Eric Gunderson, known as one half of country duo, Love and Theft, can proudly say he is now seven years sober and is ready to share his story. The motivation to beat his alcohol addiction came from a “wake-up call” he had after several near-death experiences.
His addiction hit a turning point seven years ago when he started to face the precursors of organ failure.
“I’ve had a couple bad scares,” he admitted to People. “I got a little bit addicted to alcohol. I didn’t realize it was so easy. I come from a family with a history of addiction. I guess there’s that genetic predisposition there, but in the music business, I think idle hands are definitely the devil’s playground.”
Being a Type 1 diabetic means that alcohol is even more harmful to Gunderson’s body. Because of this added factor, the singer started to fear that if he continued going down the path he was on, his wife of 12 years, Emily, might end up getting a call one night saying he had died in a hotel room.
“As a Type 1 diabetic, I run the risk of accidentally taking too much insulin. When you’re inebriated like that, it’s hard to properly dose yourself. You can wake up from an insulin shock or not wake up.”
According to People, he didn’t realize he was crossing the line from drinking to have fun to being addicted. He decided to go see the doctor and find out where he was at with his health and after running a few tests, he was told that his levels were dangerously high. So despite his denial, Gunderson checked into rehab a couple of weeks later.
“That was one of the times where I was in fear of losing my life just because the detox was so brutal,” he explained.
Six months later, he relapsed and returned to drinking, but then he officially made the decision to quit cold turkey and never looked back.
“It’s not been a struggle every single day wanting to have a drink,” he says. “It’s fueled my desire to stay sober because I recognize how much better my life is without the constant stress and feeling like crap because of alcohol.”
Drinking is generally considered to be the norm in the music industry, between all the late nights and social gatherings that occur on a daily basis. Since the duo was serving as direct support for major tours, they were enduring long hours from playing early in the evening and then joining the headliner later on in the show. As a result, they got used to partying with fans beforehand, maintaining their buzz throughout the night, and often continued drinking even afterward. Gunderson explained that he felt the pressure to appear as though he was having a great time, no matter what.
“You had to pace yourself just to try to get there and then just get as drunk as you can on stage,” Gunderson said. “Then you have to make it back to the bus and hope you don’t pass out.”
He also admitted that if he hadn’t gotten sober, their music careers would have suffered because he wouldn’t have been able to act as a co-writer or a co-producer on their latest EP, Better Off.
“I wouldn’t have had the bandwidth before to even take on producing a project like that,” he shared honestly. “I was more wrapped up in the appearance. That’s part of the reason I drank so much; to stay numb. You combine the dependence with the emotional issues and it’s really a recipe for disaster.”
This six-track collection is the first project the duo has released since Gunderson got sober. He and his duo partner, Stephen Barker Liles, co-wrote every song and self-produced most of the album from Gunderson’s home studio.
“We just wanted to write the songs in a fun, charismatic and carefree way,” Gunderson told the outlet. “We didn’t want to force our ideas into a machine and just crank out another typical radio-friendly project. We just took a few more risks and did what the song called for.”
Love and Theft are next slated to play in Verona, NY on Sept. 30.