Metallica's James Hetfield Calls Rehab Challenging, Gratifying

Singer/guitarist was treated for alcohol and substance abuse last year.

Metallica frontman James Hetfield made a couple of brief statements after exiting rehab for alcohol and substance abuse in December, but now, with more than two and a half sober months under his studded belt, he's posted a more lengthy and passionate message on the band's Web site.

"Recovery is the most difficult and challenging thing I've ever attempted (along with parenting)," he wrote in the site's members-only section. "[It's] also the most grounding and gratifying gift I've ever received (along with parenting)."

He again thanked his fans and friends for the flood of support they've shown since he entered rehab in July. Echoing comments he made in December (see "James Hetfield Exits Rehab, Rejoins Metallica"), he also emphasized how being in treatment has given him new insight into the way many fans have been personally affected by his lyrics.

"My music and lyrics have always been a therapy for me," he said. "Without this God-given gift, I don't know where I'd be. Now I truly feel the impact and connection [they have] made with others. Struggle to struggle. Pain to pain. Human to human, not idol to fan, fan to idol. Clarity has put me in a humble and serene place to receive this connection in return and feel it helping heal me."

Hetfield concluded his message by stressing his resolution to live a clean and sober life.

"Every breath I take becomes deeper, and [I become] more confident of myself without my crutches. The lies I've filled my body and soul with aren't needed anymore. They're not welcome. I choose to live, not just exist."

About two weeks ago, Hetfield rejoined his bandmates in the rehearsal room to work on new material as well as songs drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist Kirk Hammett wrote last year. Longtime producer Bob Rock played bass and manned the studio controls.

Metallica have yet to replace bassist Jason Newsted, who quit in January 2001, and they're unlikely to bring him back despite comments he's made about wanting to play with them again (see "Jason Newsted Gets Busy After Metallica"). Although Ulrich recently called Newsted and suggested they get together with Hetfield to talk, on Tuesday the bassist clarified that the discussion would be about legal, not musical matters.

"People keep track of every time we talk to each other," Newsted marveled. "We talk every 10 or 12 days about one thing or another. This has nothing to do with the band at all. It's more about just pulling things together. We still haven't tied the ends on [my departure] and we're 13 months away from it. So I'm not any closer or any farther from getting back together with them."