A recovering alcoholic who last saw his son 16 years ago has finally been reunited with him.
Up until last week, Gary Topley, of Chesterfield, hadn’t seen his 18-year-old since 1999.
Gary, 36 – who has now been sober for six years following his long battle with booze – met up with his son in Bedford after he launched a Facebook appeal to find him.
The alcohol awareness campaigner said: “It was a successful reunion – it went very well.
“I have never forgotten him in all these years.
“I felt a huge sense of relief that my son I held all those years ago as a baby was back in my life again.
“We are both keeping in contact and have been texting each other and sending messages on Facebook.
“We will be arranging to see each other again sometime soon and hopefully at some point arranging to go on holiday this year together for a long awaited catch-up.”
Gary’s son was adopted because of his alcohol addiction.
Gary – who himself was taken into care when he was two-years-old then later adopted partly because of his mother’s drink problems – said feelings of guilt over the years for putting his addiction before his son led to depression which only fuelled his alcoholism.
He added: “For many years this has been a big struggle.
“I have missed my son very much and the situation has had a massive impact on my life.
“I have two other children now and one of the reasons I stopped drinking six years ago was so the same thing didn’t happen to my eldest daughter.
“I had to break the cycle – it is a shame it took me so long to see it.”
Gary recently launched the CATS UK project which is aimed at helping individuals and their families who are affected by alcoholism.
According to the NHS, more than 24 per cent of people in England consume alcohol in a way that is harmful or potentially harmful to their health and wellbeing.
For more information about the help available to people with drink problems, see www.alcoholconcern.org.uk
Visit Gary’s website at www.garytopley.co.uk