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The darkness within: how did the The Amity Affliction survive meltdown?

When frontman Joel Birch’s battle with depression dragged him into alcoholism, it didn’t just nearly rip The Amity Affliction apart – it almost cost him his life

Depression comes in many forms. Symptoms range from a feeling of worthlessness and not being able to get out of bed in the morning, to intense self-loathing, self-harm and even suicide. The charity Mind states that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, and almost one in 10 people suffer from mixed anxiety and depression. The topic is gradually becoming less of a taboo through government and celebrity campaigns, but also the most potent and powerful force of all – music.

The Amity Affliction frontman Joel Birch has suffered from depression since he was a teenager. Now 34 years old, he has been battling the demon for more than half his life. Such is the nature of the condition, people turn to different coping mechanisms, and for Joel it was the unhealthy crutch of heavy drinking. During the band’s stint on Warped Tour in 2013, it went so far that he had to be hospitalised.

“I nearly died from alcohol withdrawal, which I didn’t really tell anybody,” Joel admits today from the comfort of a sofa in the Hammer office. “We just said I had an ‘incident’ and I stopped drinking because the doctor said I nearly died and this is why.”

While some people would see this incident as a wake-up call and pledge to get help, Joel slipped back into bad habits.
It was only once his baby boy, Bowie, was born earlier this year that he realised he had to stop drinking or lose everything. He had grown up with an alcoholic mother, father and stepfather, and could see a future version of himself he didn’t like the look of. He had to make a decision: quit, or face losing everything.

“You get to a T-junction, and you either say ‘Fuck it’ and drink yourself to death, or you don’t,” he says, solemnly. “There’s no middle ground there. It’s one way or the other, and I chose not to say ‘Fuck it’. I’ve got a father who said ‘Fuck it’, and I’ve got a son. So I could say ‘Fuck it’ and do what my dad did, and have me v2.0, or not.”


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