Dolores banishes the darkness and returns to the light
Dolores O'Riordan tells Barry Egan she is now on the path to recovery after her arrest at Shannon Airport
The light has broken through - finally - after a very dark night of the soul for Dolores O'Riordan.
It seems somehow apt that she would wait until Christmas to do this, during the winter solstice when the sun bursts through for a new beginning on this most spiritual of times.
But the controversial rock star from Limerick did it. She seemed on the point of absolute self-oblivion - allegedly head-butting and spitting at a guard on a plane and being arrested and hauled off to jail with subsequent headlines all over the world.
Then the one-time superstar singer of The Cranberries saved herself and possibly even - because she is a religious person - her soul.
In truth, many of us perhaps thought Dolores wouldn't make it out of the darkness she seemed so engulfed in last November when she was arrested on an Aer Lingus plane at Shannon Airport after a troubling accident on flight EI110.
Although it was obvious that her path towards wellness would be long and difficult one, I was still kind of shocked when I got a phone-call last Tuesday morning from Dolores to meet up in Dublin. My shock stemmed from the fact that she seemed from the phone conversation like she was almost back to her old self.
To put it bluntly, when I met her at a lodge on the outskirts of Adare Manor last month where she was staying with her friend Ole it was, at times, impossible to hold a conversation with her.
Dolores was in such a sad state that I genuinely feared for her life.
When I suggested to her that day that she should go to see someone, she replied, irritated: "Sure, I am a counsellor. Aren't I counselling the world? Aren't I after healing billions of people around the world? I talk to myself. I talk to myself in the mirror."
When I asked her what did she say to yourself she answered: "'That it is not your fault. And I love you. Be nice to yourself. And slow down.' Because I am not going to live that long. I'm 43. If I see 50, I'll be happy. I mean that. People look at you and see a product. They don't see a soul, but an empty hole."
So last Tuesday evening - six weeks after meeting her in Adare - Dolores O'Riordan is sitting in my front room in Dublin.
She has brought two members of her brilliant new band, Jetlag NYC bassist Andy Rourke (once of The Smiths) and DJ Ole Koretsky, with her. They are both based in New York and have flown in this morning to spend the week with the world-famous singer in the band.
She immediately puts REM on the CD player and has a bit of bop with Ole. I give her a Christmas present of a book of John Lennon's drawings. I write in it: 'Merry Xmas Dollie, the war is over.'
She looks healthy and her eyes sparkle (like her wit); in Adare last month, her eyes were zombie-like and her speech, as much as it was speech, was slurred and manic.
Like a little angel, she sits by the light of the Christmas tree and reveals the painful truths she learned in last few months.
Dolores seemed to embody what Rosa Parks said when she asked - rhetorically - "Have you ever been hurt and the place tries to heal a bit, and you just pull the scar off of it over and over again?"
"I would remind people that we are all human, after all," Dolores says. "I'm taking it one day at a time right now, but I want to thank all of those people who didn't pass judgement on me.
"When you came down to Adare last month, I was like a cheese sandwich with the cheese falling out. The cheese had fallen on the floor!" she roars with laughter.
I say to her that the first sign of madness is the loss of your sense of humour - something that has clearly returned to Dolores O'Riordan in spades.
She bursts out laughing again.
"Dude, I wasn't well in Adare!" she hoots. "I am well again now. I have had great help and support from people who love me. My mom has been great. My brother PJ - he's my little angel. I had a lot of help from people. I don't think I ever felt so cared for before. I always felt like this meal ticket.
"I am just really grateful for the support I have received from my friends," she adds.
"Lots of people helped me stay sane. Help was always close by, but I had to reach out. I'm staying strong and holding on because I know it is all going to work out in the end."
Dolores says she moved to New York in August after she broke up with her husband, Don.
"I didn't sleep for four months. I was self-medicating. I was taking over-the-counter sleeping tablets. I felt cut off."
So, do you feel better now after sleeping properly again in the last month?
"I feel I'm a lot better, yes," she says. "But I don't feel I'm perfect. But I don't think there is such a thing. I get that I am 80pc better than what I was. I understand why people were worried about me. I do understand and it's lovely, actually.
"They don't tell me anything. They just listen to me," she says looking at Andy and Ole.
"It is really nice to be just listened to, because I've been told and told all my life. Told to wake up at this time and sing this song," she says maybe referring to her time in The Cranberries.
"This is the first time in my life that someone is not telling me. I never knew I had so many friends in this industry, but when you open up you receive love. I guess," she adds, "no matter what happens I've got great friends who love me for me, not the fame bullshit. You really see who gives a shit. It's cool but I'm still a bit crazy . ..good crazy though!" she laughs.
"I want to get back to the real world. I'm so bored! But I feel great. I am sleeping great. I didn't sleep properly if at all for months when I was in New York. I wasn't right. I'm a different person now. Happy, finally. I am definitely much more content now," she continues.
"I know I am not 100pc there yet, but I am happy. I will need to keep on my meds to sleep and to be somewhat normal in a mad world," she laughs again.
I say to her that she's not the first person in the world to go through a very troubled time, but she seem to have almost come out the other side.
"Totally. I'm doing okay now. I went a bit mad. Whatever. Yeah, maybe, I did go a bit mad, but it wasn't bad mad, but I am fine now and I've got a great band," she says looking at Andy and Ole again, "and I've got great friends and a great family and a great manager in Danny Goldberg."
"Dolores is in a good place again," says Andy.
"It is great to have the old Dolores back. She is an amazing woman and an amazing artist. We love her."
Ole, who is sitting next to Dolores, was also in Adare that day. He says Dolores has come a long way since then.
"It is just relief," says Ole.
"Relief. There has been some gradual tension building over the last few months that when I got off the plane from New York and met her yesterday I was just relieved [that she was back to herself again.] But we love her. And we're happy that she is better."
Andy, who has a avuncular Manchester edge to him, leans in and says with his arm around her: "She has changed in a million ways. I am speaking about you like you're not here!"
"I was a bit hyper, wasn't I?" laughs Dolores. "But I didn't know I was hyper. . ."
Andy adds: "I used to get phone-calls off you when you would just talk a million miles a hour for two hours. You were obviously not well. We didn't know what to do. But we loved you and we love you. Now you're back to normal."
I say to Dolores that she has have come a long way.
"Thanks. It wasn't easy when I was losing the plot, but I feel more alive than I ever have now. I have learned a lot from all this. I never realised it but I was in a bubble for 20 years. It's nice to feel like a human being again - and not a possession [of the music industry]."
What are you going to spend Christmas?
"I honestly don't know," she answers.
"I don't know where I'm going to spend Christmas. I miss my children more than words can say right now."
We go to a local pub for a drink then on to Locks in Portobello for dinner.
She pays for it as a Christmas pressie and gives me her red bobble hat.
I send her a text the next morning that it was great to see and great to see her so obviously on the road to recovery. She sends a thank you. We all meet up in the afternoon for lunch and go for a walk in the Phoenix Park. Amid the deer leaping around ahead of us in the trees, Dolores talks about the future.
"I just want to stay strong and it will all work out in time."
It is early days in her recovery, of course, but it is clear the poor tortured soul of flight EI110 from New York to Shannon last month has made a huge effort to heal herself. And it shows. It's a new beginning for Dolores O'Riordan. In a life-affirming tale fitting for Christmas time, the young Irishwoman has banished the darkness to come into the light.