Deryck Whibley: 'I had pretty much just damaged everything'

Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley talks to CBC News about the close call he had with alcohol addiction, dealing with overnight fame and getting back on his feet - and on stage.

Catapulted to rock fame after high school, tireless partying almost cost Canadian singer his life

Deryck Whibley's brush with death

8 years ago
Duration 3:37
Sum 41 frontman on how partying nearly led to his death.

Deryck Whibley didn't see it coming.

The Canadian rock star and Sum 41 frontman had many years of good times.

When he was barely out of high school, Whibley and his pals from Ajax, Ont., catapulted to fame and became a world-famous rock band. They sold millions of records and toured the world.

But the party never stopped.

"I'm kind of one of those people that I push myself probably a little too hard with work and with playtime as well and at some point, it just all catches up with you, I guess," Whibley, now 34, said in a recent interview with CBC News, his first since revealing that drinking had put him in hospital.

Over time, Whibley didn't see how far things had gone. That's in part because he remained functional — he toured, he wrote music, he endured.

In mid-May, Deryck Whibley posted the image above to his website, as part of a post describing the toll that alcohol had taken on his health. (
"I never felt anything weird, everything just felt normal ... I just thought: it's just alcohol, it can't really harm you that much. But sure enough, it can," Whibley said.

"You justify your partying and alcohol at the time — to say, 'Well, if I wasn't drinking, I wouldn't have written this song,' but it's kind of bullshit, really."

Before landing in hospital this year, Whibley said his drinking was "raising some eyebrows" among the people in his life. Things reached a point where he had liquor delivered directly to his Los Angeles home.

"Every single day, it would show up at my door," he said. "You didn't have to show ID or anything."

He'd order a bottle of vodka each morning, which would be gone by the next day.

That was the case for about six months, up until the day he poured himself a drink and collapsed.

He woke up in hospital.

"I didn't really know why I was there, what was going on and the severity of it. It just sort of all, kind of hit me all at once," Whibley said.

The doctors were painting a grim picture.

'Glad I didn't go out like Jim Morrison'

"I've been close to death many times and I've always sort of skated through and this one was the closest I think," said Whibley. "They were just telling me my liver had failed and my kidneys had collapsed … I had pretty much just damaged everything inside of me."

Today, he's feeling better than he was before his month in hospital. There are some lingering issues he's still dealing with, but the bottom line is he's still alive — something he is grateful for.

A student of rock 'n' roll history, Whibley knows there are others who haven’t been so fortunate.

This photo of Deryck Whibley was posted to the Sum 41 Facebook page on May 23, along with a message from the singer, thanking others for their support. (Sum 41 Facebook page)

"You know, I'm glad I didn't go out like Jim Morrison: a little too young, which I almost did," he said.

Whibley decided to share his story with fans last month on his website.

"When everything that happened to me after years and years of drinking so much, I never realized that I was taking it that far, I never realized that I would end up in the hospital like that," he said. "I just wanted our fans to know that it can happen to you, too, if you’re not careful."

He’s thankful to the people who have reached out to him and to those he reached out to for support himself, including well-known rockers Iggy Pop, Tommy Lee and Duff McKagan.

Whibley says he's drawn support from many family members and friends, including his fiancée.

"Everybody around me has been very supportive and very helpful," he said.

His ex-wife, Avril Lavigne, tweeted her support after Whibley went public with his health problems. He said the two remain friends and keep in touch.

Asked if he's worried about how he will stick to sobriety, Whibley said he's not, but also that no one can predict what will happen in the future.

Since getting out of hospital, Whibley has been writing some songs, including while on a recent visit home to Canada. He plans to work toward getting back out on stage and performing live.

"I do miss playing right now. It's been long enough now, I'm getting that itch, I want to be back out on tour," he said.

Whibley can't say when that will be. That will depend on the music, which he says will be worth the wait.

"All I know is I’m not putting out anything until I really feel like it's great," he said.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?