4 July, 2004
Exclusive By Danielle Lawler
HE is only 24 and should have the world of rock and roll at his feet. Until last week Pete Doherty was lead singer and guitarist in the Libertines, the group once tipped to eclipse Oasis and make millions.
"I'm more terrified for others - my mum and friends who are worrying themselves over me. Sometimes I'm convinced I do want to be free from the drugs - but I don't feel a lot of people's worries justify it."
Defiantly he adds: "I know people who take more drugs than me and they're still here."
A loose page falls from a leather-bound diary he is flicking through as he chain-smokes his way through a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes. He picks it up and starts reading a poem he's written:
I feel death - dull misty death - it is pestering me like a well-meaning friend,
Death is blinding me, with slow-burning horror flame flickers.
I feel death - thrashing, certain death - banging me about a reet gud clobbering. Waves then...
I feel death, mournful dreary death, clogging up myself.'
Doherty believes that it is his inner demons, rather than drugs, that could kill him. "There are three things I know a bit about in my life and that's QPR, my guitar and drugs," he says. "I know QPR are the best football team in the world, my guitar is the most beautiful thing I own and that I don't take enough drugs to kill me. It isn't drugs I need to get rid of, it's the demons that fill my head. Once I have come to terms with my demons, maybe I'll be able to get clean."
It was after a second and failed spell at the exclusive Priory Clinic that his mother begged her son to go to the Thamkrabok Monastery.
"She just turned up on the doorstep one day and was really distressed and worried about me," says Doherty. "She'd found a lump in her breast but refused to have a scan unless I agreed to go into rehab. I think that was unfair to put so much pressure on me, but I went anyway to prove I would do it for her. I went for three days without drugs and it was hell. But she still wasn't satisfied. I'd gone to Thailand like she asked. I couldn't have done much more."
The Buddhist monastery in the mountains of central Thailand has been treating long-term addicts since the 1960s. When he arrived , Doherty was handed a set of tattered red pyjamas and shown to his spartan bunk.
Each day he was given a shot-glass of a drink made of 108 seeds, leaves and tree bark, then made to drink pints of water to make him vomit and detox his body. It was followed by steam baths with 10 others undergoing treatment to let the toxins seep out of the pores.
Doherty had a breakdown, writing in a statement before he fled: "Thamkrabok Monastery have done everything they could to help me, but I am not strong enough for this treatment."
He says it was three days of hell. "I'd only come out of the Priory a couple of days earlier so I'd been through all the shakes, vomiting and sleepiness nights with cold turkey. Foolishly I didn't do any research about Thailand before I went, and it was hardcore."
In a diary he detailed his breakdown as the drugs are flushed out of his bloodstream. "I wanted to go home so badly yesterday," he writes after his second day. "Tears in the night and the oncoming afternoon. The other Westerners out here encouraged and comforted me. I had a f***ing breakdown."
Doherty admits he was not committed enough to the programme and only went to Thailand to please his mum.
"On the third day I left and went to Bangkok. I booked into a hotel where they offered room service of heroin with my bacon and eggs. I told them I had no money but they said I could have it on tab. I notched up a £280 bill in three days. If I'd done the same amount of brown in England it would have cost me thousands."
DAYS after returning to London, he was arrested for speeding and when police searched him they discovered a knife. Last week he appeared in court where he pleaded not guilty to possessing an offensive weapon.
His mother Jacqueline - who last week was given an all-clear about her lump - and father Peter have now threatened to disown him after his failed attempts to beat drugs. "My dad told me I'd broken my mum's heart," says Doherty. "He said I represented everything he hated about humanity. That really got to me. But after five minutes, five days maybe, I cut myself off from him completely. We hadn't spoken for years anyway," he shrugs.
"I remember he dropped my mum off once at one of my digs. He stuck his head around the door and said, 'It's a shithole isn't it?'. That was all he said and then he went."
Doherty had a strict Catholic upbringing moving around the country with his family from Liverpool before settling in London's Shepherd's Bush. He met fellow Libertine Carl Barat in a squat in East London. "We were both musicians," says Doherty. "We clicked immediately and the Libertines were born."
His family were not so keen. "My parents told me to get a job, I just wanted to make music."
Partly to please them and to make some money to fund his music, he took a job as a labourer on a building site. "I could never understand why people took drugs at first, but all the labourers were taking speed, acid and poppers. I started dealing to them to make a bit of money on the side and took speed myself.
"My dealer was always smoking roll-ups and I asked. 'Is that opium?' I had a romantic vision of taking opium. I didn't think of it as smack.
"He was loath to sell it to me and told me, 'You'll regret it...I don't want to be the one who got you hooked'. But it was my decision no one else's.You can't spend your life blaming others for your actions."
Doherty adds: "The first time I had heroin I was 21, walking round the streets of Whitechapel on a Sunday, smoking brown my dealer gave me and thinking I was cool. I've no idea how much I took that first time or how much it cost. He gave it to me for free.
"As it got into my bloodstream I noticed it exaggerated parts of me that were already there... solitude and loneliness.
"Then I started getting all these creative thoughts for the first album. So I kept taking it. I didn't get hooked straight away - it was a gradual thing. It was six months to a year later before I started taking it every day.
"Drugs have never been the driving wheel - they are just part of creating music. I just want to play so I take it to enhance my creativity. A lot of my lyrics are heroin related - but they're never a celebration of it."
As Doherty became hooked, the Libertines gained two new members, drummer Gary Powell and American bass player John Hassall and started playing more and more gigs.
Just before Christmas 2001 they were signed by record label Rough Trade. "We could never afford coke - that was too expensive - it was always heroin," says Doherty. "Someone laid out a line of coke on the table for me and Carl to congratulate us. It was our first proper line.
"I sparked up like a Christmas tree. Sticking a line of cocaine up your nose is normal in the music industry... it's rife. Drugs and music are one and the same to me. cannot distinguish between them."
A CLOSE friend of the singer's explains how music industry expenses listed as "flowers and chocolate" are usually bills for cocaine and other drugs.
"You can always get your hands on whatever you want," adds Doherty.
After national tours with American rockers The Strokes and Aussie stars The Vines, The Libertines were voted Best New Band in 2003 and then Best British Band earlier this year.
But as records like What A Waster, Don't Look Back Into The Sun climbed the charts, Doherty's drugs problems were spiralling out of control.
He was sacked for the first time in July last year. While the band were abroad he even took some of Carl's property to feed his addiction.
Doherty was welcomed back - but his continuing addiction finally forced the band to part with him again last week after his latest battle to beat his addiction failed.
"I tried to calm down when they told me with a smoke," he says. "But as I was cooking up I looked at the brown and screwed it up. There was not a drug in the world that could make me feel better. It made me feel dirty and I realised, 'This is why I can't play'. I've got to start getting clean straight away. But I can't do it in the Priory or places like that. I have to do it in the environment I live in because I am always going to be surrounded by drugs while I'm making music. I've just got to find the inner strength to control it."
"I'd like to say I've been through rehab and seen the error of my ways, but if I put my hand on heart I've not. I'm not shooting up any more - I supposed I can use about £1,000 a day but I can't quantify how much drugs passes through my hands and my bloodstream."
Doherty has had a series of relationships with a leggy American model known only as Jack and has a two-year-old son Estile with Lisa Moorish, who has a baby daughter Molly by Liam Gallagher.
His latest love was a girl called Irene. Once he dreamt of running away to Paris with her
"Irene was my girlfriend but it's over, "he sighs. "I had to choose between her or drugs. I suppose I chose drugs."
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