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Mike Portnoy on Battling Alcoholism: Doctors Told Me I Wouldn’t Live to See 40 Years Old

Liz Ramanand, Loudwire
Liz Ramanand, Loudwire

With Mike Portnoy performing his “12 Step Suite” for fans all over the world, it’s naturally been a time of reflection for the legendary drummer. In a new interview, Portnoy spoke about how bad his alcoholism had gotten, adding that two separate doctors told him he wouldn’t live to see 40 years old.

The “12 Step Suite” is comprised of Dream Theater tracks that Portnoy was instrumental in penning. With members of Haken on board, the drummer has been jamming the suite under the event title of Shattered Fortress, with plenty of shows left to play in 2017.

“I had my last drink on April 20, 2000, which was my 33rd birthday,” Portnoy tells The Fix. “It’s just by coincidence that I quit on my birthday. I immediately, the next day, attended my first 12-step meeting, and from that point on I was completely determined to follow a new lifestyle, work the 12 steps, go through the program, and it became a huge part of my daily life.”

Portnoy continues, “I was never a day drinker or drugger because I could never function responsibly that way. At the end of the show, that’s when I would crack open my first drink, and I would go until I’d pass out at four in the morning each night, usually in the privacy of my home or my tour bus … Then it went from not drinking until after the show to not drinking until the encore, to not drinking until the keyboard solo, to not drinking until the opening band went on…it kept getting earlier and earlier.”

With Portnoy sober for over 17 years, he’s lived long past the doctors’ 40-year mark, having just celebrated his 50th birthday. “The first thing that comes to mind is thank God I was able to turn my life around and be here for my kids and family, as well as my friends and fans,” Portnoy says. “I look at John Bonham and Keith Moon, two of my heroes who died at such a tragically young age because of this disease, and I’m grateful I was able to make it out of the glass prison and be here today.”

Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress will tour throughout Europe in July, hit North America this September and finish with a handful of Australian shows in November. See all of Portnoy’s upcoming tour dates with his various projects here.

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