Lil Xan exploded onto the scene in 2017 as part of the underground emo hip-hop scene with the success of his song “Betrayed,” which peaked at No. 64 on the Billboard Hot 100 list. He signed to Columbia Records at just 21 years old and his debut album, Total Xanarchy, debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200.
But outside of the spotlight, the Redlands, California native struggled heavily with anxiety disorder, substance abuse, and other mental health issues. Now thankfully after four attempts at rehab, Xan has clocked 18 months of sobriety – no longer craving the drugs that plagued his rock bottoms.
Today, Xan is preparing for the release of his upcoming EP, which he says is made up of the kind of music he’s always wanted to make. He hints at what we can expect, including live instrumentation and possibly some features from his friends.
On this episode of Shirley’s Temple, I sat with Lil Xan to discuss his struggle with substance abuse, going to rehab 4 times, mental health check-in, getting diagnosed with anxiety, how Mac Miller’s death affected him, if he’s changing his name, why he likes cats more than dogs, and more!
Tell me why cats are better than dogs.
I never said that. Maybe I like cats a little bit better. A little bit better, but they’re not better. I like all animals. It just brings like a meditation. It’s good energy to have around and same with the reptiles, they’re fun. You get to take care of them, it’s cool. It’s fun.
And what reptiles do you own?
Two chameleons, three bearded dragons, and a leopard gecko.
What was the progression from one to three?
Like a week. It took a week. I’m like that. When I get into something, I go fast into it. Then slow down. Now, I’m slowing down, taking care of them all. But I want to eventually have a reptile store. When I’m 40 maybe, older.
Do you feel one with the reptiles?
Yeah, it’s calming. Because I used to have really bad anxiety so I had to find ways to manage it without taking substances. So animals reptiles, weed, it all forms that good bubble.
Shirley’s Temple has a focus on mental health so I couldn’t wait to talk to you. I don’t really share much but today I’m 11 years sober off alcohol.
I didn’t even know that I was gonna sit with you on this day.
I’m trying to be like that one day too. I got 18 months from everything. That’s big though, 11 years? What do you do that helps you get through it every day?
Hot yoga. I go to Hot yoga every day.
Sounds like some real LA stuff right here. Some hot yoga. I like that though. I’m down to try. I’m down to try anything.
Do you work out at all?
I used to, but no I don’t. I should. I need to start doing all this. I’m pretty lazy. Right now, in my lazy pothead arc of my life.
At least you’re sober though. People don’t understand how hard that is.
It’s hard. Xanax, the withdrawals. I’ve gone through withdrawals from both Xanax and opiates, but honestly, the Xanax one is different. It’s more mental. You think you’re losing your mind, it’s horrible bro. It really is.
I had to detox off Xanax. I just remember going to sleep at 10pm, and watching the clock until 6am. Literally could not sleep.
Y’all, shout out to detox programs though. Because once I found that, I don’t have to cold turkey off of this? Because I was going cold turkey. Every time, I’d have seizures. Or even if it wasn’t a seizure, it would still affect me. Like insanely mentally. But once I found out what detox — I didn’t realize that there was things they can give you to help wean off, like Suboxone. When you go there for Xanax, they have you on little slight amounts of Valium to wean you off because going cold turkey is so bad. But once I found detox centers, I went there 4 times. I relapsed in between each of those. One of the best things someone told me when I was in rehab was you’re not going to get it on your first try, while it was my first try. I’m sitting there thinking, “Well, I’m in here. I got this when I get out.” But the minute I got out, I went and relapsed immediately.
You know what’s crazy? Someone told me that too, that I’ll probably come back. That discouraged me. It didn’t make me feel better.
No that’s what I’m saying, is it discouraged me. Because I’m here, finally ready to put all in and try to change my life. I’m in rehab. When you hear that, it is discouraging, because I want this to be the one and done. After this, I don’t want to come back here. But unfortunately, there’s a lot of truth to that statement. I came back 4 times. But after the fourth time, I’ve kept it.
When were you first diagnosed with anxiety?
I was diagnosed when I was 17, so probably 2013 or 2014. Somewhere around there. That was a crazy time in my life.
What led you there?
A bad breakup when I was 17. You know those early puppy love stages? I had a real bad breakup and I’d cry for 4 months. I was 17, my first love. That put me in a bad spot that I didn’t know about mentally. I was only 17. That’s what led to ‘cause it was night and day. One day, I woke up and couldn’t breathe. I’d never been like that before, I thought I had something wrong with me. We went to the hospital to see and they did a spinal tap, where they put the big needle in your spine. I looked so bad that they were like, “Yo, there’s something wrong with this guy.” But it ended up after two weeks in the hospital, they gave me an Ativan on my way out almost and it helped. I was like, what the hell? Why am I able to chill now?They’re like, “Oh, you have anxiety.” What the heck? Because before that, I didn’t know what anxiety was.
What was the transition from Ativan to Xanax?
Well, they never prescribed me Xanax ever. I was only prescribed Ativan, so my doctor tried to save me really. They tried to get me off it as quick as they could but once they took me off, I still crave that. Still wanted that feeling of relaxation and stress-free, so I went and just picked up.
You were selling drugs too when you were a kid, right?
We definitely dabbled as teenagers. We sold a lot of weed back then. We sold some stuff too. That was back when all the pills — it was before the fentanyl. Once the fentanyl hit bro, none of us ever sold a pill again or anything. We stopped at that point because we didn’t want to see our friends die either. That was unwarranted. Nobody could have expected that, it’s the worst. I have a conversation about fentanyl with someone every day about it. It’s that much in the media. It’s the most talked about thing right now.
What needs to happen though? I feel like no one’s figured that part out.
Yeah, the whole War On Drugs.I don’t know how you could ever stop something like fentanyl in the drugs. I have theories about other drugs, you just have to regulate them and tax them. But the government might never do that. But not with fentanyl, I don’t think that’d work. But cocaine? I don’t like cocaine, but I could see that being legalized in 40, 50 years maybe. If they’re able to tax it, what will happen is the drugs will become so tainted that they’ll have to start regulating it to make sure that there’s no fentanyl in it. It’s some theory shit. That’s what will happen but not fentanyl. Fentanyl will make other drugs like that if that makes any sense.
You left the rehab a week or two later. What made you leave?
There was a couple of times, the last time including where I left against their will. It was AMA. It’s funny because I was in the 51/50, then ended up in the detox. Of course, everybody’s gonna tell you to not do that. All your people are going to say: “You’re gonna relapse if you quit, if you leave.” But I’d been in detox a few times already and I got the gist. I’m good, and I stayed sober. Which is huge, because a lot of people wouldn’t. They’d mess up. Because those people that tell you all that stuff, they know. They see it all the time. They work there. They see people come in, come back. But lucky enough, I made it.
How much of a factor was it to get rid of the people around you that were enabling?
At that point, it wasn’t even people around me directly causing it. It wasme myself. Everybody around me was trying to help me, but they knew that when someone gets down that rabbit hole, they have to want to change themselves. I haven’t been around a bad group of people in a few years. That was only early on in the career when things first started happening, people and all that. But not not anymore, only good people. Only around good people.
Shout out Steve Lobel, I saw you went to The Heavenly Center.
Bro, that’s crazy. Those were the guys that helped me! My dad talked at one of their things too. Shout out to Scott Storch, Steve Lobel. They were the people that put me in the detox.
How did that happen?
Mutual friends. Small world, it was them. I went to the Heavenly Center for a little while, but left there too. But it was cool. It was good. They incorporate music and obviously weed, which is crazy.
I’m not gonna lie, that shook me. Because having been through rehab…
Even in my detox, they allowed weed. But I don’t know if it was because of Steve, that was the one Steve took me to. But the whole process, I could smoke weed. That was crazy. I didn’t smoke a lot, but it was cool.
I feel like that would help so many people if it was allowed, but you know how strict the 12 Step program is.
Oh no. Even some teachers that would come in during our group sessions at The Heavenly Center, they wouldn’t agree with the practices there either. They’d be teaching them like: to each their own. But they’d let us know personally, they don’t think that they should allow weed in here. They probably shouldn’t even be telling us that. I’m able to see both perspectives, but I do think in certain cases like that, I also believe that they’re onto something. There’ll be a lot more of these California sober rehabs and detoxes soon. It helped me.
When I was in treatment and I had to go to an AA meeting, I saw Steve-O. It was inspiring to see him sober.
I love watching his podcast. To see him and where he comes from and how he spiraled downhill, but now is abe… just such a respectable good dude. I love Steve-O. It is very inspiring to see, especially for someone like me who’s a recovering addict. To know that you can get that bad and then redeem yourself.
You asked me what my thing was, what’s your thing that you do daily to keep you level-headed?
What’s my thing to keep me level-headed? It’s gonna be a cliche, but smoke weed. Me listening to music, writing music, making music. That’s for sure, best therapy.
When did you realize you had an addictive personality?
That’s a genetic thing. I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but in my family, my mom. She’s not anymore but growing up, she had a little problem for a little while. My sister is still going through problems. My brother. They’re a little older thiugh. It was kind of a given that he’s probably going to do some. But yeah, I guess third time’s a charm in my family. I don’t plan on going back ever. I don’t think I ever will because I don’t even crave drugs.
A lot of your friends. You got Peep tatted right here.
Peep man. There’s a lot of people passing away at a young age. Mental health needs to be talked about more.
Talk about being here and being blessed with the opportunity to be sober, because I’m sure at your height you never thought it was possible.
At my height, I was thinking of how I was going to be a grandpa drug addict. How I was going to be able to function. You give a kid a lot of money and a lot of power and fame at an early age, and don’t give them the proper guidance, it’s the most common thing in the music industry. It happens every day, if someone’s getting screwed over.
How old were you when you got signed again?
I was 21. Very, very early. Of course, a situation like that is going to come from that, but I don’t hate it. I don’t have no ill will towards my past, it was a learning … I wouldn’t be this same person if I hadn’t gone through those struggles, or those hardships. I used to want to end my life because of anxiety or what people were saying, but those are what made me the person I am today. So I look at it all in a positive light. I have to.
Since 2000, nearly 1 million people have died of a drug overdose. I was watching the “NODA” video, which sees you going in your coffin. Can you touch on that? I’m sure this was a real life fear.
Yeah, we were talking about this today too. My parents, everybody around me thought I was gonna pass away any day, ‘cause I was abusing. I was taking 30 Xans and 30 Percs a day.
When did you pivot to smoking Percs?
It takes one bad person, then you enter… You think you’re in a bad group, but you’re really not, and you meet that one person. They opened the door to that bad zone, where it’s real bad people. That was only the last couple months of my drug addiction. Thank God because I was realizing damn, okay. This is a whole different… I could just see it. This is different than even bad, this is worse. So that’s what I caught. I was like, I gotta stop.
Have you seen the Juice WRLD documentary?
Which one? It might be a couple. I haven’t seen it, but I heard what people said about it. I knew Jared, he was the nicest person. He was so humble. If people don’t realize, he was the most humble down-to-earth guy. You wouldn’t think you’re talking to a superstar, then his talent. There hasn’t been anybody really like him since he passed, and I don’t think there ever will be because he’s amazing. He was a nice guy.
How did you guys meet?
We met in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Because when you go a festival, there’s a time and season where everybody’s on tour in Europe doing their big festivals. So you end up running into the same people here or there through Europe. It was one of those instances where we had the same festival playing. This was right after that first video of his started really blowing up. He was the coolest guy.
Oh yeah, he sat behind me at the VMAs. It was so funny, where the kids from Logic’s performance were all coming up. They were stopped up because they’re trying to take pictures with Juice WRLD and me right here. It holding up a whole MTV production. He was a cool dude. Rest in peace.
How does it feel? Because I’ve seen you pull up in your city and people are swarming.
That was back back in the day. We just put that address out. There has been a couple of times we did that.
Seeing those fans out there for you, it’s the most heartwarming thing.
I remember the first time, I was afraid that nobody would show up. Then it turned out thousands of kids showed up. I don’t know how I messed that up. I was thinking maybe 20 people would show up. It was the self-doubt. 4000 kids showed up and it was crazy. We did something similar, where I brought my homie, who’s an actor on Shameless, Ethan. We brought him out there to do a Meet & Greet. You know, I did a little bit for Redlands. Trying a little bit. It was a good time out there. There’s not a lot going on, but it’s home.
How does it feel to have your fans and love the sober you?
I love it man. I feel like they’ve been waiting on that for a long time. Because there was times where I would say I’m sober, but there’d be doubts and it wouldn’t make sense. t was a long time in the making for them. They’re just proud and they’re happy to see what I can create next.
How does it feel performing sober?
We just did a show at 1720 in Los Angeles. It was real good because we used a live band. Did a lot of the new songs and the old songs, but acoustic and live. It was a good time.
Were you nervous?
Always. Always nervous. I’m always 100% nervous before but when you walk onstage, it all goes away.
Why’d you drop out of high school freshman year?
It was funny because I fought to go to high school, because I had already missed a lot of middle school. So they didn’t even want to let me into high school. But I was young and wanted that high school musical experience or something. I wanted the high school experience. I went there, then realized that everybody sucks. So I left, because I realized that I was starting to conform to what the cool kids wanted me to be. I didn’t want to be like that. I was losing touch with myself, which is weird to know that from that early of an age. But I left because I felt uncomfortable there.
How long did you last?
I went to a lot. I went to most of sixth grade, a little bit of seventh. A little bit of eight, then 3 months of ninth grade. Then left, it wasn’t for me I want to get my GED. Other than that, it wasn’t for me. A lot of kids, it’s really not for them. But who am I to say?
What did you do with the first big bag?
Oh man, I got an apartment in downtown LA.
Do you like it? I feel like everyone that lives in LA has a downtown LA experience.
I lived down there. Every time I’d leave the house, I’d almost get shanked by a crackhead. It’s downtown LA, it’s crazy out there. There’s too many times.
How much do you think you smoke in a day?
A little over half ounce. Maybe 20 grams.
You were at Yeat’s house?
No, I wasn’t at Yeat’s house. I think you’re thinking of people thought that he charged me $200K. That’s so funny, we were in Spain when that happened. We were in Spain and I was drunk, a little bit tipsy. I went on a rant on social media. People somehow took that and turned it into a whole ‘nother story, then added Yeat in it. Bro, none of this even has to do with any of these people. I was talking about something completely left, and they made it right. It became a thing. I’m like damn, what are people talking about? I was so confused.
It’s so crazy because I’ve been a journalist for 11 years, and am starting to hate the media. They can literally say something and everyone will believe it.
Yeah, it sucked because I was on a plane on my way back, so I didn’t have service. I didn’t see it until a couple of days later. I didn’t have time to even let them know what it really meant, so they took it and ran with it. I get back home to America like oh shit, what is this all talking about? The media sucks.
I saw now you’re able to ignore the hate and the negative shit. What switched for you?
Stop reading comments. Try to lessen my usage of social media in general. There was a time when after I got sober, couple of months after where you know how your iPhone tells you how many minutes you use each app for and how much daily? I was only on my phone for two minutes every day. That much usage. I was really trying to stay away from any social media. I was focusing on myself.
I use social media a lot more now, but because you gotta. You have to use it, but I still have my limits. Once you really scroll through every app once, you’ve seen everything in a day. Then you see the same shit over and over again, it’s lame.
Do you like nature?
Yeah, I like going out to Joshua Tree. I was at that Invisible House out there. Wait, that actually might be what you meant with the Yeat house thing. I’m trippin’, because he filmed the music video there. It all clicked bro, it all clicked. ‘Cause you seen that Invisible House out there? They call it a mansion. It’s all glass so when you look at it, it’s invisible. Because it’s all desert.
Are you dating?
Dating? Maybe. Who’s asking? [laughs] Nah, I’m very open about relationships. I’m not at that time in my life where I really want to settle down.
How old are you?
I’m 26 about to be 27.
But you’re done partying. Don’t you want to be spending your — ?
We still party, we just don’t do it how we used to do it. It’s more mature. We still like to have a little fun. We’re still young. I’m acting like 26 is 46 or 56. That’s still young! Shout out to everybody bro.
Are you still living the bachelor life?
Yeah. It’s the same thing with money and fame. You give a young man that type of stuff and things come with it, it’s different. I didn’t get no chicks in high school. Hell no, I didn’t. Then it changed a lot. I’ve glowed up a lot though since high school. I was pretty nerdy.
When did the first face tat come in?
My life changed after that. I ain’t gonna lie. My life got significantly better after I started tatting up my face, which is not the same result that everybody gets. It was the perfect time. It was 2016, good times man.
Do you have a favorite?
I’ve always told it different every time someone asked me that, but my mom’s name is on my face. Candy.
I know Mac Miller meant a lot to you. How did his death affect you?
A lot. It made me want to stop making music damn near after. I always put it this way: I knew him a little bit. But first and foremost though, I was a big fan. Since 2009, I’ve been a fan. I’ve followed his whole discography. His whole catalog. Whatever I was going through in life, it seemed like he would put out a song or an album or mixtape that would relate to me. You grow within artists like that.
To have my music later in life, do what it did and intertwine me. I got to meet him was another crazy thing. He was exactly the type of dude I expected him to be. He was an amazing human being. Nice. Kind. He was exactly how he was, an incredible human being. I can’t say enough nice things about him. We knew each other a little bit, but I was a big fan of him. For music, that was a really big loss.
And his last words to you were, “Be safe.”
“Be safe.” I still think about it all the time, gotta be safe, man. Best words.
Are we ever gonna hear the song with you and PNB Rock?
Oh shit, rest in peace to PNB rock man. It was unfortunate what happened to him. We were talking about doing something before he passed. I don’t know what will ever come of that now because of what happened. But talk about another cool, amazing dude. That guy was so down-to-earth and humble. You know what’s so true? They take the good ones away. Why do the good ones? It’s always the humble, cool, good soul people. It’s crazy.
What can we expect from your EP?
A lot more live instruments, drums, pianos, violin. An orchestra of instruments. I’m finally able to make the music that I wanted to make back then, now. It wasn’t a label issue. It was more of me not being in the right headspace. The label was surprisingly very easy with everything. I had a more positive experience there. But more live instruments, a lot of solo stuff. There might be a couple of my friends featured on there, but I want to give people just a body of work that I’m proud of. This will be that.
I saw you say you want to drop one more project as Lil Xan before converting officially to Diego. What is the reasoning behind that?
It all stems from me because sometimes I’m telling people I’m more Diego more than I’m Lil Xan now. And that’s always been the goal to shake that name. But in the last 8 months, I’ve felt you can’t ditch that name. Because that name is always… I love that name. It’s a part of me, no matter how ridiculous it is. It’s a part of me.
Bring us back to that moment when you said, I’m- call myself Lil Xan.
It wasn’t me, it was my friend. He made an observation and said, “Oh, you’re always off Xans. I’m gonna call you Lil Xan.” I’m like, that’s so stupid. Yeah Back then, it was who had the more stupid nickname? I felt like that stuck. It’s a part of me so I’ll always be Lil Xan and always be Diego. It’s both. Some fans come up to me and say: can I take a picture with Diego or can I take a picture Xan? I like them both.
Anything else you’re excited for?
I’m excited for the future man, it’s very promising. Excited for the future.