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"I'm Me Again" - Gavin King Talks About His Life as an Alcoholic

Published: 13th December 2017 17:27

 "Every day is like Christmas Eve."

That's how Gavin King views life now he is living without alcohol.

But that wasn't the case just two years ago. At his worst he was drinking 30 cans of cider a day and when he reached the point where he could hardly move, he knew it was time to change.

Gavin, 46, started drinking in what he says was part of the football culture in his early twenties.

"I always knew that I drank too much but I suppose I was in denial," Gavin explained.

"I used to go to football, have a few beers and come home. I'll always remember the day my partner said to me to get myself some drinks from the off licence. I'd never done that before. That was the first time I started drinking at home.

"As time went on, it became a habit. It was the culture. Everyone would go out before the game and you'd have as many beers as you could."

Gavin said that when his children, Tonie and Louis, came along he managed to confine his drinking to the weekend but as they got older, he started drinking more, going to off-licences at lunchtime with work friends and drinking in the park. "Eventually it became drinking after work as well.

"The quantities grew and basically alcohol got me."

From opening his first can at 5am to hiding alcohol in his wardrobe, Gavin is now talking about his addiction and experiences in the hope that he can encourage others to get help.

"Before a game, even though I was drunk, I'd go and buy cans and hide them in the bushes. After the game, I'd suddenly dart out and go into a bush. People used to ask what I was doing. I was getting the cans. As drunk as I was, I knew where those cans were. That's how much alcohol took over my life. It became everything." 

He recalls the time when he took advantage of an offer at the 'Froddy' pub in Fratton an hour before the start of a game. An offer: 'Buy 9 pints and get the 10th free' caught his eye. "I'd had my 9th pint by five to three, " he said.

It cost him his job too. As a caretaker of a park, one day he was asked to take a photo. "I couldn't hold the phone. I just shook,"  Gavin recalls. "They gave me the sack. They knew."

Gavin tried to hide it from his family at first. "I'll always remember when my mum said she was coming round." He said, "I'd quickly grab my beers and put them in the wardrobe. I'd be talking to her and then I'd say I was nipping to the loo but I'd go straight to the wardrobe.

"But she knew. She wasn't stupid. She could smell it. I was in denial. I thought it was great and when I went to football, people used to think 'wow, look at him, he can drink, this boy'. But they didn't know to what extent.

"The only times that it really sunk in was on a Sunday night with my dad. He said I was an alcoholic. He used to say 'for God's sake, give up' and I used to cry."

"But the next day I thought it was okay and that I would give up another time."

The day that Gavin decided to give up alcohol was the start of a difficult ride.

"I got up one morning and I was shaking. All I wanted to do was get a glass of water. I managed to get down the stairs but my legs were going. By now I had to hold everything with two hands. I went up the stairs, got halfway up and collapsed. I crawled back to my bed and that was it. I was there for a couple of days. I didn't do anything. I couldn't brush my teeth and I knew that if I didn’t stop then, I'd never stop. I shut myself away and went cold turkey.

"Mum came round and she stood in the doorway. I'd always been close to my nan and she said to me 'what would Nan think' and I loved my nan. That set me off and I thought I had to get up and do something. I had to fight it.

"People said I would have a problem going cold turkey but I was stubborn. It got to the Tuesday and Pompey were playing at Havant in a friendly against Coventry. I went to the game and my daughter told everyone I was off the drink. I met a few mates and it was fine but I came out afterwards and the next minute, I woke up with all these faces looking at me. I'd had a massive fit."

Gavin was told he had been fitting for half an hour with his head smashing on the ground. An ambulance was called and he was eventually told he was okay to leave but to get in touch with a doctor. His mum phoned them for him.

"Telling the doctor was the next hurdle, " Gavin explained. "But I went in and it was like  a weight lifting, to tell someone what I was going through."

Years of drinking had, not surprisingly, taken its toll on Gavin's body.

"My liver was shot basically, " he explained. "It affected everything; pins and needles all through my body, I still can't write properly, my brain won't link up with my hand and my memory is sketchy."

Now living with the results of years of drinking, Gavin is rebuilding his life and, along with his own determination, recognises the role that family and friends have played.

"I was lucky as I had lots of friends who were really supportive. Lots of people haven't got that."

"My kids were great. They stuck by me. How they never walked away I don't know."

 Gavin has found his sister, Ashley Bowman DukeOne positive event in his new life was the discovery that he had a sister he didn't know about. She is the daughter of his biological father and having grown up as an adopted child, he had no knowledge of her. However, Gavin was told that his dying wish was for his daughter, Ashley, to find him. Now they are 'joined at the hip' and enjoy activities together that they say they missed out on as children.

"It all fell into place. It was incredible for it to come at that time when I was really clean and sober, " he said, "If it had happened before, I don't think it would have turned out so good.

"Without a doubt, it was the right time to meet her."

For the last two years, Gavin has been writing a blog talking about his addiction, how it has affected him and his life now. At the same time, he is urging others with the same addiction to start living life again.

"I want to get it out there and help people. People have said about how brave I was but it became a therapy. It's good to talk about it where as before I hid it.

"If you feel you've got a problem, don't hide it. Go to your doctor and admit it. It's nothing to be ashamed of, it's an illness."

Now with a new family member, a job as a groundsman which he loves and support from his family and friends, Gavin says that life is great, and although every day is a challenge - even one drink would undo everything he has achieved - he feels that he has a future.

"I have so much to look forward to, so much to live for. My kids, my sister, my mum and even my dog. I love it. I just walk round with a permanent smile on my face.

"My mum had said that all she wanted  for Christmas was her son back and she got him. I'm me again.

"I can't change history but I can build a future."

Find Gavin's blog at

 Gavin enjoys his alcohol-free life with his children Toni and Louis


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