Kris Kristofferson has been battling memory loss for several years, but his condition has taken a marked turn for the better due to a surprising diagnosis.

Doctors have been telling Kristofferson that his worsening memory loss was caused either by Alzheimer’s or by dementia that was brought on by blows to the head he suffered in his athletic youth, when he took regular part in rough sports including football, boxing and rugby. The iconic singer-songwriter and actor tells Rolling Stone Country that it got so bad, he sometimes couldn’t remember what he was doing from one moment to the next. In typical Kristofferson fashion, he began to write a song about it.

“I see an empty chair / Someone was sitting there,” the lyrics begin. “I’ve got a feeling it was me / And I see a glass of wine / I’m pretty sure it’s mine.”

Ironically, Kristofferson forgot about the song, and his daughter, Kelly, finished it, though it has not been recorded. But after years of taking medications that had multiple side effects and did not seem to be helping very much, Kristofferson has made remarkable strides recently, after doctors decided to test him for Lyme disease. The tests were positive, and since undergoing treatment for Lyme disease, “All of a sudden he was back,” his wife, Lisa, says. She adds that he still has some bad days, but “some days he’s perfectly normal and it’s easy to forget that he is even battling anything.”

Kristofferson is typically stoic about both his illness and his seemingly miraculous recovery. “What good would it do?” he says with a shrug when asked if he was scared about losing his past.

“I really have no anxiety about controlling my own life,” the legendary wordsmith elaborates. “Somehow I just slipped into it and it’s worked. It’s not up to me — or you. I feel very lucky that [life]’s lasted so long because I’ve done so many things that could have knocked me out of it. But somehow I just always have the feeling that He knows what He’s doing. It’s been good so far, and it’ll probably continue to be.”

What Kris Kristofferson song changed your life?