The recovering alcoholic said Townshend and Clapton were crucial in starting his recovery process, while the rest of U2 were there for him throughout.
Clayton, 57, was handed an award in New York City on Monday by MusiCares, a foundation he supports that helps musicians get treatment for addiction.
He said during his acceptance speech that he thought his life would be over as a rock star if he quit drinking because so much of their careers revolve around the night.
“But two heroes of mine were there for me and it meant a great deal that they would try to convince me otherwise,” he said.
“After two particularly destructive benders, Eric Clapton was there on the end of the phone. He didn’t sugarcoat it, he told me that I needed to change my life and that I wouldn’t regret it.
“He gave me the name of a treatment centre and the power to make a call to them.
“And whilst I was going through that five-week programme, Pete Townshend visited me and again put steel on my back.”
Clayton said they were enough to convince him life would go on without alcohol and that he was instead at a crossroads on the “long journey to learn to love myself”.
“I was lucky because I had three friends who could see what was going on and who loved me enough to take up the slack of my failings,” he added.
“Bono, The Edge, and Larry [Mullen Jr] truly supported me before and after I entered recovery and I am unreservedly grateful for their friendship, understanding and support.”
The band then played three songs, ‘Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of’, ‘Vertigo’, and ‘I Will Follow’.
Clayton reportedly gave up alcohol after being unable to perform during a concert in Australia in 1993.