Scott Stapp Reflects on His Precipitous Fall and Recovery: 'I Was Out of My Mind'

 Burak Cingi/UPPA/ZumaPress
Scott Stapp performs live at Electric Ballroom, London on April 23, 2014.

Scott Stapp once was one of the biggest rock stars in the world: In 1999, his band, Creed, released Human Clay, which went on to sell 11.7 million copies, according to Nielsen Music, by mixing post-grunge sounds with Christian spirituality. In 2004 the Florida group split, with bandmates blaming Stapp’s increasingly erratic behavior. Ten years later, after arrests, suicide attempts and a short Creed reunion (see sidebar below), Stapp hit bottom, posting a bizarre video to Facebook in which he claimed he was broke, homeless and “under some kind of vicious attack.” That was followed by reports that Stapp, thinking he was a CIA agent, had threatened the life of President Obama. In May, Stapp, 42, and wife Jaclyn, with whom he has three kids, revealed what was behind his breakdown: bipolar disorder, exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse. Stapp sought treatment, and in what he says is an effort to rebuild his marriage, signed on with Jaclyn for season six of VH1’s reality show Couples Therapy, which premieres Oct. 7. Stapp, now sober and on medication, and Jaclyn spoke with Billboard about his precipitous fall and recovery, which includes solo music and hopes to reunite Creed.

What was going on behind the scenes when you made that video?

Scott Stapp: I had a very public relapse, and it was extremely humiliating to me, my family and my friends. I took [an excessive amount of a] prescription for a diagnosis I had, had a bad reaction and went into an actual psychosis. I was out of my mind, unstable, and at risk of putting myself in danger.

What was the scariest part?

Scott: I remember desperately trying to convince my wife that what I was believing was real -- that I was being followed, that I was involved in some type of mind-control experiment. I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t believe me.

Jaclyn Stapp: Our family thought, “This is just another drug-and-alcohol relapse.” I looked at it as selfish: He’s choosing drugs and alcohol over us. I had to leave; it was heartbreaking. A few weeks later I saw how mentally ill he was, so I stayed in communication.

You’ve both been very open about Scott’s bipolar diagnosis. Why was it important for you to discuss it publicly?

Scott: Due to the nature of the relapse and the episode being national news, world news, it put us in a position to have to continue the story and share publicly what happened and what we were doing to treat it. We felt an obligation to not only the world at large, but to my fans.

The Secret Service investigated threats Scott allegedly made against Obama. What was it like getting a visit from them?

Scott: It’s just surreal that it played out that far. They sit down, ask you a bunch of questions and determine whether you’re a threat -- I wasn’t.


Were you worried about appearing on a reality show?

Scott: We consulted our therapist, our psychiatrist, our psychologist, our pastor. We felt like we made the right decision after [that].

Jaclyn: We’re not reality stars, we’re not a spectacle. There was fear, but we made this a family decision. Our teenage son was a big part: “Mom, you should really do this.” We had a backup plan to leave if we felt it wasn’t real therapy. We learned very fast that it was very real.

You’re on Couples Therapy with reality vets like Janice Dickinson and Mob Wives’ “Big Ang.” How did you fit in?

Jaclyn: We were the only couple who were married with three kids. We’re talking about real-life issues -- life and death and children.

Scott: It was intimidating and sometimes uncomfortable being around some of those larger-than-life reality TV personalities, because our intentions and our motives for being there were real.

Judging from the first episode, your biggest clashes were with Dickinson.

Jaclyn: Janice has a larger-than-life personality. We’re a little bit more reserved, and nervous with all the cameras 24/7. We exchanged some words; there were a lot of things we didn’t agree on.

Are you planning on watching the show when it debuts? Are you ready for any fallout?

Jaclyn: We’re proud we survived. I’m proud for my kids to see it.

Scott: Jaclyn and I didn’t go on that show to fight and to scream and yell at each other and to get Jerry Springer on people. So there’s nothing that we did on the show that we regret, because we didn’t go down the paths that most of the other couples did.

What was the most eye-opening part of being on Couples Therapy?

Jaclyn: It made me realize that we’re not alone, that there is true love there. And just learning how to be vulnerable and honest. And that we’re not as crazy as Janice Dickinson.

Scott, will you be returning to music?

Scott: This journey I’ve been on over the last year has inspired a lot of writing. I’m going on tour next year, and we’re starting a campaign to raise awareness for mental-health issues based upon a song I wrote. And Creed has a retrospective coming out in November. It’s three CDs, with hits, favorite album picks, acoustic versions of all the hits, live performances, unreleased demos.

Creed has been inactive since 2012. Have there been discussions about getting the band back together?

Scott: Definitely. I ran into Mark [Tremonti, guitarist] at the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando a couple months back, and we spent hours hanging by the pool, talking. We all are busy working on our other passions, but there’s definitely going to be some Creed in the future, starting with this retrospective. So when the time’s right in the next year-and-a-half, I’m expecting some new Creed music.

So the rest of the band is onboard?

Scott: There’s nothing set in stone, but it’s definitely on the radar. We’re just trying to let it be as organic as possible. But we’re all communicating. And that’s where it starts. 

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 3 issue of Billboard.