IT isn’t the fact Gaz Wiseman has released an album that is impressive. It is the fact he’s alive.
The Layton lad, who has just released his first record, used to turn up at his local newsagent at 6am to buy a bottle of vodka. He’d down it, sleep for while, then head out to buy another bottle.
That was his life for five years.
It cost him his marriage, his home, his job, and almost his life.
A doctor at Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital diagnosed pancreatitis and gave the 42-year-old 12 months to live if he didn’t change his ways.
Those stark words, plus the threat of his new partner Fiona leaving him, finally jolted him from his descent towards rock bottom.
He got help at a rehabilitation centre in Fleetwood and hasn’t touched alcohol for almost a year.
But he has picked up his guitar. In a band as a youngster (“before I got kicked out for drinking too much,” he says, “I should have guessed then that I had a problem”), Wiseman has written song after song during the last few months and, encouraged by a musician friend, has made an album.
Aptly titled Here And Now, it has already sold several copies on iTunes - not bad for a bloke who this time last year was down and very almost out.
“If you’d seen me a year ago, you wouldn’t have believed the person I was,” he says.
“I was totally different, always in trouble with the police or in an ambulance, usually not having a clue what I‘d done because I was so out of it.
“I was the type of bloke you’d have crossed the road to avoid.”
Yet life was pretty good before 2006.
Wiseman lived in the family home with his wife and children and had a good job as an telecoms engineer.
But his drinking, brought on by depression, had become such a big issue that he booked himself into rehab.
He stayed three months but at a cost. It led to the break up of his marriage - which left him homeless - and he was sacked from his job.
“That all happened within a week of coming out of rehab - and because of it I went straight back on the booze,” he said.
“But it was a million times worse. I’d buy a litre of vodka and demolish it. That was my way of dealing with things.
“I used to go to my newsagent, help him carry the papers in at 6am, and then get half a bottle of vodka. It was the only way I’d get any sleep because I had the shakes and the sweats.
“When I woke I’d go back out and buy another bottle. I never drank less than eight quarter bottles of vodka a day.
“The daft thing is I didn’t really like spirits but they worked the quickest. If there was some whisky or brandy on offer I’d buy that, otherwise it was vodka.
“I told my friends I couldn’t come out at night. I’d make an excuse, told them I was skint. But really I just wanted to sit at home and drink.”
In the midst of the despair, Wiseman met a woman, Fiona, who he says helped save his life.
“Apart from my mum, Judith - who has been brilliant - and my kids, she was the only one there when everyone else had given up,” he added.
“But my drinking got so bad that even she gave me an ultimatum - do something about it or I’m leaving. That, plus the doctor telling me I was going to die, finally made me do something.”
He sought help from J2R (Journey 2 Recovery), a drug and alcohol centre in Fleetwood, and with their guidance kicked the booze. Then he wrote a song about Fiona.
“She loved it and asked a friend of hers - Andy Clarke, who has his own studio - if he could help me record it properly,” Wiseman said.
“He loved the song so much he asked if I had any more. I played him loads. He said ‘these songs deserve to be heard’, and that’s how the album got made. I owe Andy a lot.”
The album is impressive, and heartwarming. Full of lyrics about his experiences and about real places (first track Bardsway Avenue is about the street in Layton where he grew up), it is the sound of a man getting his life back on track.
“That’s why I’ve released it,” he said. “All my friends know the journey I’ve been on and I just wanted to say this is what I’m doing now, there’s no more lying, I’m over it, I’m me again.
“I’m really proud of the record. It is personal, it means a lot.”
Wiseman, now living in London Street in Fleetwood, has a good relationship with children Amy, 19, and Dan, 18, and has now qualified as drink/drug abuse counsellor and is looking for a job.
“When I look back I can’t believe what happened to me.
“I come from a really happy family house. It just shows how easily these things can happen,” he said.
“Thank god I’ve been able to get through it, and now I want to help others - and to carry on making music.”
Gaz Wiseman’s album Then And Now is available for download on iTunes and Amazon.