Legendary guitarist and musician Eric Clapton says that he’s now “struggling” to play guitar because of damage to his nervous system.
Clapton was recently diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, a condition that occurs when nerves carrying messages to and from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body are damaged or diseased.
“I’ve had quite a lot of pain over the last year,” said Clapton to the U.K.’s Classic Rock. “It started with lower back pain, and turned into what they call peripheral neuropathy.”
“[It feels like] electric shocks going down your leg,” he described. “[It’s] hard work to play the guitar, and I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that it will not improve.”
Clapton has admitted in the past, most notably in his 2007 autobiography, that he has a storied history of drug use and abuse. While it hasn’t been proven definitively that Clapton’s condition is a result of his excessive substance abuse, he thinks it has something to do with it.
“By rights I should have kicked the bucket a long time ago,” he said. “I don’t know how I survived – the ’70s especially. For some reason, I was plucked from the jaws of hell and given another chance.”
The British rocker is happy to be among the living, saying “it’s a great thing to be alive at all.”
Clapton has cancelled concerts in the past because of back and nerve pain, but is still going strong: he released his 23rd solo album, I Still Do, in May. He has no upcoming concert dates planned.