Binge drinking DJ said mental breakdown after years of sinking pints saved his life

A binge drinking DJ who had a mental breakdown after years of downing up to 20 pints every weekend gave up alcohol - and says it has saved his life.

For 15 years John Leaver, 39, used to go out every Friday and Saturday and get "blackout drunk", spending most of his weekly budget on pints and cocaine with his mates.

But a particularly heavy night out after a breakup in 2019 left him feeling so terrible one morning that he vowed to kick booze for good.

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Sober for four years, he now runs a life coaching business which helps people cut down or give up drinking, but still performs as a tee-total DJ on the weekend at night clubs across the country.

DJ John Leaver, 39, is now alcohol free and working to help people get their drinking under control in Rotherham.DJ John Leaver, 39, is now alcohol free and working to help people get their drinking under control in Rotherham.
DJ John Leaver, 39, is now alcohol free and working to help people get their drinking under control in Rotherham.

Now he says he doesn't miss alcohol at all, and enjoys DJing even more without a hangover the next day.

Father-of-two John, from Rotherham, said: "On a typical night out we'd go to our local, drink five or six pints of lager, then move onto spirits. Then we'd go to VIP booths and get one of those stupidly big bottles of vodka, which costs around £250, which we couldn't even afford.

"I became overweight because of binge drinking, I had bags under my eyes, and was depressed and anxious as hell, and I was spending all my savings going on benders.

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"It's a false narrative you create for yourself when you're drunk that you're a big shot, but then I would wake up and be physically sick all day next day. You convince yourself that it's something fun but it's not."

John Leaver during his drinking days.John Leaver during his drinking days.
John Leaver during his drinking days.

John said part of the problem is how not drinking in the UK is stigmatised.

He said: "The biggest barriers for someone trying to quit is that there is still a stigma and expectations of men to drink. For a lot of young men I support, the thing that pulls them back into drinking is their friends because they feel like they're missing out.

"The drinking culture is very powerful thing and if you're not drinking and you're around people who are often it makes them feel uncomfortable."

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He hit a tipping point after years of binge drinking in 2019 and had a "full on breakdown" after splitting up with his partner, the mum of his two kids, combined with going out every weekend and getting extremely drunk.

He said: "I lost the ability to cope, I had put weight on and lost all motivation and sacked my job off as a youth worker. The last time I went out it was a Saturday night four years ago, I got in at 5am and the next morning had my head down the toilet.

"I was 35 and my kids were getting dropped off in an hour and I could barely function. I said to myself - I am never doing this again, and I meant it."

"Binge drinking is one of the worst trade-offs of all time, if you had food that made you sick, you'd never eat it again, but we do this with drink, and it's considered normal."

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John stopped drinking, initially for just a month felt so much better he decided to carry it on indefinitely.

Now he works in the recovery community in Rotherham, and also gives talks about the benefits of quitting booze, while he recently partnered with the NHS to set up a new youth provision to help younger people.

"It's a big deal for me really personally, I've seen the chaos and destruction that booze causes, I've lost multiple friends to alcoholism,” he said. "My main objective is to try and normalise people not drinking and allow people to feel OK with not going out and getting wrecked."

The one constant in his adult life has been DJing, which he continues to do, though nowadays completely sober, which he admits has been "strange experience."

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His next gig he will be playing a set as well as speaking on stage about dangers of taking the party lifestyle too far.

"Alcohol is a devious thing, I have learnt that for me being sober is a much better way to be,” he added.

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