A former alcoholic says one selfie was all it took for him to finally commit to giving up drinking. Gene Davies, 47, struggled with alcoholism for decades, with his addiction costing him numerous jobs and relationships. The pot washer – who used to drink a bottle and a half of whiskey a day – says his addiction even led to the breakdown of his marriage. However, a picture he took after a dangerous incident spurred him to reach out for help and he has now been sober for 18 months. Gene says his drink problem started when he was a teenager playing drums in a band called Silent Runner with Kelly Jones from Stereophonics who is his cousin. He said: ‘I’m not blaming rock and roll – I was a willing participant. ‘But it was definitely where my drink problem started.
We were only about 14 or 15 at the time and already playing pubs and workingmen’s clubs. ‘And this was the Valleys in the ’80s, by the way. ‘It was easy to get served if you were underage back then – lots of blind eyes were turned if we wanted to grab a crafty flagon of lager.’ After joining the band, the teenager spent most of his time ‘being the showman, trying to make people laugh’ during which time his ‘boozing increased exponentially’. After being thrown out of university in Bath for non-attendance, Gene made his way through a series of odd jobs, including dish washing and catering. However, he was fired from most of them after ‘sneaking in cans and disappearing down the pub during my breaks to throw more pints down my neck’. After moving back to Wales in 2003, he attempted to hide his drinking problem from his parents by stashing bottles in the house and going for long ‘walks’.
At his lowest point, he found himself sucking up the remnants of a spilled beer with a straw from a pub floor. He said: ‘While we were in there someone spilled their beer and I decided to take a straw, get down on my knees and suck the remnants of it from the dirtiest, mankiest pub carpet you’ve every seen. ‘And this was despite already having a full pint waiting for me on the bar. ‘Isn’t that the most disgusting thing you’ve ever heard?’ After meeting his wife Vicky at a party in 2010, they had a son called Joe in 2015. It was at this point that Gene cut down on drinking – but he couldn’t give it up altogether. He said: ‘I became a nasty drunk – not in the physical sense, just a sharp tongue – and that contributed to my marriage eventually breaking down.’
After being kicked out of his family home, the pot washer got the wake-up call he needed. He was staying round a friend’s house in a bunk bed while he awoke needing the toilet. However, he ended up covered in blood when he forgot where he was and fell from the top bunk. He said: ‘When I awoke in the night needing a pee I quite forgot I was six foot up and dropped like a stone to the floor, taking out a chest of drawers with my head on the way down. ‘I wasn’t knocked out – the drawers were totalled, mind – and staggered to the bathroom to see the mess I’d made of myself and whether or not I could get away with just wrapping it in a tea towel and going back to bed. ‘But, when I saw the blood, lifted up my hair and a big flap of skin came with it, I realised I’d partially scalped myself and could actually see my skull. ‘I remember thinking, ‘Nope, it’s the hospital for you, pal’.’
The next morning, the former alcoholic was looking at a selfie of his injuries from the night before. It was this picture that spurred him to shake his addiction. He said: ‘I’ve not touched a drop since – that was 18 months ago. ‘I now work washing pots and preparing veg in a local Indian restaurant – basic stuff but there’s no stress, just the way I like it. ‘Now Joe is my rock and my number one fan and he helps me keep it together. ‘As for all those lost years? I’m a bit ‘Edith Piaf’ about it all – ‘I regret nothing’ and all that – because, had I not gone down that route I wouldn’t have ended up meeting Vick, with whom I’m still friends, and I wouldn’t have had my boy. ‘Now it’s all about focusing on him and being a good dad. ‘It’s been a long time since I felt like myself again, and I’m loving it.’