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Heavy drinking and health module

Further Perspectives on Alcohol

Experiences with Heavy Drinking

Preferred Name: Michael

Gender: Male

Age: 53


Michael lives by himself in Sydney. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian’. Both of his parents were born in Australia.

Brief Outline:

Michael started drinking heavily following the death of his mother and a subsequent cycling accident. He was referred to a specialist liver clinic by his GP where he was diagnosed with cirrhosis. Three months ago, Michael completed a seven-day detox at a residential withdrawal unit and hasn’t had any alcohol since.

Michael's Story:

Michael drank regularly for as long as he can remember. He used to drink with his mates and brothers, and on the weekends they’d go to the pub at 8am and stay until 11pm. They gambled, shouted each other drinks and had ‘a really good time’. He started drinking more heavily following the death of his mother in 1985. His drinking got heavier still following an accident in the late 1990s when he was knocked off his bike by a vehicle and sustained significant back injuries. Michael says he drank to get pain relief from his injuries and to ‘drown’ out the loss of his mother. He would drink about 30 cans of beer each day. Michael says his father and one of his brothers were also both ‘alcoholics’, and thinks he inherited a similar predisposition. Michael has been diagnosed with depression and has tried to commit suicide before.

About five years ago, Michael’s GP referred him to the hospital to get treatment for haemorrhoids and anal bleeding. At the hospital, he was referred to a specialist liver clinic. Last year, after undergoing more blood tests and an ultrasound, Michael was diagnosed with cirrhosis. While he says the diagnosis was ‘a bit of a wake-up call’, he also says he doesn’t really care about it.

According to Michael, there’s only one thing in his life that he does care about; his dog. Michael loves his dog and says he ‘means the world’ to him. The Roads and Maritime Services Department recently informed Michael that if he continued drinking, he would lose his license. According to Michael, he needs a car to drive his dog to veterinary check-ups. This motivated him to stop drinking. Three months ago, he completed a seven-day detox at a residential withdrawal unit and hasn’t had any alcohol since.

Michael was also diagnosed with diabetes two years and is trying to follow the recommendations of his diabetes doctors. He tests himself twice a day and takes insulin when he needs to.

He wishes that mental health services were more readily available and affordable, and commented that specialist liver clinics needed to take a more holistic approach to treatment, including talking to people about mental health issues when relevant.

Michael wants to go back to work soon so he has more money to go out, enjoy himself and spend time with friends.


Michael [early 50s, Australian, works in retail, no drinking in last three months], describes how he drinks more on the weekends when he doesn’t need to go to work.

Weekends, they were easy. We’d be on the doorstep of the […] hotel at 8 o’clock in the morning and we wouldn’t leave until 10, 11 o’clock at night. We’d sit in the club, basically shout each other, it worked out better because we also gambled. If we won, which was quite a lot of the time, we could have a really good time, other times it was sort of spread out, so you wouldn’t drink as much. Work times, well I used to go to work, I’d have one hell of a hangover [laughs].

Michael [early 50s, Australian, works in retail, no drinking in last three months] says that looking after his dog improves his mental health.

I have one thing in my life that I do care about and that is my dog. He’s a Jack Russell and he means the world to me at the moment, and he’s basically helped me when I’ve been really dark, when … I came out of that suicide part and, yeah, just he’s basically what’s keeping me going at the moment.

Michael [early 50s, Australian, works in retail, no drinking in last three months], describes accessing treatment through his regular GP.

Basically, I had a bleeding problem in the rear end and my doctor referred me to [the hospital]. When I came in […] they put me in to have banding on the haemorrhoid and, yeah, it basically started from that […] That was last year. They turned around and did… well my doctor found our first. He did the blood tests and told me I had a problem, but they did a scan [an ultrasound] […] and that’s when they told me I had the cirrhosis.