Lessons From John Lennon and His Song “Cold Turkey”

“Temperature’s rising
Fever is high
Can’t see no future
Can’t see no sky
My feet are so heavy
So is my head
I wish I was a baby
I wish I was dead
Cold turkey has got me on the run
My body is aching
Goose-pimple bone
Can’t see no body
Leave me alone
My eyes are wide open
Can’t get to sleep
One thing I’m sure of
I’m at the deep freeze
Cold turkey has got me on the run
Cold turkey has got me on the run…”

On break at a recent Narcotics Anonymous meeting, the topic of John Lennon was being discussed by 3 meeting members.

Lennon’s History of Addiction

I joined in the conversation as I didn’t know much about his life or his apparent addictions. When I returned home, I began a research project of my own. Many sources wrote about John’s addictions to alcohol, LSD, cocaine and heroin. And some sources mentioned John’s lyrics to the song “Cold Turkey.”

As seems to be the case when tales are told after the fact, many people wrote differing stories. One writer stated that John was an alcoholic prior to the formation of The Beatles, another told of his chronic heroin use—most of the biographies seemed to at least agree on one thing: that he did wrestle with addictions.

The specific chemicals John Lennon may have abused seems barely relevant to his struggles. As a husband and father, he experienced times of grand dysfunction. One source told of John’s struggle with depression and aggression. These struggles led to his leaving the band on several occasions, staying a recluse for a number of years, and being questioned by authorities as to possible batterings of his wives. John was arrested at least twice for drug possession.

“How can I go forward, when I don’t know which way I’m facing…”

John Lennon was a brilliant musician and many fans loved him. I am also a fan, and admire his talent. Unfortunately, addictions hardened his life. Reading the angst in this song, one can only feel his anguish as he tried to withdraw.

John Lennon was quoted as saying, “How can I go forward when I don’t know which way I’m facing?”

Whether or not John experienced times of sobriety is also unclear. I can only hope that he was able to. Upon his death when he was shot by a mentally ill man. The autopsy showed that his death was a homicide. His autopsy also found alcohol and methadone in his system.

“Cold Turkey’s” Lyrics are a Powerful Reminder

Although a wealthy and famous man, John struggled like many of us have. Addiction is a horrid disease and needs to be taken seriously. There are ways to get to the other side—rehab, Twelve Step meetings and counseling are a few ways to get started. .

Let’s look at John Lennon’s song as a powerful tool to help us overcome our demons and to be ever grateful for our sobriety.

“…Thirty-six hours
Rolling in pain
Praying to someone
Free me again
Oh I’ll be a good boy
Please make me well
I promise you anything
Get me out of this hell
Cold turkey has got me on the run.”
~ John Lennon

Author: Katie H. is a writer, recovering addict, and mother based in Connecticut.