July 17th, 2012
04:00 PM ET
Elton John says in a new interview that he has the late AIDS activist Ryan White to thank for helping save his life.
The legendary singer told NPR that he decided to stop living so recklessly after he got to know the Indiana teenager, who was a poster child for HIV/AIDS in the United States in the 1980s.
White prompted John to get help for substance dependency, a past that still haunts the Brit father of one.
"I still dream, twice a week at least, that I've taken cocaine and I have it up my nose," John told NPR's Steve Inskeep about the days when he was using the drug, which he discusses in a new memoir entitled “Love is the Cure.” "And it's very vivid and it's very upsetting, but at least it's a wake-up call."
He first used cocaine when it was brought into a recording studio in the '70s, and at the time, "I was so ignorant about drugs and so naive," John said. "I mean, my band was smoking marijuana for years; I didn't even know what a joint was. And I'd never seen a line of cocaine in my life, and I don't know whether it's bravado, or, 'OK, I'll join in,' but, [in] my stupidity, I had a line of coke and that started the whole process."
But after White's death in 1990, John really began to take stock in his own future.
"When I knew Ryan [White], I knew that my life was out of whack,” he said. “I knew that I had to change. And after he died, I realized that I only had two choices: I was either going to die or I was going to live, and which one did I want to do? And then I said those words, 'I'll get help,' or, 'I need help. I'll get help.' And my life turned around."
John said it was White’s example that prompted him to start the Elton John AIDS Foundation after he sought help for his issues. The Elton John Foundation, which he founded in 1992, provides grants to support HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment programs.
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