Belfast Telegraph

I've come through hell to beat alcoholism that nearly killed me, says composer Conor Mitchell

By Ivan Little

One of Northern Ireland's most talented young composers has revealed that an addiction to alcohol nearly killed him.

And Conor Mitchell, from Lurgan - who has written musicals and operas for companies here and across the water - has also told how he spent three years "in hell" battling against the illness, yo-yoing on and off the drink.

Conor (37), who wrote a requiem for the IRA murder victims collectively known as The Disappeared, yesterday posted a message on Facebook about his ordeal.

And he's already won backing on social media from more than 300 friends, including West End singer Niamh Perry who's currently appearing in Mamma Mia and Bronagh Waugh, one of the stars of the hit TV series The Fall.

In his post, Conor said that he hadn't had a drink for six months when he finally "surrendered" to a disease which was about to kill him.

Conor said his addiction was "the hardest thing I have ever faced" and that he took his recovery one day at a time.

He said he wanted to pay tribute to people who had selflessly helped him including doctors and the staff at St Luke's addiction unit in Armagh, which has since closed down.

He also thanked his friends and family for their support and he also wrote of his thoughts for other addicts who "hadn't made it".

Conor, who described alcoholism as a disease that addicts like him didn't choose, said he had gone public with his recovery because he wanted to share his experiences.

He said he wanted other people to know that the fight against alcohol addiction was worth undertaking.

"Some people who are in recovery say you shouldn't write publicly about it," he said.

"But I feel I must. I'm an addict - that's who I am and I almost died."

He said that he had come through hell and that he'd been alone before the start of his journey of recovery which he described as "a wonderful thing, the best - and most trying - time of my life".

Conor said he now regarded each day as a gift.

"It took me a long time to understand that God exists in all the little things around us," he added.

Friends were quick to respond to Conor's Facebook message. Niamh Perry called Conor "awesome" and Caroline Curran - the actress who has been starring in the Fifty Shades of Red White and Blue plays by Leesa Harker - said he was a brilliant man.

Theatre director Michael Poynor told Conor: "I think it's brilliant when anyone has the courage to write about this.

"People like you keep possibilities alive."

Three years ago the story of Jean McConville, the mother-of-10 from Belfast who was murdered by the IRA and secretly buried on a beach in the Republic, inspired Conor to compose his Requiem For The Disappeared which premiered in St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.

He is a multi-instrumentalist who has had works commissioned by the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and the National Theatre in London, and in America he received an award for best score in the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

Former Soft Cell singer Marc Almond has also performed one of Conor's song cycles in Britain.

Conor, who has written for productions in South Africa, Sweden and Scotland, has also collaborated in the past with the acclaimed English writer and actor Mark Ravenhill on a number of projects .

Ravenhill wrote on Conor's Facebook page that he was "very proud" of him.

Conor is writing several new productions and is shortly to go to America to work with award-winning actor Simon Callow.

He's also planning to revive one of his first shows, Have A Nice Life, which had its premiere in the old Group Theatre in Belfast before transferring to London.

Belfast Telegraph


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