‘I was drinking 50 cans in a weekend and then I started on spirits but a killer helped get me sober’

There were drugs and women and fighting, but most of all there was booze.

It started with scuffling on the streets of Swansea, took in service to queen and country, flipping burgers, and always eye-watering amounts of alcohol. There was also his love of words.

But it all threatened to end in a hospital bed in the city where he was born.

It’s fair to say Matt Wride’s life has been a rollercoaster.

Read more:The Gower reclamation business saving rare and unusual items bought by everyone from Netflix and Disney to the Beckhams

The 41-year-old has spent most of his life in an alcoholic fug. But having finally kicked the bottle – in part with the help of a vicious killer – his life is now one where the future is no longer seen through the bottom of a glass.

“I grew up in Pontardawe and I had a great childhood, even though we were the poorest people on the street”, he said.

“But jobs were scarce when I was young. I’d studied leisure, tourism and sports management at Swansea Institute which meant I was either over qualified or under qualified in terms of experience.

“But I had got into boxing and I was good at that. I’d always been fascinated by it and by the training. I found out I had a bit of talent too. I’m not saying I was amazing, but I was pretty decent.

“I joined Gwent Boxing Club in Townhill, where trainer Terry Grey could see my potential and we discussed going pro. I should have listened to Terry.

“I was drinking but I was dedicated to boxing. But the social side of university was taking over. I was still training, but not taking it seriously. I don’t have many regrets but I do regret not giving boxing my all.”

Despite showing promise in the ring, wining his first three fights with first round knock-outs, Matt soon became used to using his fists on the streets.

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“I got myself a bit of a reputation,” he said.

“It was when The Kingsway was the place to go out, places like Quids Inn and Escape, it would be the same old faces, I’d always end up in a fight, fighting with the bouncers.

“And I had friends who used to go to the North Bank at The Vetch to watch the Swans, and they’d get into all sorts of trouble. I’d go along with them and get involved from time to time. It was all speed and hash then”.

By the turn of the century, Matt realised he needed to get out of Swansea, so went into the army and navy recruitment office on Castle Street, and before he knew it has signed up to become a Royal Navy chef.

“I took to the discipline and structure like a duck to water,” he said.

“I had no problems with authority, I enjoyed the routine.”

Matt’s time in the navy saw him serve on HMS Westminster and HMS Nottingham, and took him all over the world, including the Gulf in 2005.

It also saw his drinking step up a gear.

Matt’s fictionalised book is based on his time working in a Swansea call centre
(Image: John Myers)

“I did stupid things in the navy. I was the idiot of the ship and they gave me the crap jobs,” he said.

“I had navy ID which was like a get out of jail card. I’d get off the boat and get into trouble, and end up being cuffed by local police, but it was a lot of hassle to process charging someone from the military, so they’d just take you back to the dock and kick you out there”.

After six years in the navy, Matt left and returned home with a wife and, eventually, three children.

He first found himself first flipping burgers in Chicago Rock, before landing himself a place in a call centre.

“We were encouraged to sell on every call and I found out I was amazing at it,” he said.

“I’ve always been confident, and the customers appreciated the way I spoke to them. My stats were always in the top five year after year and customers would contact the centre asking to speak to me. It made me feel good, but every night I’d be drinking”.

By now, drinking had reached around 12 cans of Stella a night, rising to forty or fifty over the weekend.

“I’d put out the green bin bags every Tuesday, and the neighbours would be asking ‘have you had another party then Matt?’

“I was also taking cocaine. That just makes you drink longer. You’d have some at ten or eleven at night, and it would push you into fifth gear, but it never seemed to affect my work, not at first.

“Even if I felt like **** the next day, I’d go in. Some times I’d be **** faced, and I’d stagger in on a daily basis.

“My wife drank when we first met, but she never liked the way my drinking had become. When she got pregnant she would eat for two, and I would start drinking for two.

“I would go out for a night, and the only rules were I don’t cheat and I don’t bring drugs home.

“She would wake up to find me with a broken nose and black eyes.

“I was punchy, but the older I got I started losing more fights than I was winning. There were guys I would be beating up five years ago and now I was struggling. Age does catch up with you”.

Now off the pop Matt has got himself fit again, and embraced his love of writing
(Image: John Myers)

Now in his early thirties, Matt turned to spirits in a bid to beat the weight the booze was putting on him.

“I’d go from drinking 100 cans a week to 75 cans, but I’d also have two or three bottles of whiskey and rum. It started going pear shaped. If I brought a bottle of spirits home, it wouldn’t last the weekend. I never opened a bottle that would last until the next day, it would gone in a couple of hours”.

The drinking finally brought on a series of severe and debilitating cluster headaches which left him in Singleton Hospital.

“I have been in many fights, I have taken pain, I used to thrive off pain, but those headaches scared me to death,” he said.

“I would rather take on Mike Tyson. The doctors told me I was lucky I was a tough bastard because my head should have popped”.

One evening, while putting out bin bags containing an £800 laptop he had smashed in a drunken stupor, he realised he had to do something.

He found his way to AA, where the first person he spoke to helped turn his life around.

“The first person who spoke to me was Tom Carney. It is unforgiveable what he did, but he was so nice to me I don’t think I would have gone back without him.

“It was difficult for my wife; a lot of partners of alcoholics think ‘why can’t I get through?’, but it takes an alcoholic to save an alcoholic. It’s a cliche but it’s true”.

His marriage over and finally sober, Matt “stopped living like a monk” and took “enthusiastically” to online dating.

“I indulged myself, it felt good,” he admits.

“I had lost weight, I was sober, and was feeling in good shape. It was a good feeling having women tell you you are a good-looking guy.”

Now living in Plasmarl and selling fitness equipment, he turned to writing as catharsis. His book, Living Life in a Thunderstorm, is based on his time in the call centre in Swansea. It features drink, drugs, gambling, profanity, questionable work practices, love, infidelity, broken hearts, bomb making, nights out on Wind Street, and liaisons in toilet cubicles,

(How much of it is true? 75-80% claims Matt).

“When I was ten or eleven remember writing a poem after the Chris Eubank and Mike Watson fight, which left Watson badly injured,” he said.

“I felt really moved by it and it was just a way of coming to terms with.

“I always loved hip hop, and was fascinated by the words, the way they are put together, the things they can say.

“Then I sat down and started writing a fictionalised story of my life in the call centre.

“I had to sit down and write by hand because I couldn’t afford a laptop. And it just started tumbling out. It took me three months, and half way through I had visions I would die and I thought, I can’t, I need to finish this.

“I had stopped drinking. I had stopped taking cocaine. I had stopped beating people up. I thought I had one problem, the drink, but I had a hundred.

“I don’t want to make out I’m a hero. I’m the bad guy here. I can’t change my past. My drinking has hurt a lot of people.

“But I have never done anything I have felt proud of, and if I die tomorrow, I can do so knowing I have written this book”.

Matt will be talking about his book, and his life, at Cinema & Co on Tuesday, November 9. More information and tickets are available here.

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WalesOnline – Swansea