Don’t leave it too late to tackle booze problems, says reformed alcoholic

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A REFORMED alcoholic is warning Wearsiders about the risk of liver damage from drinking too much.

Peter Ivory, of High Barnes, Sunderland, underwent a life-saving transplant after his daily drinking led to him being diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver when he was 57.

Now he is backing a campaign by Balance, the North East alcohol office, to raise awareness of the damage drink can cause.  

More than a third of people in the region are doubling their risk of liver cirrhosis by drinking too much, too often, research found.

Peter, 64, a retired supermarket buyer and senior manager, started drinking at 18 and would enjoy a Friday night in the pub with pals.

But when he started working, he started to hit the pub after work every night – what he describes as social drinking.

His drinking habit escalated when he started boozing at home and friends’ houses, buying cheap alcohol at the supermarkets.

He said: “I got into trouble due to the sheer consistency of my drinking. The quantities I was drinking gradually increased over the years through familiarity, which eventually turned into an addiction.”

At the age of 57, Peter was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver caused by his drinking.

“I’d been drinking regularly for 40 years and pretty heavily for the last 10 of these,” he said.

“I’d taken early retirement and had the resources and the time on my hands. I was not a stereotypical alcoholic though.

“I was dressed as smartly as ever and always shaved. There was not a dirty mac in sight.”

The first he knew of the disease was when he was rushed to A&E with stomach pains.

“I came round after 36 hours. The doctor stood at the foot of my bed. He cut the preamble and simply said ‘if you have another drink you’ll be dead’.

“It took two weeks for this to sink in.”

Peter had to have his stomach drained weekly due to fluids building up as his liver no longer worked.

During his recovery, he suffered at least six mini comas of up to 42 hours at a time.

After six months, he was placed on a transplant list and 12 months later received one.

Peter’s life now revolves around a daily drug regime, which suppresses his immune system and stops the body rejecting his liver.

And he is determined to prevent other Wearsiders from suffering by backing Balance’s campaign, Drink Causes Damage You Can’t See.

“Essentially I’m living a third of the life I did before the transplant. I’m still alive though.

“I wouldn’t want to go through another transplant. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I’ve been through.

“Anyone who continues to drink regularly and thinks “I’ll deal with it when it catches up with me” forget about it, you’re fooling yourself.

“Do something before it’s too late. Take stock. Watch what you’re drinking and if necessary drink less. I wish I had.”

A survey carried out by Balance revealed that nine in 10 people know alcohol is bad for the liver but far fewer understand that as little as two pints of lager or glasses of wine daily can double their risk of liver cirrhosis.

The recommended alcohol limits are two to three units a day for women and three to four units for men.

For more details, visit www.balancenortheast.co.uk