Danny’s story: “After I got the FibroScan result I became obsessed with fixing myself”

Danny had used alcohol as a coping mechanism for most of his adult life, particularly during periods of stress and homelessness. However, after receiving his FibroScan results, a shocked Danny realised he had to love his liver back to health. Thank you for sharing your story, Danny

I’ve had problem with alcohol as a coping mechanism ever since I was 17. I’ve tried to give up a few times semi-successfully and unsuccessfully, but it’s helped me deal with mental health and psychological issues for 28 years and it’s difficult to unlearn that.

Two-and-a-half years ago where I lived there was this charity that claimed it would help you fix your life, but I felt it was more about taking advantage of vulnerable people. I got increasingly angry and was voted to be the representative of the 30-35 other people who lived there, arguing that they needed to have more respect and plans for us to move on with our lives. Because I was seen as a troublemaker, they found a way to get rid of me. I was homeless for a little bit, then got stuck in a night shelter – somewhere you can sleep but can’t stay during the day. That meant I was basically homeless again for eight hours every day in the cold and when it was Covid you could never go in anywhere. It’s pretty rough when you don’t have a sense of purpose.

At the end of the 28 days the only option I had was to move into the hostel where I’ve been since. Unfortunately the building is full of drug addicts and criminals and I felt that everything was against me. I went into a depression and my drinking got progressively worse and at its worst I would have a bottle of spirits with a mixer every single night. It got to the point where I had terrible acid and stomach pains and would vomit food up. I’d always pay my rent though and didn’t get into any major physical conflicts with other people which is a miracle considering what they’re like and that I was a bit of a demon at breakfast with my hangover. Thankfully after a year the hostel reward me with my own flat on another floor which was very good of them. There’s 100 people here and only 10-12 are deemed worthy of a flat which you can stay in for 18 months.

Change Grow Live, a national alcohol charity advised me to have a FibroScan. On the day they booked a lot of us in my support worker ended up crying because so many of us got very bad results. I was told my liver was fibrotic and on the edge of becoming cirrhotic and when that happens you can’t treat it. That scared the s**t out of me and I thought ‘I’ve got to have some respect for myself’.  Rather than just feeling sorry for myself I started fighting for myself and looked for things to do so I was using my time productively. And I became obsessed with fixing myself.

I was told not to go cold turkey as it was extremely dangerous and was given various drugs for alcoholism but I didn’t like the side-effects, so I did it without them. I went from 80 units in week one, to 40 units in week two, 20 units in week three and zero units in week four. The hospital weren’t happy with how steeply I did it because I still could have had a fit. I didn’t feel very well at times, but it did the job.

I pay a lot more attention to eating healthily now and have seriously increased my exercise

I’ve also paid a lot more attention to eating healthily. I was always eating out and eating processed food before but have cut out fried breakfasts now have cereal with milk and a banana instead. I get a lot of free healthy food from a local vegan café/charity which inspires me to cook and sometimes I use the food bank – you have to be quite creative to make meals out of that.

I got in touch with the British Liver Trust too because I needed the support. I tried their general support group, but the most useful one for me was for people who have the same condition because they know where I’m coming from. It’s about not feeling alone and it was really useful to get positive feedback from them. I’ve also been part of a group called Men’s Circle and that’s been really helpful too.

I’ve seriously increased my exercise in the past 18 months and have had a lot of help from a charity called HACRO who mainly deal with ex-offenders and people who have been in trouble with the law, they’ve been brilliant and so helpful. Through them I’ve had access to various things like music, band practice, boxing, tennis and swimming.

I also managed to get two free gym memberships. One was through mental health charity MIND and when that ran out, I got another one through a scheme with a local football team. The football is more than just football, it’s blokes together sharing and talking.

I like to keep busy and am into gadgets so started volunteering in a repair café where people bring in electronic stuff. I have a chat with them and ask how it got broken which can tell me how to fix it. Seeing them have a big smile on their face when you fix it is quite rewarding. It’s all free and for charity. I volunteer on an allotment as well. I like working outdoors and being in nature – it’s really good for my head.

My last FibroScan reading was 3.6 and I got a “Well done!” from nurses in the hospital. They said I’d done really well and they didn’t see that too often so it all worked out well, I suppose.

My main stress now is that the flat was only for 18 months, there’s no move-on plan and if you get a job the hostel’s policy is to take 60 per cent of your wages. Everyone on my floor was given a Section 21 notice to leave by 28th November 2023. I’ve trying to resolve it and doing my best but not getting a lot of help from the hostel or the staff. I applied to three different councils, but each palmed me off to the other saying I didn’t have a local connection even though I do. It’s been very frustrating and if my housing situation is not resolved, I’m only going to go backwards. My mental health has really been suffering and I’m worried about relapsing.

Everyone on this floor has proved they’re good tenants, but there’s no help or plan for us, just one temporary solution after another, so we just stay stuck in this stupid washing machine of a system.

The hostel has now extended the deadline until January 22nd 2024. I’ve been filling out forms and doing drink diaries to potentially get into a drink rehab, but rehab is about money and funding so they have to look at all my paperwork to decide whether I’m worth it and will go through with it.

There’s not a great deal of help in the world in terms of having someone to talk to, so any help you can get, just grab it. Life’s not easy, but don’t just feel sorry for yourself and go inwards. Find a way to get in contact with people in a similar situation and make the effort to find the help you need. You’re not alone.

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