Alcoholic says he 'doesn't want to die' as he desperately asks for help before his liver fails

An Auckland man spoke of struggles to get help for an addiction to alcohol.
An Auckland man spoke of struggles to get help for an addiction to alcohol. Photo credit: Getty Images.

An Auckland man is desperate to turn his life around, but fears he is going to die if he doesn't get help for his severe alcohol dependence soon.

The man, who Newshub has agreed not to name, has shed light on the hardships of alcoholism as he pleads for mental health and addiction services to give him the care he says he urgently needs. 

Feeling like there is no other option, he spoke to Newshub hoping his story will raise awareness about the difficulties of accessing treatment while educating others about the internal and physical anguish addiction brings. 

He says he is frustrated at waiting times and is "extremely tired" of existing processes after making 42 calls to different services in one day. 

As his liver shows signs of failing, he says this is his last chance to get better or lose his life to alcoholism. 

For three years, he's been struggling to get better and feels like he has lost all control after losing his dad to pancreatic cancer in May 2017. 

"It was a difficult time. I had to look after him and watch him get sick, and watch him cough up blood and watch him take his last breath and then bury him," he said. "That whole thing has been too hard for me. That experience has changed me and it broke me." 

He says he should have received counselling straight afterwards but didn't. He has been drinking since he was 13 years old, but his reliance worsened with hard times and suppressed struggles with depression and anxiety emerged. 

The man, who is now in his early 30s, says he battles continuously with thoughts about taking his life "plenty of times" and has come "very, very close" but doesn't want to cause pain for his mum, and is now clinging onto the idea of a better future. 

"I'm over living this way but also there's a part of me that wants to somehow find a normal, happy life again, and be successful," he said. 

"It sucks because it's self-inflicted with the alcohol and with depression and anxiety, I just want to get things better. I need to get off the alcohol, and I need counselling. I need to get myself better, I feel like I have another version of me that just wants to take me down. Every day is a struggle. 

"It's my own actions, I've made a lot of mistakes when I was a teenager, same in my twenties, a lot of it has been my own actions and no one is to blame for my dad getting sick and passing away." 

Alcoholic says he 'doesn't want to die' as he desperately asks for help before his liver fails

The man told Newshub he has lost a lot of weight, continuously moving between withdrawal, and being drunk. 

"I'm struggling to keep water down, food down, body needs the alcohol to stay alive, but also tired of going from withdrawal to drink, blurry vision, I'm scared I'm going to die."

He says he can't think properly, can't shower, can't eat, can't do anything let alone live normally and admits previous chances to turn his life around have been wasted. 

He says the opportunities to detox failed because he's returned home and turned to more drinks, lacking any ability to pull himself away. 

The man wants to get a job, get his life back on track, get off the benefit and get back to a normal, "happy" life. 

"I'm basically fighting with myself every day." 

He says it is very difficult for a person with an alcohol problem to get where they need to be for appointments and treatment programs. 

"You sit on a waiting list for months and you just sit and maintenance drink when you're really sick, and that's crazy for a person who's suffering from alcoholism, it's like giving a five-year-old kid a bowl of lollies and saying 'only eat one or two, don't eat the whole lot' - it's not going to happen. My body has alcohol like everyone has food and water." 

When the lockdowns restrictions were in place due to COVID-19 in place, everything was closed and he says there was "nowhere to go". 

The man has previously received help from Community Alcohol and Drug Services (CADS) who run the In-Patient Detox Unit (IPU) tertiary health service for people across Auckland who require medical inpatient support to withdraw from substance abuse. 

During alert levels 2 and 1, the man has been trying to contact CADS to get a home detox but says getting anyone's attention in the last four weeks has been "pretty difficult". 

With extremely high gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) levels, he has been getting "sicker and sicker". He says he is in constant pain and "everything is serious now". 

GGT is an enzyme found in a number of organs throughout the body with the highest concentrations found in the liver that will rise according to the amount of liver damage a person has. 

In blood tests seen by Newshub, on May 26 his GGT level was 535 units per litre. In a test taken June 9, his GGT levels read 783 U/L. A normal result is 10 to 35 U/L. 

A Waitematā DHB spokesperson didn't address in a statement why CADS was unable to offer the man immediate help but confirmed the man has accessed CADS counselling and detox services intermittently since 2009 for alcohol addiction and more so since May last year. 

The spokesperson said all patient needs are different and the most-appropriate course of treatment for patients with substance abuse issues is determined by robust clinical assessment, with advice and support provided.

He has used the CADS detox services a number of times, both as an inpatient and in the community. The spokesperson said CADS frequently follow up with the man to monitor his wellbeing and offer support. 

"CADS has made it clear to this patient about the options available to him and will support him on a path to recovery, consistent with standard clinical prioritisation processes."

Since Newshub first interviewed the man, he has received medical treatment for chronic pain, and to receive fluids as he wasn't holding down any food or liquid. 

Deputy Director-General for Mental Health and Addiction Robyn Shearer told Newshub she was unable to comment on the specific circumstances of this case but said the Government has invested "more than ever" in mental health and addiction through budget 2019. 

"There is a need to ensure the services that are in place around the country are sustainable and that there are more services available where required. The Ministry of Health is investing $44m over four years in Specialist AOD services, and $14m over four years in Community AOD services." 

She said addictions of any kind can have really serious health and social consequences and no one should feel that there isn't help available. 

"There is a range of options and we would encourage anyone to visit their GP or local Community Alcohol and Drug Service (through their DHB) to get help with getting referred to the service that is right for them. Emergency Departments are also able to support people outside of these hours."  

Where to find help and support: 

  • Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
  • Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584
  • CADS - 09 845 1818
  • AA - 0800 229 6757