Frances Black gives honest account of addiction and life as a Senator

By Ciara Phelan

Senator and singer Frances Black has opened up about her fight with addiction and depression, becoming a Senator and her views on the Alcohol Bill.

She spoke to health and social justice campaigner, Ruairí McKiernan, on his Love and Courage Podcast and recalled growing up in inner city Dublin and her memories of her mother suffering with depression.

Frances, whose father was a plasterer and travelled a lot with work added to her mother's anxiety.

"My father, wherever he could get work, he would go so he might be down the country but I remember my mother with that anxiety in her 'Where am I going to get food today, for the kids?' In those days, the women had a lot of the responsibility for everything," she said.

Frances also stated she believes that a lot of people go through depression at some point in their lives and the biggest challenge facing sufferers is learning how to deal with it.

"The biggest challenge that people face is learning how to verbalise. We don't have that knowledge and I can only talk about myself but when I went through dark times, I didn't know what to do about it, I didn't know where to go and I certainly didn't know how to put a name on what I was feeling, that darkness that's within," she told Ruairí McKieran.

Frances Black gives honest account of addiction and life as a Senator

She also discussed how she thought she was different because of her depression but stated her children brought light into her life despite her alcohol addiction.

"I was 19 when I had my son and I had my daughter when I was 21. I would have used alcohol for certainly a period of time, to numb out, thinking that was going to help. But it didn't. It actually magnified the problems, I wasn't aware that it was alcohol that was making me feel darker, that was making things worse but when I did, I made sure that I wasn't going to be dependent on it, and it wasn't going to be the one thing that makes me powerless," she said.

The Senator also highlighted that people only see alcoholics as "the wino falling around in the street," and when she told people she had an alcohol problem they didn't believe her.

Throughout her recovery Frances recalled how she would believe she was a failure and that everybody would have to like her in order to succeed but through her recovery, realised that being free is not caring what others thought.

Since embarking on that journey of freedom, the singer and songwriter decided to run for the Seanad and believed she didn't actually need to know a lot about politics to get in there, she just needed to be passionate about issues that meant something to her, and that's exactly what she did.

"I felt this unbelievable urge to be the voice for people who didn't have a voice, and who don't have a voice," she said referencing why she set up the Rise foundation which helps family members deal with addictive behaviours.

"That feeling of frustration of 'What, in the name of God is going on?' 'Why are there people homeless in this day and age?' Why is there not enough support out there for people who have alcohol, drug, gambling issues? It needs to come from the top, you know? And it needs to come from in here," she said.

On the Alcohol Bill, Frances wants to work on changing the culture and unhealthy lifestyle surrounding alcohol but said since working in politics she sees how powerful the alcohol industry is.

"The problem is that the alcohol industry are extremely powerful and I would not have known how powerful until I’ve come in here, and I’ve seen the amount of lobbying that they’ve done. They can really work their magic, I don’t know what it is, but I suppose money is power, power is money. And they have it, and they can do it. And they have people in here lobbying, all of the time," she said.

You can listen to the full interview with Frances below.

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