then I discussed it with my wife. Given everything that transpired in our lives over the past year we thought, “Well, alright. I know we initially didn’t want to do this, but let’s hear them out and ask a few questions.”
How did they convince you?
We were really concerned about it being authentic therapy. We were like, “Is this real or just another reality TV show that is scripted?” We had no background in anything like this, so it was all very new. And after multiple conversations, they really laid it out and showed us it was authentic and that Dr. Jenn was really passionate and serious about what she did. We ultimately figured that since my breakdown was so public, we should continue this journey publicly.
It had be very tough adjusting to being filmed around the clock.
It was very awkward at first. Dr. Jenn told us that the 24-hour-a-day microphones and cameras were part of the therapeutic process because it put us into a situation where we couldn’t keep secrets. We could have no secret conversations. Everything was exposed. Nothing could be hidden from the treatment staff or the therapists. Any of our conversations, amongst other people on the show, or even conversations you would think were in private in the bathroom or at night in the bed, weren’t private. They were subject to the scrutiny of the doctors and analyzation in the therapeutic process.
“We ultimately figured that since my breakdown was so public, we should continue this journey publicly.”
I want to talk about the breakdown. When did you first experience symptoms of bipolar disorder?
If I really look back at my life, it started in 1998. And then just progressively though the years it continued to get worse, and it was accelerated by my self-medicating.
So it started to show itself right as Creed was becoming this humongous band?
Yeah. At the time, I just wanted to feel normal. For a period of time, self-medicating works. But, like it always does, it always ends up with a crash.
From the outside, you just looked like another self-destructive rock star.
It’s hard to understand, in my opinion, a disease that you can’t see physically. There’s no cast. There’s no wheelchair, but it is debilitating. It can destroy your life because it’s hard to understand. I spent a lot of time in dark depressions, and that can be misunderstood by your friends and people around you. I definitely suffered the consequences that most people battling a mental illness suffer. You lose relationships, careers. Unfortunately, a lot lose their lives.
How did things reach the point where you were approaching a complete breakdown?
Well, in 2010, I started my journey in recovery from alcohol and drugs. I was really fighting every day to stay sober. I kind of developed a cycle where I would relapse one or two times a year. That was consistent from 2010 up until my breakdown. Basically, I went and got prescribed a medication since I felt a heavy depression coming on. I went and sought a prescription medication that is not a medication that someone in recovery is supposed to take. It had a horrible interaction with my antidepressant, and I went off the deep end. I became extremely paranoid and delusional. It’s what they call in psychiatric terms a “manic psychosis.”
Basically, it was just a continuation of a cycle that I kind of gotten in trying to overcome, at that time, undiagnosed mental illness. I was just always told I was depressed up until that point. Then alcohol and drug addiction, those two worlds collided. I was trying to self-medicate and eventually it spiraled out of control, and I went into a partially drug-induced manic psychosis.
At what point did you get into your car and start to drive across the country?
That was after my wife, Jaclyn, figured that something was up. She’s got good instincts, and she finally discovered that I was taking a prescription medication I wasn’t supposed to be taking as someone in recovery. She said to me, “I don’t want you at home until you stop doing this.” That’s when I went on the drive. My delusions were really bad, and they kept getting stronger and stronger. There was paranoia, delusions and even slight hallucinations. My wife did everything in her power to try and help me.
“I was trying to self-medicate and eventually it spiraled out of control, and I went into a partially drug-induced manic psychosis.”
Your comments about assassinating Obama got a lot of attention. Are you able to figure out why that got into your head?
It’s crazy. I have no idea. When you’re in that mental state, you’re delusional. You’re hallucinating. You’re putting pieces of reality together that are absolutely making no sense. That whole scenario got twisted around because part of me thought, in my delusional state, that I was trying to save Obama, that he was in trouble. And so it got all twisted and convoluted. It’s really impossible to give a reasonable explanation for someone who is in a manic-psychosis state experiencing delusions and hallucinations. There’s no way to make sense of it because it makes no sense at all.
People were curious to learn about your politics after that. Are you a supporter of President Obama? Where do you stand politically?
I love President Obama. And I love this country. I’m definitely a supporter of our country and our government.
Are you more liberal or conservative in your politics?
I’m a registered independent.
Would you say you’re dead center …
Yeah, I’m dead center. On some issues, I lean toward the liberal side. On some issues, I lean conservative. It’s very issues-specific. In some regards, I’m very “government hands-on,” and in other regards, I’m very “government being hands-off.” That’s why I registered as independent when I was 18. I couldn’t pick a side. I go back and forth.
You were put into a psychiatric hold late last year. What happened from there to lift you out of the mental-psychosis state?
It definitely helped to be off that medication, but also they needed to give me [another] medication to restore the chemical balance in my brain. The chemical balance in my brain was completely out of whack. And so after receiving treatment in the MusiCares program through the Grammy association, they guided me to a dual-diagnosis facility. That’s when my recovery began. That’s when we really began to get answers on what happened, why it happened and what we needed to do moving forward.
How are you right now?
I’m definitely taking steps every day to ensure that I stay healthy, to ensure I stay in the right mental frame of mind, and to ensure that I stay sober. I’m actively in a 12-step program. I exercise and work out every day. I eat a healthy diet. And I absolutely go one day at a time, man.
Some people are going to be critical of your choice to appear on a reality show so soon after your breakdown.
Ultimately, we can’t worry about making everyone happy and what everyone thinks. We had to do what we feel is right for our family. And we really felt, given the situation, and how publicly my breakdown was, that it made sense for us to start a journey of healing on the show.
Do you think that Creed are going to tour or record again?
I sure hope so. I recently ran into those guys, totally not planned. Our families ran into each other at the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando a few months back. I was taking my son and my wife down to the pool. I was like 8:30 at night, and I go, “Baby, that’s Mark [Tremonti, Creed guitarist] over there.” I look and it’s Tremonti with his wife and kids, and [Creed drummer] Scott Phillips with his wife and kids. We just ended up hanging out by the pool for like three hours, just talking and catching up with our families together.
Right at that moment, the relationships began to have a new organic-ness. We’ve stayed in communication since then. I know that Mark and the guys have a lot going on, as well as I do. I don’t want to make the same mistake I did in Billboard and give the wrong impression, but I definitely hope that when the time is right, and when our schedules make sense together, given the commitment that we already have, I do hope that we do get back in the studio and make another record. Our 20th anniversary is coming up in 2017. But we’ll see. We’ll see how it works.
Since we spoke with Stapp, he announced a solo tour that begins December 12th in South Africa and hits America in January.