Addiction, Health, Behaviour Change | CGL

Simon's story

I was stood on a bridge, looking down at the motorway, deciding whether to jump. I felt like forces of evil were trying to consume me. I was so sure that I had cancer, that my liver cirrhosis was terminal or that the hepatitis was going to kill me. Then the crisis team arrived.

I was in the throes of a severe psychotic episode. My breakdown was triggered by clashing substances in my system, a cocktail of drugs (some prescribed, some illicit) and medication for hepatitis C.

Red wine every night for practically 20 years had damaged my liver severely. I was in the early stages of cirrhosis, and that terrified me enough to stop. It must have been when I’d injected heroin almost 20 years ago that I’d contracted hep C.

I did stop, I cut out alcohol completely through fear of the damage I was doing to my body, while some of my friends made fun of me for trying to change. 18 months without a drink, my liver had started to regenerate, I’d done it. My doctor told me that I could drink responsibly again, so I did drink, irresponsibly.

My alcohol use changed my life. My marriage ended and I lost my house. But it was the first rounds of treatment for hep C (using the old treatment method) that put me through the toughest times I’ve ever endured. I was unable to eat, incapable of sleeping and every inch of my skin was itching. My body was at its wits' end, that’s when I had the psychotic episode.

But I managed to persevere and I pulled through, only to find out the treatment hadn’t actually eradicated my hep C. A liver transplant was an option, but I didn’t want to go down that route.

I started treatment again in 2015, but this time it was a new medication. 12 tablets for 3 months, you can imagine my trepidation. But this time it was different, I could sleep, I had an appetite, I could continue going to work. I could even keep riding my bike. After 6 weeks, my hep C was completely cleared. I was cured.

It was time for me to make a decision, I was clear of hep C and my liver was in a good condition again. Each time I’d been here before, I’d chosen the wrong path. But not this time. There was no way I was going back this time. I realised that my life up until now had been lived on autopilot, not really knowing why I was doing what I was doing. Not really in control of what I was consuming. Was it because I was immature? Or because I just didn’t care about anything. This time I did care, I was happy with the life I was living, free from drugs and alcohol, it was amazing, it was meaningful. I knew that I never wanted to go back. Because now my life mattered to me. Now I have been alcohol-free for over almost 9 years. I made the right choice.