SEEING Co Down DJ Paul McArdle brightening lockdown for locals with his impromptu music sessions in the street, you would never guess the personal pain he battled for many years.
A drug addict who reached rock bottom and wanted to take his own life, Paul has been in recovery for the past 16 months.
Married to Meabh (35), a solicitor, and dad to Ella (5) and Cara (3), he is using lockdown to inspire others with his story, fundraising for mental health and bringing a little joy with his music.
Paul recently hosted two 12-hour sessions of non-stop music from Quinn's Bar in Newcastle, which were livestreamed on Facebook to help local charity Mind Your Mate and Yourself (MYMY). His JustGiving page currently sits at £8,000 and this is only one way that he has found to give back.
Thousands have also listened to a podcast he appeared on charting his experience of addiction.
Paul believes MYMY and its 12-step programme saved his life.
"I would never have seen myself doing this and speaking out. I've been overwhelmed by the response to my podcast and the fundraising appeal," says the wedding DJ, who also works as a production operative in Collins Aerospace in Kilkeel.
"I just thought, in these strange times, it might be good to use the power of my DJing to get the message out there that no matter how dark a place you are in, there is hope."
Paul should know. The 40-year-old started to take drugs while on a holiday with his mates in Ibiza when he was 18.
While taking ecstasy at weekends started as a "bit of fun", it gradually took over his life - to the point that he couldn't get through the day without drugs.
"When I went to Ibiza, drugs were everywhere and that's when I first tried them," he explains.
"At the start it was just fun and games, but in the end it left me in the depths of despair.
"I tried different drugs over the years and usually only at weekends, but I progressed to cocaine and that brought me to a different level.
"I was always a very shy person and drugs brought me out of myself and gave me confidence.
"I caused so much pain to my family and in the end I was in a very dark place with depression, paranoia and anxiety.
"Towards the end of 2018 I was off work with depression and by then drugs had taken over my life. They were the first thing I thought about in the morning when I woke and the last thing before I went to sleep at night. I couldn't get through the day without them."
Paul hit rock bottom when his wife, unable to cope with his addiction, walked out with their children on New Year's Day last year. Left feeling suicidal, he planned to take his own life, but instead he reached out for help and was admitted to hospital.
While there he contacted MYMY, which got him on a 12-step programme and helped him to get his life back on track.
"Meabh leaving me was the best thing she ever done. Drugs had taken over my life and my head had completely gone," he says.
"I felt I had caused so much pain and I felt there was nowhere else to go. The day after my wife left I was admitted to a psychiatric unit for 14 days and that's when my life started to change. In that time I started to get a routine back. I started to wash myself and eat again.
"My weight had dropped from 14 stone to 10 stone and my clothes were hanging off me.
"I rang MyMy and they got me on a 12-step programme, which has been unbelievable.
"It has given me hope and a chance to talk about my feelings and my addiction.
"My addiction caused a lot of shame and I learned to forget about the past and take a day at a time and not look to the future.
"I have so much peace now. Recovery is not easy and I lost my wife and two kids, but thankfully I was able to build bridges and my family got back together again six months later. Everyone I know has seen the massive change in me. I have the disease of addiction and it is a battle every day and you don't know what is around the corner, but I take one day at a time and keep myself busy."
Because of the current crisis and local charities being hit hard with funding drying up, Paul decided to stage a two-day fundraiser last month for MyMy.
He was also invited to do an interview about his experience of addiction on the Mark Toner Podcast, which thousands have listened to.
"I've been overwhelmed by the messages from people about the podcast and many saying how much it helped them and I have been very humbled by that," he says.
Paul has also been entertaining his neighbours in Castlehill, Castlewellan.
During the now weekly round of applause for the NHS, carers and key workers every Thursday night, he plays music in the street and takes requests from neighbours, who look forward to his 20-minute sessions which are also streamed lived on his Facebook page.
Paul is determined to keep working and helping other addicts to turn their lives around.
"If I can spread a message of hope, that would be amazing to me," he says.
"My message to anyone struggling with addiction is that no matter how bad you are, there is always hope: you can turn your life around.
"It doesn't matter what you have done in the past - you can say 'No' now and you have it in you to do it."
÷ To watch Paul's live DJ sets, look for his page on Facebook. If you would like to donate to his fundraising appeal, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/paul-mcardle and you can listen to the podcast at podtail.com/podcast/the-mark-toner-podcast/-42-cocaine- addiction-with-dj-magiggs