Gareth's story: “I disguised my growing dependency by being a social butterfly.”

November 2019 | 6 minutes

Gareth moved away from the South Wales Valleys to pursue a career in broadcasting but his drinking soon spiralled out of control following his move into the media world.

I could go to the staff bar, to wrap parties, to various gatherings and disguise my growing dependency by being a social butterfly.

As a man in my 20s, social drinking meant just weekends with friends. But when I moved away, the drinking built and built as part of the work culture, helping me hide from my insecurities and poor mental health.

I became so unhappy and insecure. I had a ‘brainwave’ that I could secretly drink whenever I wished, starting with small sips.

I can’t pinpoint the moment it got so bad. From a social drinker, I became hooked on alcohol beyond my greatest fears. Before I knew it I was on at least two litres of spirits a day plus going to any means to reach more when needed.

Drinking for breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime and anytime in between. Passing out by canals, under bridges, in high streets, everywhere. Arm-in-arm with this came isolation, hospitalisation, close suicide attempts before the inevitable occurred. I was gently released from my media career and found myself broken in the back of a family car, head on pillow, heading back to the South Wales Valleys.

But the heartache for me and my loved ones didn’t end there. I was sectioned on several occasions, underwent failed detox programmes, ended up virtually homeless and ignored medical advice to reach the frightening heights of advanced liver disease, cirrhosis and ascites.

Despite this, through sheer determination and a supportive medical team, I somehow found the strength to fight the disease. After four false starts and lots of health assessments, I’ve had a liver transplant.

There were complications. Despite my new liver being an all-round good egg, it turns out my body wasn't rolling out the welcome mat at first. But, my new liver was working just fine and my self-made moto ‘Turning guilt into gratitude’ continues to help me focus less on the negatives and more on the future.

"As a nation, we have a toxic relationship with alcohol. Drinking alcohol is the cause of around 60% of cases of liver disease in the UK. Mortality rates from liver disease have increased 400% since 1970.

Shockingly, in people younger than 65, mortality rates due to the disease have increased fivefold.

Many people believe that you have to be an alcoholic to damage your liver but this simply isn’t true. Alcohol dependency is a spectrum and more than one in five people in the UK currently drink alcohol in way that could harm their liver.

Fortunately, by making a few lifestyle changes such as drinking no more than 14 units a week, having three consecutive days each week without alcohol, eating a healthy diet and getting checked for hepatitis if you’re at risk, many people can reduce their risk of developing liver disease before it’s too late."

Pamela Healy, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust

If you want to change the way you're drinking help is available.

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