FOR bass guitarist Phil Spalding who enjoyed a successful career alongside the biggest names in pop, the rock’n’ roll lifestyle that went with it left his future in doubt.
Phil, now 53, of Rodbourne, enjoyed a career performing alongside stars such as Elton John, Mick Jagger and Robbie Williams in his heyday, but a 20-year-period of rock and roll excess saw his success come to a grinding halt.
A cocaine habit later led to heroin addiction and Phil was left with no other option than to check himself in to rehab at Gloucester House, in Highworth, in 2005, where he was diagnosed as being positive with the cancer-causing hepatitis C virus.
“As soon as I cleaned up I started to feel rotten because my liver wasn’t working properly,” he said.
“It was like having a permanent hangover.
“When I found out I had hepatitis C I just wanted to get it fixed straightaway, I had to sort myself out.”
“I was convinced that I needed the drugs to prop up my personality and my playing. It is an easy trap to fall in to when you are weak like I was but, ultimately, it destroyed me.”- Phil Spalding
Phil endured 48 weeks of immunotherapy – a treatment that uses your body's own immune system to help fight cancer – at the John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxford.
“I wasn’t able to do anything else for the whole year but I was set on getting my life back,” he said.
He contracted the virus through the shared use of needles when injecting drugs during his music career, something he says was a common sight during the ’70s. It was very easy to fall in to,” he said.
“When I started in the late ’70s, it was something that everyone just did. There wasn’t the enlightenment that there is these days. In my world it seemed everyone did drugs.
“To be an addict you have to have a certain personality, mine was rooted in a difficult childhood, coming from a poor working class background – it makes an inadequate package.
“I was convinced that I needed the drugs to prop up my personality and my playing. It is an easy trap to fall in to when you are weak like I was but, ultimately, it destroyed me.”
Phil, who can recall a time when he was taking up to three grams of heroin a day, plus a gram of cocaine, as well as valium and methadone, has been clean for more than five years. And as well as making a return to his music, he is also training to become a counsellor.
He said: “I used to be like a child at a full-time party, but I have grown up a bit now. My priorities these days are different, as a recovering addict I try to enjoy the day and what it holds for me.
“If someone were to offer me a drink now I would say no, but you can’t say you will never touch it again, because it is that sort of complacency that could put me back on the slippery slope.”
Phil will perform with Anna Corcoran at a concert for Gloucester House Rehabilitation Centre’s Buy a Bed, Save a Life campaign. The concert, on Saturday, takes place at Highworth Methodist Church at 6pm. Tickets cost £6 and are available from Denise or Sue on 01793 762365.
For more information on hepatitis C visit www.hepctrust.org.uk or call 0845 223 4424.