I was on Married at First Sight while battling booze addiction that saw me downing wine at 11am – how was it allowed? | The Sun

FALLING head over heels for her hunky new husband, Gemma Rose Barnes' booze-fuelled and vulgar flirting made for uncomfortable TV viewing.

But in an explosive new interview, the Married at First Sight star has torn into producers for "using my vulnerability" after revealing she was in the midst of a debilitating three-year secret battle with alcohol addiction.

Mum of two Gemma, 31, regrets her time on the Channel 4 show, claiming it exacerbated her drinking struggles and alleging that TV bosses used her troubled childhood and trauma for entertainment purposes.

“I feel really ashamed of myself for believing the experiment," Gemma tells The Sun. "I'm just ashamed of the producers using my vulnerability to create fantastic television for people, of me having a mental breakdown.”

Gemma's initially happy marriage to Matt Murray in the latest series rapidly descended into an ugly fallout, which frequently left her in tears.

Struggling behind the scenes with addiction and trauma, the hairdresser, from Devon, thinks she was lying to herself when she met up with counsellors before going on Married At First Sight.


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She recalls: “I had the counselling, we discussed my childhood, which was a very negative childhood, and discussed the things that led up to my adult life.

“I was very proud to say to the counsellor that I’d put them in a box and it was like it was someone else's story, and she said 'You're suffering from trauma’.”

However, Gemma, who was adopted, claims the production company used her trauma against her, pairing her with Matt Murray, knowing they wouldn’t get on.

She continues: “I said, 'Do you think I should be going on a TV show?' They're like, 'Yes, you'll be fine. We're gonna look after you.' 

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“That's obviously not true. They just think 'Oh, someone weak and we can pick all those bits that they want to change about themselves, and we can let that unravel on television knowing that we're going to give them the ultimate challenge.'

Boozing at 11am 

Gemma signed up to the 12 Step Programme over a month ago, when she realised her life was becoming “unmanageable,” having not worked a full week at her hairdressing job since lockdown.

And she’s since realised it was isolating with her two sons Ozzy, 11, and Cash, five, in their Devon home during lockdown that kicked off her drinking habits.

“Having all that time with them during Covid was brilliant,” she says. “But it was airport rules in my house. 

“I was drinking a bottle of Martini Asti at 11 o'clock in the morning. I thought I was having a fantastic time – don't get me wrong – until I wasn't.

'More alcohol than I've ever seen'

Gemma insists she signed up to Married At First Sight to find love, having thought of it as a “well-respected Danish experiment”.

She says: “I remember when they did the saliva tests and they used to go and register the weddings, that's why I loved it.

“I had phone calls from [matchmaker] Paul Bronson before and he was like, 'What's your biggest fear, Gemma?' and I was like 'That you put me with someone who doesn’t want marriage.'”

However she also confesses she thought she’d be able to use the time away as “almost like a little rehab, and a way to escape that lifestyle” she was leading.

But, once she was accepted on to the show, and paired with Matt Murray, she quickly realised her drinking habit was going to be harder to curb than she thought.

She says: “There was just more alcohol than I've ever seen. We had decanters and the production would be pouring six bottles and we'd all be like, 'Get as much wine as possible!' 

“When I first went into the experiment, two weeks later than everyone else, I was sat at the table next to Thomas [Hartley] and he said 'Pour a glass of red and a glass of white and you'll see what I mean in a minute,' and it was gone.”

'Want to be the mother I was before'

Gemma says she’s feeling “a lot better” these days, and in a “much better place” since going sober.

She says: “Since I've been sober I haven't had a day off. I'm getting my passion back, and pushing to go back. 

“I really slacked with everything and now I do feel back to myself, and really well-rested.

She continues: “I want to be the mother that I was before Covid hit. 

“I'm feeling really healthy and you can only concentrate on the things that you love and enjoy when you feel that way and I love and enjoy my children.”

When it comes to dating, Gemma isn’t ready just yet, especially as she and her boys have just recently moved into their new home after four and a half months of looking for somewhere to live.

“I don’t want anyone in my space,” she finishes. “I'm enjoying the serenity of being alert and awake again and feeling healthy and positive. 

“I don't want someone to come in and then mess me around or hurt me and for me to lose an aspect of that.”

Responding to Gemma’s claims about MAFS, a Channel 4 spokesperson said: “All individuals taking part in MAFS UK have been deemed suitable to take part by an independent clinical psychologist and after being cast all contributors have the ability to stay in or leave the process at any stage. 

“Contributor care and wellbeing is of paramount importance and appropriate support is available to contributors before, during and after broadcast. 

“During filming, alcohol consumption is at the discretion of individuals, but it is monitored and limited by the production team. 

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“All broadcast episodes of MAFS UK are a fair and accurate reflection of the events that took place.  

“While not every contributor finds lasting love in the MAFS process, many have a positive and enriching experience and the UK franchise has brought together couples who remain in committed relationships and have started families.”

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