It was April 1978, and singer Judy Collins hadn’t had an inspirational thought in four years.
She’d been an alcoholic for 23 years — “and I was proud of it.” She’d toured and made records, but she knew the ride she was on — her father had been an alcoholic — and “as long as I was on it, I was going to enjoy every minute.” But in those last four years, she’d been drinking around the clock. Three-blackouts-a-day drinking. So her accountant and her assistant, the only people who would have anything to do with this version of Judy Collins, put her on a plane to a rehab facility. “I could barely sing. Or walk,” said Collins, the keynote speaker at a luncheon held last week at Father Martin’s Ashley, an alcohol treatment center in Havre de Grace, Md. Headed to rehab, she took along a pile of books, a typewriter and a suitcase full of all kinds of pills. She thought she’d read and write. And stay high. It didn’t matter where she was, Collins says, she knew she was going to want to be somewhere else. An intake nurse at the rehab facility called Chit Chat Farms took away her books, typewriter and pills, and said, “Why don’t you let us drive for a while?” Collins hasn’t had a drink since that spring 34 years ago, and now the woman with the voice like a crystal bell uses that voice to talk about her recovery and to urge others to seek treatment. “This illness doesn’t have any favorites. It doesn’t choose rock ‘n’ roll stars,” said the 71-year-old songstress who remembers Janis Joplin, when the two were bingeing together, predicting that one of them wouldn’t make it. Joplin was dead of an overdose two years later. Collins,with a mane of white hair but as trim and fit as a teenage gymnast, is also an advocate for suicide prevention, as she tried to take her own life as a teen.