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brutally honest X-Factor singer Janet Devlin speaks of alcoholism battle and trying to take her own life

Singer examines links between addiction and suicide in documentary

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Janet Devlin. Pic by: Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

Janet Devlin. Pic by: Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

Janet Devlin. Pic by: Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

Singer Janet Devlin says a new documentary about alcoholism hammered home the trauma her suicide could have caused her family.

The 27-year-old is brutally honest about attempting to take her own life as she battled with booze and mental health issues and feeling like a failure when she didn't succeed.

But meeting with a young woman who lost her mum and sister to suicide because of alcohol opened her eyes to the damage it causes.

"That's a conversation that will stay with me for life," says Janet, who revealed in 2020 that she'd struggled with addiction for years.

"Hearing that emptiness that they are left with really hammered it home that's what I could have done to my family.

"The amount of times I tried to take my own life, and one of those times it was going to be successful."

For Janet Devlin: Young, Female and Addicted, the former X Factor sensation talks to recovering alcoholics and women who have lost loved ones to drink dependence to probe why female addiction is rarely addressed.

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Janet performing on the X Factor. Photographer: Ken McKay

Janet performing on the X Factor. Photographer: Ken McKay

Janet performing on the X Factor. Photographer: Ken McKay

Alcohol-related deaths among young women in Northern Ireland have increased by two thirds in the last 20 years. A liver specialist who spoke to the singer for the programme says hospitals are also treating an increasing number of patients with brain damage caused by booze.

Janet, who appeared on the TV talent show at the age of 16 in 2011, says she was already dealing with her demons by the time she became a star. She started to self-harm at 12 and had an unhealthy relationship with booze by the age of 15. The Confessional singer was also coping with the trauma of a sexual assault at a house party, and an eating disorder.

She's now been diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder and attends a therapist and psychiatrist regularly as well as taking anti-psychotic drugs.

And she has no doubt that without mum Patricia, who is interviewed for the programme, she wouldn't have survived. On several occasions Patricia dropped everything to travel from Gortin to London when Janet's addiction was out of control. She feared booze would kill her daughter and still worries that the singer will be triggered to return to drinking.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN DAVISON/PACEMAKER PRESS

PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN DAVISON/PACEMAKER PRESS

PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN DAVISON/PACEMAKER PRESS

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"My mum is famous for saying it how it is, and it was hard to hear sometimes. It's hard to hear the pain that I put her through. I can't imagine what it's like to have a child and watch them destroy themselves.

"She tried to be nurturing and understanding and be a shoulder to cry on, and the tough love approach. There is nothing anyone can do to help in those moments.

"I would just go missing for days and not answer anyone's messages and I'd turn up back at the house and be greeted by my mum."

Janet believes it was accidental that she stopped drinking when she tried to book into a treatment centre, but they had no places and referred her to Alcoholics Anonymous.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN DAVISON/PACEMAKER PRESS

PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN DAVISON/PACEMAKER PRESS

PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN DAVISON/PACEMAKER PRESS

"I had tried to get sober before and it just hadn't worked. This time I was at another rock bottom and mum came over and took me to the doctor and the AA meeting.

"She was the one who walked me to those places, and I don't think I would have gone it if she hadn't been there."

Manager Rick Chambers also breaks down as he reveals the strain on his marriage of taking Janet into his home for two years at the height of her illness. "When you hear these things from the people you love the most it's heartbreaking," she says.

For Janet, making the documentary will help her stay sober after seeing at first hand the havoc caused by alcohol addiction.

The young women who took part share stories of losing mothers, a sister and contact with their kids because of booze.

"When you get sober hearing other people's stories is one of the things that keeps you sober. It reminds you of what you went through.

"I lost all my money and then I had no money and I was drinking, passing out on the red carpet, and it just kept getting worse. I would have awful experiences, but it wasn't enough to get me sober."

She was also dealing with online trolls and abuse. That's still happening but she regards it as part of being on the internet.

"It doesn't help if you already hate yourself and a bunch of grown-ups are also telling you they hate you."

Janet, who still attends AA, is proud now to call herself an alcoholic because it represents the new life she's built.

The performer is set to go on the road again after a successful tour last year, overcoming her nervousness about live gigs, and is currently writing a new album of country songs.

She hopes that anyone struggling with addiction who watches her documentary will take some hope from it.

"I'm proud to call myself an alcoholic for the life I'm able to live now. I don't miss out time on my weekends or lose any life in bed hungover.

"Hope and help are out there, and they are the two things that can make everything better," says Janet.

roisin.gorman@sundayworld.com

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