Success as the lead singer of 1980s R&B group The Gap Band catapulted Charlie Wilson to fame and fortune. But stardom didn't keep Wilson from hitting rock bottom. After the group parted ways with their manager and split their publishing deal with him in 1986, the band, still under contract, had trouble finding new management. With little money coming in and frustrations mounting, Wilson turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope, leading him to a life on the streets of Los Angeles for nearly two years. With the help of a drug counselor, Mahin, who would later become his wife, Wilson sobered up and reignited his career. "Love saved me," says the 57-year-old who is set to release his third solo album, "Just Charlie" next month. In the first installment of a four part conversation with ESSENCE.com, Wilson shares how Mahin brought him back to life and became the driving force behind his current album: I was doing it all. Cocaine, crack...all of it. Getting high all of the time. I lost so much weight that I was down to about 130 pounds. Can you imagine a grown man being that size? I was 130 pounds in the seventh grade! The drugs, they were my downfall. It's how I landed on the streets. I did a lot of moving during the night, during the day I'd disappear. I didn't want people seeing me. I'd eat where I could and sometimes shower using random sprinkler systems around town. I didn't want to ask for help, but the people that I did reach out to, they turned their backs on me. I felt like I didn't have anyone on my team. I had success with the band, but here I was using a brick as a pillow and cardboard as my bed. Sometimes, I cry just thinking about it. Around 1995 I ran into my cousin. She and I used to get high together. She looked great and told me she had been clean for three years. My cousin took me to a rehab center where I met Mahin. She worked with me. She was patient and kind. Mahin asked me, "What are you going to do when you get out?" I broke down. "I don't have anywhere to go," I told her. Mahin told me she'd help and she did. She was there, helping me get clean. She instilled a sense of faith in me that had been lost over the years. She taught me how to do more than just exist. More importantly, Mahin taught me how to live again. At that time, I didn't know how live. I was barely getting by. After rehab Mahin helped me get a place and furniture. At that point I asked her to marry me. She thought I was crazy. Maybe so, but I was crazy about her. I told her I can't do this by myself. I needed her by my side. We've been together for 16 years and I have not had any relapses. Not one. We go everywhere together. Well, except to the bathroom! Mahin had a major influence on my new album. My wife has good ears, so she gave me advice on some lyrics. I was a little hesitant at first with all the suggestions she had, but I finally let her in musically. She led me in the right direction with my lyrics, letting me know what a woman would like to hear from a man. Mahin helped me with my message in songs like my new single "You are" and "Once and Forever." She made sure the lyrics were dead on. My wife has been everything to me. I don't know where I'd be without her. She came in when I was at rock bottom and has been there every step of the way. She's reassured me that even with all of my obstacles and losses that I can still win. I am forever grateful for that. How do you help people struggling with drug addiction in your life
Success as the lead singer of legendary R&B group, The Gap Band, catapulted Charlie Wilson to fame and fortune. But stardom didn't keep him from hitting rock bottom. After the group parted ways with their manager and split their publishing deal with him in 1986, the band, still under contract, had trouble finding new management. With little money coming in and frustrations mounting, Wilson turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope, leading him to a life on the streets of Los Angeles for nearly two years. In the first installment of a four-part conversation with ESSENCE.com, Wilson shares how his wife Mahin brought him back to life and became the driving force behind his upcoming album, "Just Charlie..."