‘DRINK TOOK OVER MY LIFE’

Chris Jones has had a life­long bat­tle with al­co­hol ad­di­tion. He tells KATIE BELLIS about his low points and how he man­aged to get help and turn his life around

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS -

AT THE worst point of his al­co­hol ad­dic­tion, Chris Jones was drink­ing three litres of vodka a day. He hid his ad­dic­tion from his fam­ily by putting vodka in his cof­fee and in Ribena bot­tles.

He’s been in hos­pi­tal 11 times in the space of two years, he lost his job and saw less of his son as a re­sult of drink­ing.

At his low­est point Chris thought about killing him­self.

The 53-year-old, who lives in Bryn­hyfryd in Swansea, has opened up about his life­long bat­tle with al­co­hol and how he even­tu­ally man­aged to get help. This is his story. “My drink­ing started at the age of 12 or 13, when I first dis­cov­ered al­co­hol. I was drink­ing ev­ery evening af­ter school.

“I then started work at the age of 16 as a butcher and I went to the pub ev­ery night af­ter work. Over a pe­riod of years my drink­ing pro­gressed.

“I was a func­tional al­co­holic up un­til my for­ties, I func­tioned on a daily ba­sis by drink­ing on a daily ba­sis.

“But in my for­ties, that was when I needed a drink in the morn­ing to feel nor­mal, and that in­creased to the point where I was drink­ing all day.

“I had to give up my job as a re­sult, I was given the ul­ti­ma­tum of ei­ther giv­ing up drink­ing or my job and I de­cided to take the pay-off and leave – it had taken over my life,” he said.

Dur­ing this time Chris was liv­ing in Nor­folk. The only thing that would stop the now-53-year-old from drink­ing was sleep.

“I would drink un­til I was knocked out. What tipped me over the edge was a messy di­vorce.”

That also af­fected how much he saw his son.

“I couldn’t cope with not be­ing able to see my son, that’s when I started drink­ing three bot­tles a day to take the pain away.

“I thought about killing my­self, but I was never brave enough, I worked out that if I car­ried on the way I was I would die any­way.

“I had had enough of life by then, I couldn’t see a way out, it was a mis­er­able place to be.

“Over the years I have man­aged to dis­guise my drink­ing, amaz­ingly my son even said ‘I didn’t know you were drink­ing, dad.’

“When the kids were around I was drink­ing cof­fee with vodka in, or I would put vodka in a Ribena bot­tle. My kids never saw me drink­ing or in a pub, I was very clever.

“Even when I was driv­ing I would have a bot­tle some­where for an emer­gency. I knew that the crav­ing would be­come so bad that I would start shak­ing and I would need to start drink­ing.

“That’s hor­ri­fy­ing. I re­mem­ber driv­ing along mo­tor­ways, I wasn’t drunk but I would be well over the limit and I would think that I was in con­trol but I wasn’t,” he said.

Chris ad­mits that his only con­cern was the bot­tle.

He said: “It was 6am, which was the ear­li­est time that I could get a bot­tle in Tesco. On my way back I was so con­cerned about open­ing the bot­tle I walked across the road and I was hit by a car.

“It wasn’t go­ing fast but it spun me and tipped me over the bank. The first thing I did was look across to see if my vodka was OK – “thank god the bot­tle is OK”, I thought.”

He then re­fused to get in­side an am­bu­lance as he knew that would mean he wouldn’t be able to drink the vodka.

“Af­ter­wards the young cou­ple called the am­bu­lance and I wouldn’t get in. I knew if I got in there was no way I would be able to drink the bot­tle so I went home.

“Af­ter I drank the vodka some­one saw me and called the am­bu­lance. I was bleed­ing but even though I was in pain I was more con­cerned about my vodka.

“I was even re­sus­ci­tated once. I also fell down the stairs in the same week that I was hit by a car, that also could have eas­ily killed me.”

Chris stopped eat­ing, which led to him be­ing in hos­pi­tal on nu­mer- ous oc­ca­sions.

“I stopped eat­ing and all I was do­ing was putting vodka in my body. I was in hos­pi­tal 11 times in the space of two years.

“Each time I went into hos­pi­tal I was aware that I was putting my­self there, I wanted to get bet­ter, but when I left, the ill­ness would find a way to put al­co­hol back into my sys­tem.

“The only thing that mat­tered was the drink, it be­comes that much of an ob­ses­sion that’s all that mat­ters. You stop car­ing for your­self but when you stop car­ing for your kids and fam­ily that’s as low as you can go.

“I tried to stop but I couldn’t. When you have your first drink most peo­ple will re­mem­ber, in the

early stages you find that stage where you were con­tent and happy – I can’t re­mem­ber the last time I felt like that, it was never like that, it wasn’t en­joy­able, I didn’t like the taste.

“When­ever I would have the last sip to­wards the end of the bot­tle, I had to stand by a sink be­cause I knew that I would be sick, the ob­ses­sion is that strong that it will take a grown man to a sink to have a drink and put him­self through that pain,” he said.

When Chris even­tu­ally moved back to Swansea he fi­nally got the help that he needed.

He said: “I was away from Swansea for 30 years. When I moved back my fam­ily were hor­ri­fied: I had lost so much weight.

“When I fi­nally ac­cepted help, ev­ery­thing changed dra­mat­i­cally. The char­ity Sands and Welsh Cen­tre for Ac­tion on De­pen­dency & Ad­dic­tion made all the dif­fer­ence in the world.

“I was fi­nally aware that there were other peo­ple like me out there. I feel fool­ish for suf­fer­ing for so long but I re­alise that it’s an ill­ness.”

When Chris started to feel bet­ter, he started vol­un­teer­ing at Matt’s Cafe, sit­u­ated in the High Street.

The cafe is a hub for the home­less and vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple of Swansea.

Vol­un­teer­ing al­lowed Chris to open up his own butcher’s in Bryn­hyfryd and he says that Matt’s Cafe helped to change his life.

“Matt’s Cafe gave me the con­fi­dence to work again, that’s what led me to own­ing Robert’s Butch­ers.

“None of this would have hap­pened with­out Matt’s Cafe.”

He urges any­one who may have an al­co­hol ad­dic­tion to get help.

“I haven’t had a drink in two and a half years and I haven’t even thought about drink­ing.

“I en­joy life in a dif­fer­ent way now, I am not suf­fer­ing on a daily ba­sis; life used to be a daily hell.

“Don’t be afraid to go to an AA meet­ing, you will be sur­prised by the range of peo­ple who are there, you will find lawyers, doc­tors and nurses.

“If you do have an ad­dic­tion, don’t be em­bar­rassed to ask for help. It took me 30 years but within six months of get­ting help I was on the road to re­cov­ery.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics, the num­ber of adults who say they drink al­co­hol is at its low­est level since sur­veys be­gan in 2005.

The NHS rec­om­mends drink­ing no more than 14 units of al­co­hol a week. If you do drink that much, it is best to spread it over three or more days.

Butcher Chris Jones, who has turned his life around to open a butcher’s busi­ness in

ADRIAN WHITE

Bryn­hyfred, Swansea.

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