'There is a way out': Pete Doherty on his addiction battle and road to recovery

The musician found love with the film maker of the project and is now married to her.

The bad boy of British rock in the nineties and noughties, Libertines and Babyshambles frontman Pete Doherty’s meteoric rise and dramatic fall into drug addiction and crime was well documented in tabloid headlines.

But recording his highs and lows behind the scenes was Katia de Vidas. She started the project as a film maker but is now his wife.

After putting it off several times, Pete eventually agreed to view a screening of Stranger in my own Skin, but admits it wasn’t easy watching the raw, intimate footage she’d filmed.

“A lot of things that I say – I can see I’m a bit warped,” he says.

For Katia, seeing him watch her work of more than a decade was “awful”.

“Peter was not involved in the post-production and you just hope to make him proud and to honour the trust he gave to you filming.

Pete Doherty and his former Libertine Carl Barât in the band’s heyday. / Credit: Federation Studios.

“I thought ‘wow there is a story to be told here’ and by accumulating some precious moments I thought ‘yeah there’s a great film’. I had also the layer of addiction which I thought was very misunderstood by a lot of people, because the media don’t always portray it very well.”

Pete’s chaotic life in the company of celebrities like supermodel Kate Moss and singer Amy Winehouse was tabloid headline fodder. And he was in and out of court and prison for drugs offences.

He says that image of him was a bit of a caricature but admits he did play up to it. And that for a long time he did not think it was possible to kick his drug habit, using it to help him through panic attacks.

In the film we see him struggle to go to the ATM because the anxiety is too great.

Now aged 44, a new documentary shot by his now-wife lays bare his struggle with addiction. / Credit: Federation Studios.

“Now, without heroin as a kind of force field which I had for so long,” admits Doherty as we talk, “when I do feel moments of great anxiety, social anxiety, any type of anxiety, that is my first thought, is if I had a bit of gear I would be alright.

“It seemed to for a while at least help me get through, but actually you can – which it took me a long time to realise – you can get through it without the heroin.

“It’s just not such an easy fix. You have to battle on a bit more through those moments, you know, those everyday moments.”

He has now been clean for almost four years and the film tracks his life through addiction, including a 10-month stint in rehab in Thailand.

But it doesn’t address one controversy – the death of actor Mark Blanco who fell from a party attended by Doherty in London in 2006.

Doherty was filmed on CCTV fleeing the scene but has always maintained he doesn’t know what happened.

He says he’s willing to sit down and talk with Blanco’s mum Sheila “one to one, away from all this” if she would like to and it would help her.

The documentary charts Pete Doherty’s addiction battle and road to recovery. / Credit: Federation Studios.

Pete and Katia now live in Normandy with their five-month-old daughter Billie-Mae, a world away from his previous life of addiction.

And throughout our interview he is polite, thoughtful. When his mic pack falls on the floor mid-sentence he apologises.

But there are still hints of the old Pete Doherty. At one point he drops in the f-word – followed swiftly by a “pardon my French” to his French wife.

What do they want to achieve with this film?

Katia hopes that “for people who don’t have closeness to it [drug addiction], it will give them knowledge. For people who have it, or parents, family, it will help them.”

And Pete hopes it will help people understand that prison is not the place he believes society should put addicts.

“The problem is addiction is so closely linked to criminal behaviour in this country. But it’s an illness. I think in 50-60 years we’re going to look back on addiction, it’s going to be seen as a real strange way of treating a mental illness.

“It’s a chronic thing, its not a recreational use, it will get you in the end.”

And he wants to give some hope to those struggling with addiction. “Just that there is a way out.”

Stranger in my Own Skin is released in cinemas from the November 9, 2023.

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