TV's Adrian Chiles opens up on alcohol struggles at insightful addiction conference

TV's Adrian Chiles shared his struggles with alcohol at an addiction conference in memory of a county woman.

Adrian Chiles spoke at the Share Shrewsbury alcohol addiction conference
Adrian Chiles spoke at the Share Shrewsbury alcohol addiction conference

The former Match of the Day 2 host spoke at 'Alcohol - Sharing the Truth', an online event organised by bereaved mum and ex-Shrewsbury mayor Jane Mackenzie. She set up her charity Share Shrewsbury in memory of her daughter Amy Liebich, who died aged 37 after struggling with alcohol addiction.

During his question and answer session with host Carl Jones, Mr Chiles told how he had his first drink at a cousin's birthday party aged 12, and how it wasn't until filming his BBC Two documentary, Drinkers Like Me, that he realised the extent of his dependency.

"A friend said to me 'a world without alcohol is a very beige place'," he said. "That really shocked me because I thought it was an appalling thing."

He added that he wasn't day drinking or "waking up in shop doorways or park benches," so wasn't a "problem drinker" by the definition a lot of people would use.

"For me, the action plan was making the film. It literally took the making of the TV programme for me to come to terms with that [his alcohol use]."

In the show, the cameras join the host on a day where he follows his beloved West Bromwich Albion, before later attending a friend's 40th birthday party. It was worked out that he consumed 36 units of alcohol that day, nearly three times the recommend safe weekly intake.

"To me it wasn't even a big drinking day," he said. It was calculated that he would sometimes drink more than 100 units in a week.

He said that tracking his intake in units via an app has made a big difference, and he believes pubs should display calories and units on pumps, cans and bottles to make people more aware.

"There's no reason you shouldn't see how many calories or how many units are in it," said Mr Chiles. "The information is out there but you've got to want to get it. The [alcohol] industry as a whole does not publicise it very well."

As well as Mr Chiles, a host of other speakers shared insight into the issue of addiction.

Labour MP Jon Ashworth shared his story about growing up with a father addicted to alcohol, and how government policy needs to change, and several professors and experts discussed the issue from a range of angles, including breakthroughs in research, recovery, supporting workers and staff and surviving withdrawal.

Sonya Jones, from We Work For You Shropshire, shared stories of young people exploited and how alcohol was used as a grooming tool.

She also thanked Jane for her work in setting the conference up, saying: "It is an honour that Jane invited me along. I think she (Amy) would be so proud of her mum today."

Tomorrow's programme includes journalist Camilla Tominey talking about growing up with an alcohol-addicted mother, as well as "recovery champion" Dr Ed Day, poet Steve Duncan talking about his journey.

There will also be spotlights on services in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, as well as experts discussing how veterans can be supported and the role families play in helping addicts.

Chip Somers, a former government advisor on drug policy and the man credited with saving the life of comedian Russell Brand, a recovering addict, will be the final expert speaker.

To see the full programme with timings and to watch proceedings, visit shareshrewsbury.org.uk/

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