Five years ago, James Hetfield would not have been awake or sober enough to get into the studio at 9 a.m., but that's where he's frequently found himself as work continues on Metallica's new album. "I

Five years ago, James Hetfield would not have been awake or sober enough to get into the studio at 9 a.m., but that's where he's frequently found himself as work continues on Metallica's new album. "I would have been going to bed at 9 a.m., not going to work," he tells Billboard.

Things have changed for Hetfield, who has been sober for nearly five years. On May 12, he will receive an honor he says he is more proud of than any career achievement. The MusiCares MAP Fund, a non-profit organization aimed at helping music industry professionals with addiction recovery treatment, will present Hetfield with the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award for his "devotion to helping other addicts with the recovery process" during its second annual benefit concert at the Music Box/Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood.

"I don't believe that you have to walk straight into the fire to know how hot it is," Hetfield says. "That was my path. The biggest awareness is that you're not alone and that there is some help. When people get so far into it, where they feel their life isn't worth anything, that's too far. But, you can survive it. That's important to know."

Hetfield admits the process of making an album while sober is "very different because there is a lot more awareness of what we are doing and sometimes over-thinking it. Now we are very present for it all and I'm not afraid to do or try anything musically."

But he says the current project, which is being produced by Rick Rubin, is "going great because everyone is present and everyone is enjoying the process. The process is a lot easier. [Drummer] Lars [Ulrich] and I would butt heads daily. It would be going to war every day. You'd suit up in your armor before you go in the studio. Battling back and forth. Now it's helping each other do the best of their ability. It's all moving toward the same goal instead of pulling back."

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