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‘I was Drinking Because I was Stressed out’: World’s Biggest YouTube Star Goes Opens up About Whiskey Addiction

YouTube megastar Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg posted a video Wednesday discussing his addiction to whiskey and later nicotine, the stress that led to his reliance on alcohol, his decision to semi-quit (he said he’ll have a glass if it’s offered to him but no longer drinks by himself) and the lessons he learned about addiction and himself.

PewDiePie and the Origins of his Addiction

“Me alone and a bottle, I realized that’s just not a good combination,” Kjellberg said in the video.

The 32-year-old said that he used to drink whiskey daily and realized he had a problem in late 2017, early 2018, when he struggled to cut back while attempting to live a healthier lifestyle.

“It was also a time where I’d started to care more about my health, I had started working out for the first time in my life, and I thought, ‘You know, if I want to live a healthy life, I should probably cut down a little bit.’ And for any sane person, that’s very easy to do. For someone that was really getting into it, that was very difficult to do.

And that’s when I realized, ‘Oh sh–, maybe I have a problem.'”

Quitting Whiskey

PewDiePie said after that realization, he quit drinking for a few months to prove to himself that he could, an experience that he said made him feel empowered.

But once he’d proven to himself that he could quit if he needed to — and thus didn’t have a problem — he began drinking again.

Kjellberg said he was going through a stressful period of his life at that time, including dealing with controversies surrounding his complimenting of a YouTube video from a channel with a white-supremacy and racist reputation. This controversy and others, including Kjellberg’s use of a nazi “heil” salute and a sign reading “Death to all Jews” in satirical videos, prompted articles from Vox (“YouTube’s most popular user amplified anti-Semitic rhetoric. Again.”) and the New York Times (“What Does PewDiePie Really Believe?”).

Kjellberg began to lean on whiskey to deal with his anxiety, a time he called “when it was the worst for me.”

“If I really wanted to further analyze how I felt at the time, I think I was still not just addicted to escaping these addictions by drinking, but also I think I was addicted to YouTube, and I was so scared of losing YouTube through all these controversies that I was fueling one addiction because out of fear of another one.”

Kjellberg, who is the most-subscribed-to individual content creator on YouTube and owns the fourth-most-subscribed-to channel overall, said that at the time, “imagining a life without drinking seemed really bleak to me,” telling himself that because his drinking hadn’t gotten out of control, he was fine.

“Also, it’s almost the romanticized idea of a guy with a heavy head or heavy heart, looking over at a bar with a glass,” he said. “It’s almost seen as a cool thing.”

Kjellberg said that it got to a point that he saw as “pathetic.”

Quitting Again

So once again, Kjellberg quit drinking. Only this time, it didn’t go so smoothly.

“I wanted to stop because I hated being in this anxiety of in-between. And when I stopped drinking this time, it was really rough, especially because I was having withdrawals from it. It took me a long time to be able to sleep properly again, but I did manage it. And I was done, and I haven’t touched it since, which I’m really proud about.”

Another Addiction

After Kjellberg quit whiskey, he said that addiction was replaced with another: nicotine patches.

“Whenever you have that feeling of craving or addiction, it sort of gnaws on you,” he said. “And it really helps to have something to replace it with. The problem was, yes, I replaced it with something else that is way less bad for you, obviously, but it still didn’t feel like I had beaten addiction, like, I had just replaced it, which I felt really embarrassed about, and that’s why I always tried to hide it. And I also didn’t want to be a bad influence.”

Kjellberg said he quit nicotine twice before he was able to get rid of it for good.

Going from relying on substances to having nothing to fill that void wasn’t easy.

“That kind of felt like almost losing a friend,” he said. “I’m not even exaggerating. It’s something that you used to rely on will no longer be there. But I had decided I was beyond fed up and I just had to deal with it. And I knew that if I could literally just deal with it for a couple of days, I would be over it. And that was the case. It was really tough withdrawals, but it was fine.”

Kjellberg said the experience has helped him empathize with people who deal with addictions of all kind.

Finding Freedom

Kjellberg said he studies philosophy in his spare time and credits Buddhism and Stoicism for helping him quit.

“They say that craving something is suffering, and you will always suffer unless you uproot your cravings,” he said. “And I needed to finally uproot those cravings, and I did, and that worked. I don’t feel anything about alcohol or nicotine at this point because they’re completely cut out of my life, which is very liberating. It’s very freeing.”

Kjellberg said he could have gone through his whole life relying on alcohol and nicotine (as many do) were he not “obsessed with” the Stoic idea of freedom, which he described as “not being bound to anything and let my actions be my own.”

That’s what really motivated me to free myself. You can be bound to your passions, the things that you enjoy. And I think it’s hard to recognize when you are,” he said. “I realize in retrospect, yeah, I’ve been addicted to YouTube for almost 10 years, and that’s led me to put way more value into it than what it really is.

And it feels liberating to me to even acknowledge that and let go of that.”

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