After battling alcoholism for 15 years one dad wants to remove the stigma of being an alcoholic and make sure party goers have a plan to get home safely this festive period.
Gary Topley, 37, started drinking on the park when he was just 14 and became dependant on the drink until his late twenties.
“I was the one out of my group of friends who could get served because I looked older so I would charge my friends and spend their change so I was drinking for free.”
Gary, who lives on St Augustines Avenue, Chesterfield said that he had low points and scrapes with the police as he turned to drink to get him through his every day life.
“I needed it to drink, I got to the point where I wasn’t thinking about having a drink and it was a subconscious and natural thing to do.”
The dad-of-two stopped drinking after the birth of daughter jasmine, seven years ago.
He said: “I wanted to be a better person and she inspired me to stop drinking and stay out of trouble with the police.” Now Gary has been sober for seven years and does not partake in social drinking.
“Society is very quick to encourage you to drink, ‘oh it’s the weekend have a drink’ or ‘we are only going for a couple join us’ but when that social drinking becomes a problem society is very quick to turn its back on you.”
Since turning away from alcohol now he uses his time to help people who are still battling and has become an alcohol awareness specialist and has met David Hasselhoff, Phillip Schofield and Calum Best while promoting his work. He is also studying for a degree in international studies and politics.
He said: “When people drink they think they are invincible, and I am speaking from experience, you lose your inhibitions and that little voice inside your head that tells your this is a bad idea.
“Whether that is picking a fight or going home with the person you have been dancing with people need to be aware of what can happen if there no back up plan.”
Keen to stress he is not a party pooper Gary just wants people to go out and be safe.
He added: “I know people will say that as a man who had a drink problem I’m no one to be issuing advice but I have fallen down that slippery sliope of going out and not telling my friends where I was going and ending up in all sorts of bother.”
His advice is to keep emergency money for taxis, and never leave anyone behind even if they say they want to and never drive even if you have had just one drink.
For more advice and support visit facebook.com/GaryTopleyAlcoholAwareness