Aaron Neville reveals details of his decades-long addiction to heroin in his new memoir Tell It Like It Is: My Story.
In excerpts of the book published Wednesday by People, the 82-year-old R&B and soul singer says he started using the drug when he was 16.
“I was an inquisitive kid, always looking for the next sensation, the next experience, the next adventure. For me, heroin was just one more thing like that,” Neville shares in the book.
The New Orleans native grew up in the city’s Calliope housing projects. He tried the drug for the first time while hanging out on a friend’s stoop.
“The first time you do heroin your brain is hooked in and wants it, even if your body isn’t craving it yet,” he explains. “It’s a kind of curiosity, and then it turns into a yearning that you shake off on the weekends, and then before you know it, you’re in the game, running and looking for it everywhere.”
The singer, known for hits including “Tell It Like It Is,” decided he was ready to kick the drug and went to rehab in the 1980s.
“I was really tired of running,” he writes. “I drew a picture of myself on a cross with syringes as the nails. It was killing me slowly. I was ready to kick for good. I was excited and afraid. I knew what mainlining did to me. I knew what withdrawal feels like. But begging off the drugs entirely — that was a new venture. I was 40 years old, and I hadn’t been clean since junior high school.”
Neville says he never touched heroin again after rehab. Although he did later struggle with prescription opioid abuse.
He’s now sober and enjoying life with his wife Sarah A. Friedman, 54, on their farm.
The singer says he decided to share his life story because he “didn’t want anyone else writing it.”
Tell It Like It Is: My Story will be released on Sept. 5.