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Last Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006, 22:58 GMT 23:58 UK
'There is life after alcoholism'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Tom Edwards
Tom spent three years in rehab
It took 30 years of drinking for Tom Edwards to realise he was an alcoholic.

What started as a social tipple after work slowly degenerated into a bottle of spirits a night.

He lost his home, his health and his job.

From being a successful BBC and Radio Caroline presenter, his drink and later cocaine abuse left him living on the streets and relying on handouts.

Struggle

Today Tom, aged 61, is celebrating 11 years without a drink, but admits it has been a long and hard fight.

"I started my career on pirate radio and then I joined the BBC in Norwich and then I came down to London.

The only thing that I wanted was total oblivion. I was drinking 24/7
Tom Edwards

"It was then that I became aware of alcoholism - everybody seemed to be drinking at that time.

"I used to look down my noses at the people who drank at work and think 'how can they hold a job down?' I was about 22 or 23 at the time."

But without realising it, Tom's alcohol intake was gradually increasing.

"My alcoholism did not happen over-night. It took 30 years to creep up on me. I found that the harder I was working, the more I needed to drink to unwind."

He was drinking a bottle of Gordon's gin each evening, but still managing to hold down his career.

"Where I crossed the invisible line from social drinking to this though I do not know."

George Best

Tom's doctor grew increasingly concerned about his patient's alcohol consumption and he prescribed him an anti-booze drug - Antabuse, also known as disulfiram.

It was the same drug used by George Best, although where the former Manchester United star had his implanted, Tom took his in pill form.

For 18 months Tom stopped drinking, but he acknowledges the drug merely suppressed his habit and did not attempt to deal with the root causes.

So when he was offered the chance of a holiday with friends, Tom ditched his drugs and within days was back on the booze.

"At this stage I was heading for disaster," he said.

There is life after alcohol and I am grateful for this second chance at life because I know deep within there would not be a third
Tom Edwards

He then took a job in California, where he acquired a cocaine habit, which he blames on his "ridiculously punishing" work schedule.

"I was in double trouble then, so I came home and went to stay with my mother in an attempt to clean my act up.

"But I had not seen her for a long time and did not realise that she too was an alcoholic."

His drinking escalated, exacerbated by late nights and early mornings at work.

He was back on a bottle a day and, when his mother died a short time later, Tom was tipped over the edge.

"The only thing that I wanted was total oblivion. I was drinking 24/7."

Tom went on what he describes as "a massive bender" for three or four months, drinking his way through the 11,000 he inherited from his mother, staying in top hotels until he blew all the cash and was thrown out onto the streets.

He lived rough for a while until a former colleague heard of his plight and came to Norwich to scour the streets to find him.

Tom Edwards
Tom worked on Radio Caroline

He encouraged Tom to book himself into a rehabilitation clinic, the Ferdowse Clinic at Heckington near Sleaford, Lincolnshire, which has now closed.

"When I crossed the threshold of the clinic I realised that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired!"

He stayed at the clinic for three years until he felt ready to face the world as a sober man.

"I didn't want to stay in there any longer in case I became institutionalised."

But when Tom came out of the clinic he was destitute with just the clothes he stood up in. He had no job and no savings.

Friends and former colleagues rallied round, and celebrity Bob Monkhouse gave him his first job as the voiceover man on his game show Wipe-Out.

Tom settled into the Norfolk village where he had been successfully treated.

Eleven years later he knows he had a lucky escape. Doctors told him that when he was admitted for treatment he had probably less than two weeks to live if he continued drinking.

Now he is keen to warn others of the dangers of alcohol and to cut back before their drinking gets out of control like his did.

"I have had a long struggle, but I have not touched a drop," he said.

"Even recently when it was wrongly suspected that I had cancer I did not go back to drinking, although some people worried that I might.

"Now I can go to the pub and have the 'Red Bull' without the vodka.

"There is life after alcohol, but it is a tough nut to crack.

"You can be booked into clinics like The Priory, but at the end of the day, it has got to be the person themselves who wants to stop.

"I had to reach rock bottom and to be sleeping homeless on the streets before I was ready to give up.

"I approach my 12th year of sobriety in August this year. I am proud but never complacent.

"There is life after alcohol and I am grateful for this second chance at life because I knew deep within there would not be a third!"




SEE ALSO:
Campaign targets teenage drinkers
16 May 06 |  South of Scotland
Last orders for the lunchtime pint
12 May 06 |  Magazine


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