MP hopes openness over his alcohol struggles will encourage others to seek help

·3-min read

An MP fought back tears as he revealed his alcohol addiction twice nearly killed him, telling the Commons: “My advice is choose to live.”

Labour’s Dan Carden, speaking during a Commons debate on Pride Month, advised young people to be “proud of who you are” and who “you choose to love”.

He spoke of the “daily denials” and “constant fear of being found out” when growing up LGBT, and warned this can cause a “deep trauma”.

The MP for Liverpool Walton highlighted high rates of depression, loneliness, substance abuse and suicide among gay men.

Mr Carden, who is now in his third year of recovery, added: “Each of these in turn causing more shame, more fear and more trauma – it’s what happened to me.

“It took me a long time to admit that I was struggling with my mental health and alcohol addiction – actually it took repeated interventions from the people who really loved me.

“I didn’t know, I denied I had a problem, I suppressed my emotions – as I’d learned to do as a kid – and I told myself things were fine.

“Only looking back now have I been able to accept that in my 20s I twice nearly lost my life to alcohol, saved only by the actions of others. Drinking was destroying my body, it was damaging me and my relationships in so many other ways.

“Alcohol addiction isn’t about drinking every day or drunkenness. For me, it was about losing who I was over a long period of time.

“It was shutting down my personal life, using a drug – alcohol – to feel better but ultimately to escape and giving up on living. I now know it’s blighted most of my adult life.

“Fortunately, I have a mother who would protect me at all costs. A father who is the most generous, selfless man I’ve ever known. And a brother who has supported me through all this without judgment. And friends who, quite literally, saved my life.

“I’m now in my third year of recovery and I am proud of it. Like so many in the recovery community I am happy, I’m healthy, I love my life, I have a wonderful, loving partner and I appreciate everything that I have.

“It took AA meetings, psychotherapy and counselling to get here and, honestly, to stay here takes commitment and daily determination.

“I am in a privileged position, I’m all too aware that not everybody makes it. Addiction is fatal if not treated.

“I’ve gone from not recognising addiction in myself for so, so long to seeing it everywhere and doing its worst damage in the most deprived communities.”

Mr Carden said addiction is “killing more people and ruining more lives than ever”, adding: “It’s killed members of this House and yet we would still rather hide its ugly reality.

“I hope my openness today can help challenge the stigma that stops so many people asking for help and nothing would mean more to me than to turn the pain I’ve been through, that I put my family and loved ones through, into meaningful change.”

He added: “Pride is about celebrating who we are without shame. In the end it’s a simple choice: choose to hide or choose to live. My advice is choose to live.”

Conservative former minister David Mundell said Mr Carden had made a “hugely impressive, moving” contribution to the debate.

He added: “A really, really brave thing to do but important because I think lots of people outside this place don’t think that people within it actually address and deal with these issues themselves.”

Crispin Blunt, another Conservative former minister, also said: “[Mr Carden] has been very brave about the journey he has been on in order to manage that addiction.”

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