Adrian Chiles on facing the facts about his relationship with alcohol and how he struggled with anxiety after doomed ITV breakfast show Daybreak
Adrian Chiles was 16 years old when he first got served in a pub and despite admitting to having a drink almost every day since then, he’s never suspected he had a problem with alcohol.
Yet when he examines his relationship with booze for new BBC2 documentary Drinkers Like Me, the TV presenter begins to wonder why he and millions of other Britons find it impossible to enjoy life without alcohol, but don’t consider themselves addicted.
Alcohol-related diseases cost the NHS an estimated £47billion a year and many of those treated are middle-class people like Adrian, who have spent decades drinking too much without realising it.
So can Adrian Chiles build a healthier relationship with alcohol? Here, the 51-year-old reveals all about his drinking and his BBC2 show Drinkers Like Me…
Why did you want to make this programme?
Adrian Chiles: “I became fascinated with the reasons why I drink, because on some level I need to drink. I don’t put loads away compared to other people, nor misbehave or get drunk and fall over, so I’ve always assumed I don’t have an issue. But I’ve come to realise I’m dependent on alcohol. I wanted to make a programme for people like me, who think they’re on the right side of the line, but don’t realise how much damage they’re doing to themselves.”
How much do you drink in a week?
AC: “I started counting the units with an app on my phone and was shocked. It’s recommended you don’t have more than 14 units per week and one Saturday I had 32 alone! I was easily in triple figures for the week, which was scary.”
Do you remember your first drink?
AC: “It was at a family party in Birmingham when I was 12 or 13. I picked up a cider and suddenly felt warm and fuzzy at the same time. I thought it was great! By the time I was 16, getting served in a pub was an obsession. I remember walking two miles to a pub with my mates, because we heard they would serve people underage. But research suggests 16- to 24-year-olds are now drinking less and it’s people of my generation, the over-50s, who have the real problem.”
Do you think alcohol has affected your health?
AC: “A blood test indicated my liver was fine, but when I went to a liver specialist he had some worrying news. A scan showed I had clear scarring on my liver, which could develop into cirrhosis and lead to liver failure. I was shocked – it didn’t sink in for a while. I feel a bit of an idiot for drinking so much for so long – what was I thinking?”
Do you think alcohol has affected other parts of your life?
AC: “I’ve been telling myself that alcohol hadn’t affected my health for years, but it started to dawn on me it has. I have high blood pressure, gastric issues and some anxiety depression, and alcohol’s a factor in all of those. My anxiety was quite bad after being booted off breakfast television [ITV’s Daybreak, which was eventually axed]. I could barely move for days and the only way to sort it out was to have a couple of pints.”
Has doing this documentary inspired you to change your ways?
AC: “I did try to cut down while making the programme, but I’m still drinking twice the recommended amount per week. I didn’t realise what a quiet, vice-like grip drinking had on my life. Extricating yourself from that after decades isn’t easy, but I think I can change my life to drink less and enjoy the times when I do have a drink more.”
Daybreak pic: Steve Meddle/REX/Shutterstock