Former Journey drummer Deen Castronovo has had a turbulent 2015, and now he’s facing the music.
On June 14, the musician was arrested and charged with physically abusing and harassing his now-ex-fiancee, Deidra. Two weeks later, a rape charge was added in his indictment. The charges led to his dismissal from the band in August, and on Oct. 12, he accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to four years of supervised probation, pleading guilty to two counts of fourth-degree assault, two counts of menacing, one count of coercion and one count of unlawful use of a weapon.
“I want to make it perfectly clear: My name cannot be cleared,” he tells Billboard. “What I have done to the band and my fiancee, there is no excuse for it. It is really inexcusable. The only way that my reputation will be brought back is to live this — walk it and work on my recovery like it’s a full-time job.
“I’ve hurt the whole band, and management as well, and Live Nation and so many other organizations,” he continues. “They have kept in quiet touch, texts here and there, but I think with what has happened, they had to cut ties, and I truly do not blame them. I harbor no resentments. Those guys love me to death. I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
Now, Castronovo is stepping away from music to focus on his recovery. He is in a voluntary 18-month program that requires breathalyzer testing and random urinalysis. In addition, he is enrolled in a 12-step program and is in the midst of a nine-month domestic violence counseling program.
He is speaking publicly now in an effort to make amends and possibly help prevent someone else from making the same mistakes. “What I did was horrible, and I don’t want to see teenagers or young kids — people in their 20s and 30s — end up 51 years old like me in their fifth rehab treatment losing everything that they have worked so hard for,” he says. “If you can stop it now, stop it. You don’t want to end up like this.”
The Oregon native says he has been “on and off the wagon for 22 years,” but what happened this past spring was “building over time.”
“The thing with the disease of addiction is it’s chronic. It’s fatal and it’s progressive,” he says. “I think at this point, when this went down, I hit bottom. As horrible as it was, I am grateful that it happened. I am not minimizing it. I am not grateful for what I did to my fiancee, by any stretch. She was a very strong supporter in trying to get me clean, and this last incident brought me to my knees. As horrible as it’s been, the end justifies the means.”
The pair met when they were very young: Castronovo was 19 and Deidra was just 14. He waited until she was 18 to ask her parents for permission to date. The two dated for eight months but then went their separate ways. “I gave my life to Christ and I went in a different direction, and she went in her direction. We reunited in 2008 on Christmas Eve, and it was beautiful,” he recalls. “It was a beautiful relationship that was real good, but my drinking got worse and worse. And then drinking and using spiraled into what happened now.”
What didn’t help, he says, was an addiction to prescription pills after back surgery in 2012 and a subsequent hip replacement. “I had the back surgery and two weeks later played the CMT Music Awards with Rascal Flatts. I had a huge brace on my back, and it was something that had to be done. I had to work,” he says. “Then, the year after that, I was in Australia, in Sydney, and having issues with my hip. It kept getting progressively worse. I did the last shows in 2013 and then went out to Santa Monica [California] to have full hip-replacement surgery.”
After the doctors cut him off from his prescription medication, he turned to other ways to manage the pain by getting pills “on the black market.” “Typical addict behaviors,” he says. “Then this last May, I finished the tour and a not so good friend of mine now had methamphetamine, and I went on a 24-day run on that stuff and destroyed everything amazing in my life. Everything.”
Of that dark day in June, Castronovo says: “It was horrible. What was transpiring was horrendous.” Fifteen days in jail “scared me straight.”
“That was it for me. I knew that this got more than out of hand. My fiancee has gone through hell for the past six and a half years, and it was very rough on her,” he says. “Then going into jail woke me right up. I went from jail right to Hazelden Betty Ford.”
It was there when he discovered through Journey manager John Baruck that he had been terminated from the band. (The band declined comment for this article.)
“They had finished their Canadian tour. They had to replace me due to what had happened. I called to see what my status was, and I was told I would be terminated. As heartbreaking as it was and devastating, I completely understood,” he says. “Journey has an impeccable legacy, and I’ve tarnished that legacy. They loved me and cared about me as a man — not just as a drummer and singer — to release me to get me the help I needed. This isn’t a quick fix. They knew I couldn’t be going back and forth going on the road and coming home. This needed to be something that is a full-time job, staying clean and sober. I love them to death. They are my brothers. They will be for the rest of my life. As sad as it is — and it breaks my heart, because I can’t play with my brothers anymore — it had to be done.”
He says he especially disappointed guitarist Neal Schon, who discovered the young musician and gave him a chance to play with Bad English. “I owe him my career, and I’ve really hurt him,” he says. “I’ve really disappointed him.”
There is, however, hope: He is over 120 days clean. Castronovo has a strong family support system and speaks lovingly of his two sons — Kyle, a 24-year-old drummer currently touring Europe, and Roman, 10 — and he says both are his “light.”
Just before Castronovo spoke to Billboard, he was meeting with JD Henderson, senior pastor of the Life Christian Center in Portland, Ore. “Knowing Deen as long as I have, being his pastor and a part of his support, I’ve never seen him make this much progress and be this committed to changing his life,” Henderson tells Billboard.
“My spiritual life is back, and that is what gets you through,” says Castronovo, who is looking for a nonprofit group close to home so he can speak openly about addiction. “I”ll talk to anyone free of charge. It’s time to give back and be of service. They say in AA that the only way to keep what you have is to give it away. It’s time. If I can help one kid, it’s a beautiful thing.”
Although he is not permitted to have any contact with Deidra, he hopes to one day repair that relationship.
“I really believe that Deidra is proud of me because I have been working my tail off,” he says. “I am grateful that I have family and friends and people in my life. And the fans on Twitter that are supporting me and saying, ‘You can do this.’ A lot of addicts are tweeting, ‘You can do this. One day at a time. Stay focused.’ And to see your boys look you in the eyes and I’m there and present, and they say, ‘Dad, I am so proud of you’ — are you kidding? That’s all the adrenaline shot that I need to keep on moving forward because I finally get it.”