Art Alexakis, the frontman of rock band Everclear, is opening up about his multiple sclerosis diagnosis.
In a statement posted to the band’s website, Alexakis revealed that he had been diagnosed with the disease three years ago but is speaking out in the wake of rumors that he had fallen off the wagon.
The rocker, who takes medication daily and gives himself three injections per week, said doctors discovered he had MS by chance while he was receiving treatment after a serious car accident.
“Three years ago I was in an automobile accident, and though I totaled my car, I am thankful that no one involved was seriously hurt,” the musician, 56, began in the note to his fans. “About two weeks later, I started feeling a tingle and numbness in my arm, thinking it was a pinched nerve in my neck, I went to the doctor and underwent an MRI.”
Alexakis explained that the MRI confirmed he had a pinched nerve, but pathologists also noticed “lacerations and suspicious marks” on his spinal cord, prompting him to see another doctor.
“I was sent to see a neurologist, who did a ridiculous number of tests – more MRI’s, a spinal tap, over fifty blood tests, and numerous cognitive and balance tests,” he said. “After receiving the results, he told me that I have a form of Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS), and that I have had it for anywhere between 10 to 20 years.”
Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) is a form of the disease that is characterized by a cycle of defined attacks, known as relapses or exacerbations, followed by periods of partial or complete recovery or remissions, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The diagnosis seemed to connect the dots for Alexakis, who explained that he had been struggling with his balance, ability to walk, sensitivity to heat and cold, lack of energy and memory for quite some time. “I thought it was just me getting older,” he admitted.
After receiving the devastating news, Alexakis said he sat in his car and cried on the phone with his wife Vanessa for 30 minutes. “I’m sure people in the parking lot thought I was losing it, and I guess I kind of was,” the musician recalled.
Though he acknowledged that he instantly associated MS with “helplessness, wheel chairs, pain, misery, and hopelessness and pity in the eyes of my family and friends,” Alexakis said his wife helped him avoid spiraling into a panic and reminded him that he was not alone on this journey.
“My wife is a lot of things – all good, but one thing she isn’t is fake, something we have in common. We don’t do fake in our family. My wife is a bad ass, and she reminded me in that moment, that so am I,” he said.
In the time since that day, Alexakis said he has continued to tour around the world with Everclear, spend time with his friends and family, and live his life — but now, with some adjustments.
“All that said, I can feel the disease slowly growing in me. I now have to give myself injections three times a week. My neurologist says as long as I stay on the medication, I should live into my 80’s without progression. We shall see,” he wrote.
Alexakis said he’s also looking forward to finishing his first solo album Sun Songs, expected to be released by the summer, and embarking on a solo tour in May called Songs and Stories. In addition, the musician plans to write a book.
And though the diagnosis was years ago, Alexakis felt it was necessary to clarify about his health due to rumors about his drug and alcohol use. (He has been sober for nearly 30 years following a battle with addiction as a young teen.)
“One of the reasons I wanted to be more public about my disease is that I have been hearing a lot of people say that I am drinking again or back on drugs because they have seen me look unsteady on stage or around town (people say all sorts of nasty things when they don’t think you can hear them)”
“To be honest, I have never cared about what people say about me personally – except, that is, for the people that I care about (ie..YOU) and what they think. I wanted you to know the truth, simple as that,” he explained.
“So, if you see me stumbling…sweaty, looking both tired and anxious at the same time, maybe a little more confused than usual, or forgetting lyrics yet looking happy (which is weird for me), please know that I have not fallen off the wagon,” Alexakis finished.
“I am just learning how to be the new me,” he added.
Alexakis and his wife share 11-year-old daughter Arizona. The musician also has a 26-year-old daughter Annabella Rose from a previous relationship.