The former Journey drummer speaks about life since pleading guilty to charges related to domestic violence and going through drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Perpetrator, abuser and batterer, these are the painful but deliberate words that Deen Castronovo uses to describe himself.
“It’s my truth, I have nothing to hide,” said the man who played drums for the rock band Journey. “I was a verbally abusive man. I was a physically abusive man.”
Castronovo seemed brutally honest during a no-holds barred interview Monday, Nov. 2, at his oldest son’s home in Keizer, where he has been living since he completed court-ordered drug rehabilitation.
For more than an hour, with no attorney or publicist by his side, Castronovo recounted details of what led up to his arrest for domestic violence charges in June and the subsequent plea deal he accepted Oct. 12 from Marion County prosecutors.
He apologized for tearing a tornado-like path of destruction through his family and his community, elaborated on the domestic violence and drug abuse counseling he is undergoing, and then apologized again.
“This is not about clearing my name,” he said. “The only way I’m going to get my family’s trust back is to walk the walk. I’ve let everybody in the community down, everyone who ever put any faith and trust in me.”
Castronovo issued a public apology on Friday, Oct. 30, through an entertainment publicist, and then offered the Statesman Journal an opportunity to be the first to interview him in person.
“I want to talk to my community, that’s important,” he said. “I have to live here. I’ve lived here all my life. My children have gone to school here. My children have friends here.
“They deserve to be apologized to. I’ve got to make it right now, no matter what it takes or what it costs.”
Castronovo was sentenced to four years of supervised probation after pleading guilty to two counts of fourth-degree domestic violence assault, two counts of domestic violence menacing, one count of unlawful use of a weapon and one count of coercion.
The charges stemmed from an incident in June, the culmination of a volatile 6 1/2-year relationship with the victim, his former fiancée, whom Castronovo admits he emotionally, verbally and physically abused.
He said he will forever be indebted to her for calling police that day. Out of respect to her as a victim, we attempted to reach her before this column published but were unsuccessful.
Castronovo realizes there will be detractors, those who question everything he says or does as a calculated move to salvage a successful and lucrative music career. Before landing the gig with Journey in 1998, he played drums for the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Bad English.
“If somebody really wants to show that they’ve changed, they don’t need the publicity,” said Jayne Downing, executive director of the Center for Hope & Safety, a local nonprofit that serves victims and survivors of domestic violence. “They just do the right thing.”
Trista Davis, program manager at Solutions Domestic Violence Intervention Program Inc., agreed.
“Because domestic violence happens in the secrecy of the home, an apology to the public isn’t where his change needs to be made,” Davis said. “The public wasn’t the one he hurt. It was his partner.”
On the other hand, because Castronovo is a celebrity, every sordid detail of his case was published and broadcast nationally. Why shouldn’t he get the same attention while he learns how to stay sober and stop his abusive behaviors? Of course, if he relapses or violates probation, we should hold him accountable for that, too.
“Because he is who he is, perhaps it’s a great opportunity to educate other people,” Davis said.
Castronovo is 127 days sober today. He completed a 75-day inpatient treatment program at the Hazelden Springbrook campus in Newberg, part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. It was court-ordered.
What wasn’t was him voluntarily signing up for an intensive 18-month post-treatment program that includes random urinalysis and daily breathalyzers, which he pays for. Four times a day he blows into a hand-held breathalyzer with embedded camera that captures an image of him for identity verification and wirelessly transmits data to an online portal.
“If I screw up, my probation officer will know,” said Castronovo, who also is participating in a 12-step recovery program and attending regular meetings.
Sobriety has been a challenge for him for years.
When I first met Castronovo in 2009, at the main branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties, he was forthright about previous substance abuse and shared that he had been clean and sober for two years. He talked about how drugs had cost him a marriage and damaged his relationship with his family, including his two sons, at the time ages 18 and almost 4.
“For me to give back to the community helps me keep my sobriety,” he said that day.
Castronovo has been a major benefactor for the Boys & Girls Club, both as a donor and a mentor. He outfitted a room full of musical instruments and studio quality recording equipment and has been an inspiration for many youths who participate in the Journey to Music program.
Now he’s not sure where he stands with the organization.
“I’ve had no contact with them,” he said. “I’ve let them down and disappointed a lot of people.”
During his treatment at Hazelden Springbrook, he tried to set an example for younger patients and gave them this warning: “You don’t want to be 51 and in your fifth stint of treatment and you’ve lost everything.”
It wasn’t Castronovo’s first time at Hazelden. He was there around 2000, but lasted only nine days.
“I had consequences this time, severe consequences,” he said. “Jail and losing my job.”
He did spend 15 days in jail, which he said scared him straight, and he did lose his job. On Aug. 10, while still in rehab, he received a phone call from the band manager. Journey fired him.
“They had to,” Castronovo said. “They have an impeccable legacy, and I tarnished that. They didn’t fire me to punish me. They fired me because they love me and they wanted me to get help. They knew I couldn’t do it and be on the road.”
He is using the time to heal and to reclaim his identity, which in the past has been tied to being a rock star.
“The only time I felt self-worth was playing the drums,” he said. “I used to live for cars, touring, playing, the big houses — meaningless crap. I’m happier now.”
For his recovery’s sake, he has had to let go of the shame and the guilt of being a batterer.
“I know I will never downplay or minimize what I did, but I have to forgive myself,” Castronovo said. “It doesn’t have to be a lifetime pattern. People can change.”
One of the conditions of his probation is that he undergo 36 weeks of domestic violence counseling, and he is four weeks into it. He attends a men’s group on Saturday afternoons.
What he’s already learned is that he cannot blame the 24-day methamphetamine binge that led up to his arrest, or a previous addiction to pain medication after hip replacement and back surgery.
“Domestic violence is really a choice, and it is calculated,” he said. “The drugs and the alcohol exacerbated it immensely, but there’s no excuse for what I did. I deal with it every day, and it’s deeper than regret or remorse.”
Realizing that is just the first step in the eyes of domestic violence advocates like Davis and Downing.
“Substances don’t create belief systems,” said Davis, who works at a different counseling center than the one Castronovo attends. “Somebody can work on sobriety and over time they may feel pretty good, but their belief system and their behaviors and their thinking is still there.
“True change takes between three to five years to measure.”