Phil Collins, Genesis, and the Soundtrack of my High School Years #BookReview

When I was in high school, Phil Collins and Genesis were the sound tracks of my life. From Phil Collins No Jacket Required to Genesis’ Invisible Touch albums, they were definitely some of my most played cassette tapes. To this day, these songs evoke memories from my teenage years, whether it was listening to a Walkman while riding a bike to and from work at McDonalds in the summer of 1988, or walking to and from school in the small town of Rouleau, Saskatchewan.

And so when I came across Phil Collins’ memoir Not Dead Yet at Walmart a month ago, I knew I had to get it. I love to read, although I’ve never really been a fan of autobiographies. However, I found with this one I couldn’t put it down – this was the story of one of my old musical heroes. Because the book is about the life of a musician, it was like there was a built-in soundtrack to the story as well! Whenever Phil would reference a particular song or album in his memoir, I would search it out on YouTube and listen along. That made it fun!

Another one of the other factors that really drew my attention to this story was the fact that I knew he talked about his battle with alcoholism in it. Having a father who was an alcoholic, and also being the President of the 12 step recovery program Overcomers Outreach of Canada, I was curious to hear his story.

phil-collins-not-dead-yetPhil Collins: Not Dead Yet:

“Phil Collins pulls no punches – about himself, his life, or the ecstasy and heartbreak that inspired his music. In his much awaited memoir, Not Dead Yet, he tells the story of his epic career… A drummer since almost before he could walk… finally landing the drum seat in Genesis. Soon he would step into the spotlight on vocals after the departure of Peter Gabriel. (This) is Phil Collins’ candid, witty, unvarnished story of the songs and shows, the hits and pans, his marriages and divorces… (here) he recounts his harrowing descent into darkness after his “official” retirement in 2007.” (From the inside front book cover flap).

I don’t want to simply review this book here, rather I want to look closely at the second last chapter of this memoir: “Straightjacket Required: Or: how I nearly drink myself to death.” What was it that caused a rising star with a phenomenal solo career, involvement in one of the biggest rock bands of all time, not to mention projects for Disney like the songs on their animated film Tarzan, to descend into the darkness of alcoholism? It happened after he retired from a life of workaholism.

“I have a hold, a void: where there used to be work there is now time. A lot of time,” he writes. And so he begins to bury himself in the minibar, several nightcaps here and there, drinks before his rehearsals, and even has vodka with his eggs for breakfast. He says, “The scary thing is my tolerance has gone through the roof. The vodka isn’t touching the sides. How many do I have to drink before I feel something?”

This journey is a familiar one for many alcoholics. The further they progress in their alcoholism, the more they need to drink to begin to feel any sort of a buzz from the booze. But why did he turn to alcohol? “The cliché is true,” Phil writes, “I’m literally drowning my sorrows. Drink doesn’t make me feel better. But it does make me sleep. And if I’m sleeping, I’m not thinking.” His life has become an unmanageable mess.

His friends recognized his problem before he did, and encouraged him to get help for his addiction. But in true denial form, Phil said, “I don’t need to go to rehab. I can just stop. And I do stop – a few times. I become very good at stopping. But I become even better at starting again.” Does that sound familiar?

The first step of Overcomers Outreach, based on the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, says this: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or our sin or addiction) – that our lives had become unmanageable.” This didn’t happen for Phil until he hit rock bottom – which involved several episodes like the time he became falling down drunk and broken his rib and punctured his lung. Or the time he went to give his kids a hug and fell face first into the tiles of the living room floor and broke his teeth.

He writes, “My pancreas is not only scarred, it’s showing signs of irreparable damage. That’s, finally, a good enough reason for me. I want to see my kids grow up, get married, have their own children. I want to live.” So he finally goes to rehab.

Of his experience there, he writes, “I do the morning prayers, where everyone has to say something revealing / honest / self-lacerating. I don’t have any problems with this kind of group-therapy stuff, but it’s weird the people you meet, from hard nuts to housewives.” He laments, “Yet, in spite of being record-shifting, Oscar-winning Phil Collins, here I am in rehab, trying to deal with a drink problem. Just like everybody else.”

Do you struggle with an addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography, or some other sin or bad habit? Like Phil Collins, maybe you have tried to stop, but like a dog returns to his vomit, you keep going back to that bad habit? If so, you need the help of a higher power to break free from your addition – the person of Jesus Christ. The second and third steps of the 12 step program say, We “came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” and we “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Call upon Jesus today, who is mighty to save and deliver!

To learn more about how you can find freedom from addictions, visit Overcomers Outreach of Canada, or Overcomers Outreach US.


– Chris Jordan

(President and Executive Coordinator of Overcomers Outreach Canada)


About Chris Jordan

Husband. Father. Author. Pastor. High School Bible Teacher. Follower of Jesus. And I enjoy a good cup of coffee!
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4 Responses to Phil Collins, Genesis, and the Soundtrack of my High School Years #BookReview

  1. I’ve definitely been there. I spent 14 years of my life competing in wrestling and striving to reach the summit of success. My sophomore year of college all was taken from with a career ending back injury. I eventually got into coaching after rehab and have been doing that for 8 years. I remember though that there was a huge void, and since I was in college, I found it easy to fill it with alcohol and partying. It’s only been the last seven years that I’ve been filling it with Jesus. Way better! This April will be 7 years without alcohol and I owe it all to Him. He is so good. God bless brother and I’m so glad you do what you do for people.

  2. Peter Brooke says:

    Excellent words of wisdom here, Chris. Your article on Phil Collins is a great blend of showing regard for a famous (very talented and successful) musician and showing the sober consequences of allowing a lack of moral sense or what Scripture refers to in the Gospel of Mark (Parable of the Sower) as the “cares, worries and deceitfulness of this world” to derail you and shape the rest of your life – in brief, your wrong choices can ruin not only your own reputation but also your health and freedom and can ruin the lives of others around you. Call it an addiction and a disease, which alcoholism or other conditions are, these situations start with the sinfulness and waywardness of the human heart. As natural it is for us to start making choices that, at first, seem inconsequential in terms of their harmfulness to ourselves, we can take the higher road and rely on the supernatural power of the Lord Jesus available to us when we humbly surrender our heart to Him (He is Lord and Master as well as our Saviour) to save us from or out of our addictions.
    The “antitode” or solution to our tendency to go off track from the good plans and purposes of our loving Heavenly Father, Who allows us to suffer the consequences of our choices for our own good – something the book of Hebrews refers to as the Lord’s “discipline” which is a sign of His love and favour – is completely falling upon the mercy and forgiveness of God. In a song titled “Lord, I need You”, Matt Maher expresses this truth. Here are some of the key lyrics from this powerful song:
    “(My) sin runs deep, but Your grace is more
    Grace is found is where You are.
    Where You are, Lord I am free.
    Holiness is Christ in me…
    Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
    Every hour I need You,
    My one defence, my righteousness,
    O Lord, how I need You.”

    May God grant us the humility to live such lives of complete surrender and dependence on Him that His blessings will be poured out on us and those we care for in our families and circle of friends so that we live whole lives that are a reflection of the “abundant life” He sent His Son to win for us through His death at Calvary’s cross and His bodily resurrection.

  3. Pingback: Trafficked: My Story #BookReview #SocialJustice | New Life

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