I grew up in the East End of London and come from a mixed background from London and Ireland. From as early as I can remember, there was always a lot of drinking on both sides of the family. In those days, ‘real’ men were those who could hold their drink. It wasn’t really a surprise when I was given my first drink at home at around 10 years old. The problem for me was that I loved it – and I can vividly remember being so drunk at the age of 11 that I slid down a wall.
As I grew into my twenties, alcohol felt like a ‘super drug’ for me. It could do something for me that it couldn’t do for others – or that was how it seemed at the time. Coming from a Catholic background, I also felt a lot of religious pressure at home – and alcohol was always my escape and refuge from those feelings.
The drugs and alcohol were really starting to affect me and that’s when I started to feel lost. It got to a point where I wanted to kill myself.
When I had my first job at a cheese shop in Leadenhall street market, I remember popping into the pub at lunchtimes and getting drunk during my shift. For a while, it never seemed too much of a problem, but when I got into music, I really started to see how my drinking was affecting me. I had recently joined the band Public Image Limited (PiL) as a bassist and I remember desperately trying to avoid drinking before my shows so that I could function properly.
The drugs and alcohol were really starting to affect me and that’s when I started to feel lost. It got to a point where I wanted to kill myself. I’d wake up at 4am not even realising whether it was morning or evening. I was weak, not able to eat or sleep and I was stuck in a freezing cold flat in Shadwell, which was one of the poorest wards in the country at the time. My liver was also starting to become unhealthy. By that point, I had a daughter and I would make a conscious effort to stay away from drugs and alcohol for short periods of time for her sake. By 1984, I was working as a minicab driver and playing music whilst still drinking heavily.
I knew that I needed to change my life the day I attacked somebody after downing a few mugs of whiskey.
I knew that I needed to change my life the day I attacked somebody after downing a few mugs of whiskey. I had contacted AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) in the past but never followed through with their help. But this time, I was determined to make a change.
The guy from AA was really supportive and could see that I was in a bad way. I started going to meetings and I took to it like a duck to water. I haven’t touched alcohol or drugs since 23rd October 1986. What amazes me more is that I’ve never even stood outside a pub longing to be inside! After stopping drinking and starting to turn my life around, I decided to begin work on the London Underground which was a job I actually really enjoyed!
The whole trip of taking substances was such an empty experience that ironically enough, lacked a lot of substance
As I stopped drinking, one of the things I noticed instantly was that the aching loneliness that I felt so consumed by just went away. The whole trip of taking substances was such an empty experience that ironically enough, lacked a lot of substance. I feel like, at the time, I was attracted to money and power like a moth to a lamp, but deep down, those things are all empty. I had simply been looking for something to cling to. The booze and the drugs never got near my love for music, because at the time, everything was subservient to music – but I guess at one point, those substances did become my obsession and replaced music. Working on the Underground also helped me feel structured in my life and it encouraged me to start embracing the ordinary things – that hasn’t really left me until now!
A few months into my recovery, I got the chance to get back into music again and that’s when I teamed up with my former band member Neville from Invaders of the Heart, which marked the rekindling of our band that we started in 1982. We weren’t an overnight success, but I allowed myself a year back in music to see how everything would go.
Thankfully, everything worked out in my favour. Today, I work in music as a bassist doing live shows, I have my own record label and I continue to work and develop every aspect of myself in the best way that I can. I also went back to university to get a degree and, in 2000, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, English Literature and Music from Birkbeck University.
In my recovery, I have developed a great sense of sensitivity which is what I tried to block out with substances in the past. For me, the realisation that everything in life is a process – whether that is addiction or recovery – is what has led me on my spiritual path. I will always have faith that there is a process and for me, that’s my definition of a tangible higher power. Right now, my life is beautiful. I have a wonderful relationship with my children, music is a huge part of my life again and I feel authentic in everything that I do. Working on the Underground, earning a degree and getting back into music were really the things that I considered ‘the trip’ – not drugs or booze. I would like to pass my experience onto my sons and I am thankful for the relationship that I have with them, and for all the other blessings in my life.