This morning I received a call from my friend in Australia letting me know that one of our friends had taken his life over the weekend. I have suffered grief and loss before and today I did not know what to do - go to work and carry on? Stay at home and take it easy? I went to work and whilst there I listened to every early 80s tune that reminded me of my friend who I now will never see again. Starting with Visage's Fade to Grey I worked my way through some classic tunes all the way to the Models singing Happy Birthday IBM....
My friend and I spent our youth growing up on the Gold Coast. Every Sunday night we would watch a show on TV called Countdown that was hosted by Molly Meldrum. Like Top of the Pops, Countdown played the latest music videos and had live acts miming their way through the latest tunes. We watched the videos fervently to check out the latest look from the London bands - Spandau Ballet, ABC, Duran Duran, Thompson Twins, David Bowie, Japan, Human League, Gary Numan and Simple Minds to name a few. We would beg steal and borrow clothes from wherever we could that vaguely resembled what the pop stars were wearing - tight tartan pants, frilly white shirts, pointy shoes... We would then don the latest outfit (I guess calling ourselves New Romantics?) and head off to the local nightclub that was called Julianna's.
None of us really had a care in the world back then. The weather was also great and the beach was there for us the day after a big night out at Julianna's and of course we all had each other. Although I had not seen my friend for quite sometime, experiencing all that we did together back then meant that there we had life long bonds that would never be broken.
My friend suffered from depression, something that I know only too well and it saddens me that we never spoke about this in later years. I have my own story as to how I managed to gain control in my life but believe me it was not easy. My life lessons have taught me that every day I must stand guard and be mindful of my thoughts and emotions and to work hard to make some changes if a dark cloud seems to be appearing. I have taught myself to make a better choice rather than self destruct - run, write, cook, get more sleep, see a movie, call a friend, de-clutter my house. I don't always get it right and I am far from perfect but in general I can honestly say that I am happy and in this moment if I ask myself "Is there anything else that you need in this life?" the answer would be "no".
Getting to this stage has also meant that I have felt confident enough to help others who may be in a similar circumstance like mine and for the last six years I have been working with an incredible community called San Patrignano. I have blogged about this drug rehabilitation place before here and since then I have started the UK San Patrignano Association where I help anyone in this country who is addicted to drugs to enter the community. I also help young people who finish the programme at San Patrignano to come to the UK to start a new life and find work. I am no different than any of the 1,300 residents currently at San Patrignano nor I am any different than the 20,000 who have left the community in the past being free of drugs. Many of them start on the downward spiral of addiction as a result of being given anti-depressants when they were young that in my opinion kick started their craving for drugs. There is no magic potion at San Patrignano - and like my own remedy for chasing the dark clouds away, the residents learn to be drug free by having a purpose, having structure, being taught a skill and being provided with a safe environment for them to confront the reason why they took the drug in the first place.
It's late at night now and I am still working my way through the Best of the 80s. Simple Minds Promised You a Miracle is playing and I am thinking of my friend. Here's to the Gold Coast, here's to Julianna's, here's to New Romantics and here's to you my friend. I'm sorry that I never got to show you San Patrignano, I know you would have loved it and I also know that you would have felt the same as I do every time that I go there because it is just like being at home.
You can watch my video on San Patrignano here