The Wisdom of Oz


Let me ask you a question, Mr Osbourne,” a doctor in America once said to me, after I’d listed all the heavy-duty substances I’d been abusing since the 1960s.

“All right,” I said. “Go ahead."

The doctor put down his notebook, loosened his tie a bit, and let out this long, weary sigh.

“Why are you still alive?"

I’ve often wondered the same thing myself. By all accounts I’m a medical miracle. When I die, I should donate my body to the Natural History Museum. It’s all very well going on a bender for a couple of days – but mine went on for 40 years. At one point I was knocking back four bottles of cognac a day, blacking out, coming to again, and carrying on. While filming The Osbournes I was also shoving 42 types of prescription medication down my neck, morning, noon and night – and that was before all the dope I was smoking in my “safe” room, away from the cameras. Meanwhile, I used to get through cigars like they were cigarettes. I’d even smoke them in bed.

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“Do you mind?” I’d ask Sharon, as I lit up another Cuban the size of Red October.

“Oh no, please, go ahead,” she’d say, before whacking me with Good Housekeeping.

Then there are all the other things I’ve managed to not die from during my rock’n’roll career: like being hit by a plane (it crashed into my tour bus when I was fast asleep with Sharon in the back); or the time I got a false-positive HIV test; or the time when they told me I “probably” had Parkinson’s disease (they were wrong – it turned out to be a rare genetic condition, a Parkinsonian-like tremor). I was even committed to a mental asylum for a while. “Do you masturbate, Mr Osbourne?” was the first thing they asked me. “I’m here for my head, not my dick!” I replied.

And then there was the rabies treatment I had to go through after eating a bat – which you might have heard about once or twice. All I want to say is that I thought it was a rubber toy, swear on my 17 dogs’ lives.

Oh, and yeah, I’ve been dead twice: it happened (so I’m told) while I was in a chemically induced coma after I broke my neck in a quad-bike accident in 2003. I’ve got more metal screws in me now than in an Ikea flatpack thanks to the doctors and nurses at the NHS.

So, as you can imagine, when The Sunday Times Magazine asked me to be its new health-advice columnist – Dr Ozzy, as I’ll be known from now on – I thought they were taking the piss, to be honest with you. But then I thought about it for a while, and it makes perfect sense: I’ve seen literally thousands of doctors over my lifetime, and spent well over £1m on them, to the point where I sometimes think I know more about being a doctor than doctors do.

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And it’s not just because of the lifestyle I’ve pursued. I also happen to be the world’s worst hypochondriac. I’ll catch a disease off the telly, me. Being ill is like a hobby. I’ve even started to diagnose my own diseases, thanks to Google (or I should say thanks to my assistant Tony, because I’m not exactly Steve Jobs when it comes to computers).

Understandably, the question I always get is: “If you’re such a hypochondriac, Ozzy, how could you have taken all those drugs?” But the thing is, when you have an addictive personality like mine, you never think anything bad’s gonna happen. It’s like: “Oh, well, I didn’t do as much as so-and-so – I didn’t drink as much as him, didn’t do as much coke.”

Now, that might be fine in theory, but in my case the so-and-so was usually a certified lunatic like John Bonham or Tommy Lee, which meant they’d put enough up their nose to march the Bolivian army to the moon and back. Another thing I’d always tell myself was: “Oh, a doctor gave me the drugs, and he must know what he’s doing – mustn’t he?” But that was ignoring the fact that I’d administered the stuff myself. And if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s a qualified medical professional.

Which explains all the near misses I’ve had: overdoses, seizures, you name it. Most of the time I blamed it on my dyslexia: “Oh, I thought it said 24 pills every two hours, not two pills every 24 hours."

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The funny thing is, to my friends I’ve been Dr Ozzy for years – mainly because I used to be like a walking pharmacy. I remember back in the 1980s, when a friend came to me with a leg ache. I went to get my “special” suitcase, pulled out a pill the size of a golf ball and said: “Here, take this.” It was ibuprofen, before you could buy it over the counter in the UK. He came back a few hours later and said: “Dr Ozzy, you cured me!” The only problem was, I gave him 800mg – enough to cure an obese elephant. It knocked the bloke out for a month. That was in the old days, of course, before lawsuits were invented. I’d never do that now. Honest to God.

But it’s not just medication I’ve given to my friends. As strange as it sounds, a lot of people have asked me for family advice, especially in recent years. I suppose it’s because they saw me raising Jack and Kelly during The Osbournes, and they think I’m like the Bill Cosby of the undead or something. They ask me stuff like “How do I bring up the subject of sex with my kids?” or “How do I talk to them about drugs?”

I’m happy to help the best I can. The trouble is, when I talked to my kids about drugs, it was: “Can you give me some?” But I’ve become a better father since then, I like to think. I mean, during the worst days of my addiction, I wasn’t really a father at all, I was just another one of Sharon’s kids. But I’m a different person now: I keep fit, don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t get high – or least not on anything but endorphins.

I enjoy my family more than I ever have before: not just my five amazing kids (two of them with my first wife, Thelma) but also my four grandkids. Plus, after nearly 30 years, my marriage to Sharon is going stronger than ever, so I guess I must be doing something right.

When you live full-time in California, as I’ve done for the past few years, you often feel people spend so much time trying to save their lives that they don’t live them. I mean, at the end of the day, we’re all going to die. So what’s the point of always worrying about your health?

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June 7, 2010

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