Check Your Soul
“Are you alright?” That’s something I’m known for asking people, but I never really meant it before, not really. It was just a way of greeting people; a line to break the ice. I never really thought about what I was actually saying. But it’s such an important question. That’s what I realise now.
I had all the bravado that you need as a lead singer of a rock band. On stage, I felt like a Jedi Knight — tuned in and let loose. But underneath it all, I was a ticking time bomb.
Of course, I couldn’t see it clearly. When we were first signed in 2002, it felt like one long party. I was 21, got a record deal, and was touring the world with my mates. It feels like the great adventure and you live for it. But no one talks about what’s really going on emotionally.
I’ve always struggled with my mental health; it’s no secret. I’ve also suffered from anxiety since I was a kid. It’s actually my nervous energy that you see onstage, not cocky swagger. But the lifestyle made me worse. I was pushing everything down with drink and drugs — suppressing my feelings. I ignored every red flag.
For a long time, I knew something was wrong, really wrong in my head. But I didn’t check myself. That’s until I hit a rock bottom. Last year, in April 2020, I did something I will never forgive myself for: I physically assaulted my now wife Vikki in a row fuelled by alcohol. It was totally unacceptable. In fact, it makes me feel sick every time I think about it.
I didn’t recognise myself anymore. I had hurt the woman I love. There are no excuses for what happened. I’m deeply ashamed of what I did. Anyone who knows me knows that it’s not in my nature to be violent and it had never happened before. But my failure to address the issues within myself led me to breaking point.
In the first few weeks of the first lockdown last year, I was already at the bottom of a very dark well. I was used to a lifestyle of touring and recording. That was gone. I had no focus, nowhere to channel my energy. I was fighting for access to my daughter, who I hadn’t seen for months. I was confused and emotional about so many things, and those things were making me drink heavily to drown out the noise. I was pushing everyone I cared about away.
I didn’t realise I was unwell, but Vikki saw what I couldn’t. She’d rung the police repeatedly to say I was suicidal, but nobody knew what to do. It was a perfect storm. I wish I could pinpoint the exact moment that got me there, but it’s just not that simple.
I can, however, identify the turning point. Being arrested that night changed everything. It was the wake-up call I needed to get help. It was as bad as it could get for me. I was in a police cell, not knowing what had happened because I’d drunk so much alcohol. Having to watch the video revealing the reality of what I’d done repulsed me. I pleaded guilty straight away to everything. The shock set in. I was shaken to the core.
But it saved my life — it’s that simple. That night, I rightly lost everything: my home, my job, and people around me. I was sacked and shunned.
Following the court case and being charged, I felt like there was nothing left to live for. I was no longer in the band and I was living in a caravan feeling suicidal. I felt deep, deep shame. I have never been arrested before, or been in any trouble with the police or anyone. I could not bear the thought that Viks was frightened or that she had been hurt. To this day, even now I struggle with how I made her feel that night. I will always have to live with that.
It’s a lonely, horrible place to be and I came very close to doing something there’s no way back from. At that darkest moment, it was the probation system that stepped in and permanently changed me for the better.
My probation officer got me the help I needed to access the right organisations and take practical steps forward. She gave me the hope that there was a way through it all to a better place. Looking back, I realise that although I was in a deep black hole, I didn’t really want to die. I just didn’t want to live the life I had.
I went to rehab for alcoholism — I’d tried rehab before, maybe I wasn’t ready for it earlier, but this time it clicked. I got sober. With the support of my family and friends, every day clean and sober is a victory.
In therapy, I was diagnosed with ADHD. I’ve always had a lot of energy and it’s hard for me to focus. I can be intense about one thing in particular and obsess over it. For so long, it was singing and music I’d fixate on. The ADHD diagnosis made sense of my way of thinking. It was a relief to know what had been wrong with me. I also got the right medication for my anxiety.
A lot clicked for me. I accepted that I’m an alcoholic. I always will be. But I can choose to be a recovering one. I learnt that I needed to be self-aware. I now know that I must check in with myself all the time, look after my health physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, to try and make sure that I, and the people around me, are not plagued with my addiction and the suffering it brings.
I also completed a course called Building Better Relationships as part of the rehabilitation programme in probation. It gave me a new perspective by looking at things from a woman’s point of view and trying to understand how I, as a man, might make women feel. No one automatically teaches you that stuff — it was invaluable.
Some people think I don’t deserve to ever be rehabilitated for what I did to Vikki. I’m conflicted when it comes to cancel culture. Giving up on people doesn’t help anyone. If someone feels cancelled, sometimes all you end up doing is pushing their problem into the shadows. It’s just another form of bullying, because you’re not helping them or showing them how to change.
I agree with consequence culture. It’s important to suffer consequences because of your actions. To be given the chance to look deep within yourself and learn how to make changes and to become a better person for yourself and your family has to be a good thing.
If the consequence of what I did is that I lose my career, I accept that. My career is superficial and it has a shelf life. Breaking the stigma of domestic abuse will not happen if it continues to be treated lightly. But if anything I have to say helps someone before they reach their breaking point, I think that has to be a good thing.
Maybe my story can inspire others struggling and using alcohol to fix problems, to know that you can stop the cycle. It’s possible to turn your life around. There is always a way to get to the other side of the mountain: maybe not over the top, you might have to go around the side, but you can get there. You just have to try. With help and understanding, anyone can change.
One in 3 men in the UK have experienced suicidal thoughts, and the biggest killer of men in the UK under 50 is suicide. I know a lot of guys like me grew up in a world where men are not celebrated for getting deep, being open, vulnerable, and taking on their demons, or working hard to be better, but it’s what every man needs to do.
If we don’t communicate, we can end up drowning. If I had been able to get real help earlier, like I did with the probation service, things would never have got to the crisis point they did.
I’m a father to four amazing girls and Viks and I are married now. My priority is working on myself and my relationships. I am responsible for my actions and I will spend the rest of my life making it up to her. I’m so lucky she’s stuck with me, and we are both so excited about our future together.
Music is like a form of therapy for me now. For the first time, I’m writing songs. They’re about my life, and they’re songs I want to sing. I’ll probably be terrified if I ever go back to performing — but my head is back in the place it was when I started out in music. Music feels fresh again, and now I know how to focus my energy on the right things.
It’s a journey; it’s not just about reinventing yourself. Sometimes, it can feel like a daily battle to confront issues. It takes hard work. I stay sober a day at a time. But it’s worth it. Just make sure to ask yourself, honesty — are you alright? And if you’re not, reach out for help.