Dennis Rogers recounts the devastation caused by being a super-strength addict and reveals how he wouldn’t be alive today if he hadn’t been stabbed and ended up in hospital.
“Growing up in Bermondsey and going through school I was drinking lots even then, so I’ve always been drinking alcohol. But once I found out how high a percentage super-strength lager had, that really started my problems. It got to the point I just couldn’t cope with living a normal day without it. Sometimes I couldn’t move without it, and I had to have a can to actually walk.
I haven’t had a drink now for just over five years, but I used to drink about 15-plus cans a day, a bit more if I could get hold of it. I’d pay for it by begging on the Strand and sometimes selling the Big Issue.
Buying the drink, I could go into certain shops, get a crate and pay for it at the end of the week. A lot of shops do this – in my day I had to hand over my benefit book, and they would walk me to the post office to get the money at the end of the week. You could also do it with passports and other stuff you would need. Sometimes with certain shops you could get the drink cheaper that way too.
If you didn’t have money, another alcoholic helped you out. If I didn’t have a drink I wouldn’t have been able to get motivated, wouldn’t be able to stand.
I was lucky I was caught at the right time – someone stabbed me in the lung in the park, I went into hospital, and then a key worker got me into rehab. But I’ve lost too many friends to drink, people on the streets. One of them was one of my best friends – he died in my flat. His mother had died a fortnight beforehand, so he just started drinking more. His liver collapsed and he drank himself to death.
The majority of people on the streets and in the parks were drinking super-strength lager. It was very rare you would see someone drink, say, Stella. There were spirits as well, but more on super-strength lager and strong cider. I drank spirits too, but lager is easier to drink.
In a lot of places now you can’t drink on the streets, so you do it in people’s houses – it doesn’t change how you drink. I still see some of my drinking school friends. They just go to other people’s houses and sit knee-deep in empty cans. It’s sad. Some of them have tried to stop before but the penny hasn’t dropped. I’m lucky as I listened to other people, but I’m surprised some of these people are still alive.
I realise now there’s no reason for any lager to be as strong as that. It’s completely brain damaged. I have never, ever seen anyone try to drink that socially. It should be either cut down or banned – the next drink is about 5.8%, although some people would move onto spirits.”