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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 06:27 GMT
'I lost ten years of my life to drink'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Drink
Malcolm had his first alcohol as a toddler

Malcolm Allworthy feels he has lost a decade of his life, his chance of a career, happiness, good health and self esteem to drink.

A teetotaller for the last six years, Malcolm has had time to reflects on his lost years and admits he is full of regrets.

He worries that he has left it too late to follow his dream of going to the US, that at 56 he will not get another job and that the damage done to his body is permanent.

Malcolm had his first taste of alcohol as a toddler, when his mother and father slipped him sips of brown ale on trips to the pub.

Drinking

By the age of nine he was drinking quite regularly, and by his teens it had become a way of life as he mixed with celebrities in the vibrant social scene of London in the sixties and seventies.

He used to drink eight to 12 pints of beer a day and would often get through half a bottle of whiskey as well.

Malcolm Allworthy
I would probably have become a respected member of society, but instead I became an embarrassment
Malcolm Allworthy

Malcolm started his career in advertising but, as was to become a pattern in his life, he dropped out and started to work in bars and restaurants.

Over the years he was to start and fail to finish a number of careers, including art college and teacher training.

Eventually he got work in a hospital as a porter but continued to drink. Hospital after hospital dispensed with his services and his life started to take a downward spiral.

"It got to the point where I was warned about being too mouthy and giving my opinion too freely. I was drinking very heavily and at one point one of the hospitals had someone watching me when I went out at lunchtime to make sure I did not drink too much.

"I ended up working in casualty and I was on my own working a lot of the time. I found I was working under the influence of drink. It was the thing that kept me going throughout the night.

"Once I injured myself by falling into an X-ray machine and I twisted my body. I was carrying a lot of drink related injuries. I was a real problem. I could have hurt the patients.

"I was in quite a few fights and I had broken ribs.

Help

"I am a big guy and quite friendly and cuddly, but when I had been drinking I could become quite naughty and I would run down the street kicking cars and smashing windows and going into people's gardens and using them as toilets."

Eventually it all got to much for Malcolm and he asked for help.

"I was referred to the Alcohol Recovery Project (ARP) and after a few months there I started to admit that I was an alcoholic and stopped drinking."

But Malcolm said that years of abuse had left a terrible mark on his health.

"When I first stopped drinking I seemed OK, but I was not. I have had recurring problems with my immunity and I catch every cold and flu that is going.

"My body does not heal properly either. I have a blister on my foot because I was wearing ill-fitting shoes and that will just not heal. My circulation is very poor.

"I have had problems with leg cramps and therapists have told me that my spleen and small intestine are not working properly.

"I was a borderline diabetic and I have had problem kidneys and prostate problems. At one stage my liver functions were not too good."

"Because I was drinking it also sidelined me career wise and it has been difficult for me to find employment., almost impossible.

"Although I do courses I can't get a job because when I have to write out my CV's there are about 10 years when there is nothing I can put on it, although I do voluntary work helping people with mental health problems.

"I could have done something with my life. I was told I was very good at art.

"But I have had a bit of a miserable life, staying here when I would have liked to go to America and having lots of miserable jobs.

"I feel that drinking has ruined my life and I have lost all my life.

"I now get panic attacks about what I have done and what I have not done with my life. I have the horrors that I will kill myself with drink all over again.

"When I see young people binge drinking I want to say to them 'look at the damage it has done to me'.

"I have lost 10 years of my life, and those are years I could have been successful. I would probably have become a respected member of society, but instead I became an embarrassment."

Sally Scriminger, chief executive of ARP, a London-based charity and special needs housing association, said: " We believe that everyone with an alcohol problem has the potential to achieve positive change and make a contribution to society."

"Alcohol plays an enormous social and cultural role in our society. Excessive or problem drinking can, as well as ruining individuals' physical health and exacerbating or causing psychological conditions such as depression, also trigger accidents, crime, violence and disorder. Problem drinking is strongly associated with domestic violence, child abuse and neglect."

"It is important to ensure that health and social care professionals understand the risks associated with problem drinking and support is readily available to assist those who want to tackle their problem drinking."


SEE ALSO:
Women 'better at holding drink'
11 Oct 04 |  Health
Help scheme for drug offenders
04 Oct 04 |  Scotland


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