British Liver Trust: ‘Alcohol is normalised, but I went from running a business to being told I’d die...’
and live on Freeview channel 276
With stats showing that one in five people in the North West are unaware that they have early-stage liver disease, the charity is urging people to be kinder to one of the body’s most vital organs. The liver carries out over 200 functions from breaking down food to fighting infection, but early liver disease typically presents no symptoms.
“Alcohol is normalised,” says Steve, from Preston. “In every TV drama, the characters get a bottle of wine out or say ‘I need a drink’. When everyone’s having a great time, it’s normal but, for those people who have a problem, it can be horrendous. I knew I was drinking too much.
“I wasn’t constantly drunk because you have to live your life, but over a six-month period it wasn’t just one bottle a night, it could sometimes be three or four and that’s not good,” he adds. “I’d never use the word alcoholic, but I became alcohol dependent. [And] everybody knows someone with an alcohol-related issue, so you’re put into that box immediately.
“The most common form of stigma is people saying it’s self-inflicted and you should control yourself,” he continues. “‘You poured it down your neck, nobody sat on your chest and forced you’... I’m strong enough now to say ‘let me tell you my story.’ I’m a decent family man who experienced trauma and used alcohol to relax and wanted more until I became dependent.”
With the key ways to care for your liver being to drink within the recommended limits; to cut down on sugar, carbs, and fats; to exercise; and to know the risk factors of viral hepatitis, the British Liver Trust are urging people to learn from Steve’s story. After his liver started to fail, he suffered hepatic encephalopathy, which badly impacted his mental and physical health.
“I went from running a successful business, to being extremely poorly - my Mum was told I wasn’t expected to live,” Steve explains. “But I had an amazing doctor who literally saved my life. My experience was, at times, extremely undignified - at the age of 57, I was having to wear a nappy and was unable to walk unaided. Life had hit an all-time low.
“I felt extremely guilty and bewildered [and], when I came out of hospital, the next 12 months were absolutely awful,” he adds. “I couldn’t dress myself properly, walk properly, cook, make a cuppa, spell… Some ‘friends’ shunned me. [But] I was determined that the position I was in would not defeat nor define me.
“In January 2020, I became involved with British Liver Trust and finally found I wasn’t alone. People listened and helped me. I know my life will never be the same again, and some days are and will be difficult. If you do find yourself in the same position I was in, try to stay positive, try new things to fill your time, and follow your own path towards a better life.”