Rodney King, Months Before Death, Says He's 'Not Totally Sober'

Monday, June 18, 2012

Months before his shocking death this weekend, Rodney King told WNYC that the weight of being the face of racial injustice “took a toll on him” — and that despite his public battle with substance abuse, he was not completely sober.

“I’m not totally sober,” he told WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show in April. “I still drink. I just don’t drink like I used too. You know, I sip. And that’s it.”

King, 47, was found dead Sunday at the bottom of a swimming pool in his home in Rialto, Calif. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday. It’s unclear if drugs or alcohol were involved.

Earlier this year was the 20th anniversary of the riots sparked by the acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers who beat King on March 3, 1991, in a gut-wrenching incident of police brutality.   

King appeared on the VH1 reality show “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” and “Sober House” because of his struggles with alcohol.

He told WNYC he turned to alcohol as a way to self-medicate.

“Everybody have a breaking point, and mines was alcohol at the time,” he said. “And that’s one of the reasons I’m glad I, you know, went to some of the NA, AA meetings that I went to over the years because I learned a lot from people – not just my psychologist and stuff like that and the doctors – but just going to some of those programs. It was a good thing.”

King was promoting his memoir The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption in which he recounts his experience.


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Comments [3]

Steve Castleman from San Francisco

Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease. Most addicts lose control over their drug use; abstinence is required to restore proper brain function. Maybe Rodney King could control his drinking, but based on the number drunk-driving arrests and like troubles he had, it seems more likely that his claim he could control it was a form of denial -- something alcoholics universally share because of the way addiction alters brain function, skewing decision-making and motivation.

However, it isn't enough to just assert that addiction is a brain disease. To overcome preconveived notions -- that it's a lack of willpower or bad decision-making -- people need to be acquainted with the science that supports the disease model.

For a not-for-profit website that discusses the science of substance use and abuse in accessible English (how alcohol and drugs work in the brain; how addiction develops; why addiction is a chronic, progressive brain disease; what parts of the brain malfunction as a result of substance abuse; how that malfunction skews decision-making and motivation, resulting in addict behaviors; why some get addicted while others don't; how treatment works; how well treatment works; why relpase is common; what family and friends can do; etc.) please click on

Jun. 21 2012 01:19 PM
Ed from NY

I wonder if Rodney would have had a better chance at recovery if he had not been put under the "Dr.Drew national treatment microcope"! Getting clean and sober is hard enough without the entire nation watching your every move!Rodney was not on the Drew show because of his struggles with alcohol. He was on because he was a good draw.Let's leave MH & CD treatment off the tube. There are plenty of treatment professionals who can be interviewed on the subject.

Jun. 21 2012 12:20 PM
Suzanna Riordan from Brooklyn

I feel that this is an unfair title to use just after his death. I would expect NPR to honor the positive of deceased former guest, not a statement of their negative behavior that may give the listener a negative connotation.

He was primarily a humble, troubled, and overexposed father and man. I don't know many people who, put in his same situation (e.g. being the catalyst for the largest riot in American history, etc), would NOT have self medicated. Trauma will stay with a person forever, and without effective therapy, it can lead to self destructive behavior.

Jun. 18 2012 01:39 PM

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