The rocker went under the knife to replace an aortic valve last year (13) and admits the procedure really impacted on his songwriting.
Hughes, 62, is now making his darkest thoughts public with new supergroup California Breed, which features drummer Jason Bonham and pop sensation Cody Simpson's former bandleader Andrew Watt - and he admits he almost died.
He tells Billboard.com, "For some reason I wasn't frightened. I felt like I was going to be Ok, but I'm still supremely grateful to be here. For me to still be doing this at my age, with what I've been through with drink and drugs...
"There was a time everyone was putting bets on me: 'Ah, Hughes is gonna be the first to go'. But he's still here."
He adds, "I'm singing about life and death, if you will, and what goes on in between. I don't write about fiction. I'm a human condition guy."
And Hughes admits one untitled new song was inspired by a dream he had about Depeche Mode star Dave Gahan, another rocker who has come close to death after attempting suicide in 1995 and suffering an overdose in 1996.
The veteran explains, "I've never met Dave Gahan. I was telling my manager, 'You've got to call his manager...' God knows how he (Gahan) got into it (dream), but that's how dark and strange my recovery became."