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Heavy drinking and health module

Further Perspectives on Alcohol

Experiences with Heavy Drinking

Preferred Name: Wayne

Gender: Male

Age: 50


Wayne lives by himself in Sydney. He has three children. His ex-wife lives close by and they see each other often. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian’. Both of his parents were born in New Zealand.

Brief Outline:

Wayne started drinking heavily in the mid-1980s as a way of relaxing when his children were young. Wayne has several serious alcohol-related health issues, including ascites and cirrhosis, and sometimes drinking interferes with the anti-depressant medication he is prescribed. Wayne prefers the support of family over counselling or psychological treatment. In the future, he is planning to move inter-state to live and work with his son.

Wayne's Story:

Wayne started drinking heavily in the mid-80s as a way of relaxing when his children were young. He used to drink beer but switched to red wine because it’s cheaper and he can get ‘to that happy place’ easier and faster. Wayne says that it was easier to moderate his drinking when he was working. He wouldn’t drink until he’d finished work for the day and he’d stop drinking at 9pm in the evening. After he was made redundant, he began drinking daily. For the last year he has been drinking up to two litres of wine a day. Although Wayne is trying to cut back, he describes this as ‘very difficult’.

Wayne has several serious alcohol-related health issues. He says that drinking interferes with the anti-depressant medication he started taking after being diagnosed with depression in 2017. He sometimes experiences shaking and dizziness when he drinks. He falls over often and ‘blacks out’ at home. In the week prior to the interview, he fell over three times and banged his head against the wall.

Over the last few years Wayne has been diagnosed with ascites and cirrhosis. He was undergoing tests at the time of the interview to find out whether he also had liver cancer. He regularly undergoes ascitic taps, a medical procedure to drain the build-up of fluid in his abdomen. He describes these procedures as ‘invasive’, ‘painful’ and ‘upsetting’. Following the diagnosis of cirrhosis, he managed to stop drinking for five or six months, but gradually started drinking more regularly again. He briefly saw a counsellor and a psychologist but didn’t see the value in counselling nor did he ‘understand the process’, so decided not to continue. However, he says he was always ‘glad to have sat down to talk to someone about his life’ because he lives by himself and rarely gets the chance. Wayne is undergoing surgery on some veins in his oesophagus as they sometimes bleed.

Wayne prefers the support of family over counselling or psychological treatment, but knows treatment is available. He currently enjoys the support of his children who ring him every few days to chat and see how he is. Although his daughter is busy running her own business, they talk a lot over the phone and go out to lunch every fortnight. He also likes speaks to his ex-wife most days and they sometimes share a meal together.

Wayne plans to return to work and move interstate to live with his son. They have ‘some business lined up’ that he hopes will give him more financial freedom to pay off his mortgage.


Like other men in this study, Wayne [late 50s, Australian, unemployed, continuing to drink as usual] finds it difficult to moderate his drinking because it is entwined with his daily routines, habits, chores and relationships.


No, I haven’t stopped drinking, but I’ve cut back, which is just has hard […] It’s like you crave a cigarette and you go outside and have a cigarette and you don’t think about it. I go home and have a glass of wine and don’t think about it. It’s just like part of your routine, part of what you normally. Do the dishes, clean up, have a sip of wine, cook dinner if I get round to it. Cooking for myself is kind of boring, but sometimes my [… ex-wife] is beside me, we live beside each other, so she’ll come over and see how I’m going and cook food for two of us, because she knows that I won’t do it for myself.

Wayne [late 50s, Australian, unemployed, continuing to drink as usual] speaks about a recent incident at home where he fell over three times and experienced dizzy spells.


Well, as I said, I fell over three times last week. It was Friday night [and then] Saturday night and that was the week before last […] and I think then Tuesday night I fell over and cut my scalp and bled everywhere. I’ve got a fair bit of blood sitting on the walls to remind me of my bad health, so I haven’t wiped it all off. I tend to have a bit of blood on most entrance ways in my house. I fell over three times right in front of the toilet. Not in the bathroom but right outside the door to the bathroom, which I found really strange. But it’s because when I get up out of bed on any occasion, I’ve got to rest for about 10 minutes. I get really dizzy, which is something new … quite new, I get really dizzy and I’m putting it down to the change of antidepressants, which we changed last year. Yeah […] because I’m walking very heavily and have sore hips, I tend to be very aware of my illness, I guess.

Wayne [late 50s, Australian, unemployed, continuing to drink as usual] describes how being made redundant from his job contributed to his drinking.


Well it depends on how bored I get as to when I drink, but I have a drink most days. I try not to drink too early in the day because that wastes a whole day. Sometimes you just get so lost. So I tend to drink after 5 o’clock when I come home from work. I don’t work at the moment […] When I was working, I used to stop at 9 o’clock at night too. I wouldn’t keep drinking all night long, but it caught up with me anyway. That was one of the reasons they gave me […] for getting rid of me. [My boss] said, ‘Sometimes you smell of alcohol’. ‘Well if it’s in my blood, it doesn’t mean I’m drinking.’ I said, ‘I stop drinking in the night time. I stop drinking at 9 o’clock’ and he knew that I was on antidepressants, we had spoken about it at length. We spoke about a few things. Being made redundant wasn’t the smartest move, and I found that really hard, really hard. It actually triggered me to become drunk for about three months non-stop.

Wayne [late 50s, Australian, unemployed, continuing to drink as usual] describes feeling very sick at his daughter’s wedding. Shortly afterwards he went to the Emergency Department and was diagnosed with ascites. He explains that the regular ascitic taps he has are painful and invasive.


I went to my daughter’s wedding and […] I couldn’t even eat dessert, I was that sick. So I went and put myself in the hospital the week afterwards. I admitted myself downstairs in the Emergency Department and that’s when they first came up with the diagnosis of ascites. [They said] you’ve got a swelling below your belly button, yeah, so it’s actually internal, inside your stomach – not [in your] stomach, but inside your body. So it’s caught in limbo. It’s a yellow liquid. It doesn’t smell or anything. I still don’t like the taps when they come with a needle for your side that is 12 inches long. That is kind of invasive and hurts a lot.

Wayne [late 50s, Australian, unemployed, continuing to drink as usual] explains he needed to stay in hospital for the staff to diagnose his health condition, and says his treatment is painful and upsetting.


My falling over […] was very serious, and my daughter brought me to hospital and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. There was two of them […] They checked my pulse and kept me in hospital for a few days to see what was going on. The other thing is I don’t think people realise how painful and upsetting it is to get the taps put into your tummy […] They tap your tummy to get liquid out. I came in two weeks ago for a tap and I wasn’t carrying any water, I’m not carrying any weight, I’m not carrying any water, there’s no water in there inside my peritoneal cavity, so I didn’t have it. But I’ve got a tap organised for next month and I will turn up to that to see what happens. I’ve also got surgery on Thursday for my portal vein [which] is bleeding. So they’re going to go in with an endoscopy and put some super glue in my portal vein to see if that’s going to help my symptoms, stop [it] bleeding into my stomach.

Note: Wayne is undergoing surgery on some veins in his oesophagus as they sometimes bleed.