Friday 26 December 2014

Why we've called time on wine o'clock ...

Lucy Rocca set up Soberistas.com in a bid to put the sexy back into sobriety. She talks to Chrissie Russell about her struggle with alcohol

Lucy Rocca didn't think she had a drink problem. Photo posed - Getty Images.
Lucy Rocca didn't think she had a drink problem. Photo posed - Getty Images.
Lucy Rocca after running up Harter Fell in the Lake District
Lucy Rocca dressed up for a sober night out

Lucy Rocca didn't think she had a drinking problem. "I never drank during the day," she explains. "I didn't drink spirits, just nice, expensive white wine and I didn't feel drinking was impinging obviously on my life – I did a law degree, a half-marathon and raised a daughter, all while I was drinking. I would always have said I wasn't an alcoholic."

Then three years ago, she woke up one morning in hospital with no memory of how she'd got there. After drinking three bottles of wine, she'd stepped outside her home to have a cigarette and ended up being rushed to A&E by a passing friend who later saw her slumped unconscious on her doorstep.

"I'd not been out, I'd just been drinking in the house on my own and I hadn't even thought that I was drunk," recalls Lucy.

"It was the shock I needed. I was ashamed and frightened about what could have happened while I was in that state and I decided then that I had to stop drinking. I knew I couldn't control it, I had to stop all together."

Not only did the mum of two from Sheffield stop but she also used her experience to set up the website, Soberistas.com, to reach out to other women in a similar position.

Ireland accounts for the fourth-highest level of visits to the site behind the UK, America and Australia. In recent days, the spotlight has fallen on the dangerous drinking habits of young people but the reality is that they're not the only demographic drinking to worrying levels on a regular basis.

In Ireland, four in 10 women report harmful drinking patterns and one in four Irish women discharged from hospital for alcohol-related conditions is under 30, compared with one-in-six men.

In 1990, 7pc of alcohol consumed in Ireland was wine – in 2011, it was 26pc, something largely attributed to female drinkers. Increasingly, women are matching men in alcohol consumption but dealing with higher health risks, with females more prone to develop liver problems after a shorter period of time drinking – and at lower levels than men. There's also evidence to suggest a higher risk of breast cancer.

But in a society where so many women are counting down the minutes to 'wine o'clock' and a bottle of Sauvignon blanc to unwind after a hard day's work, it's often difficult to identify a problem that might need help.

In her 20s, Lucy found her social life revolved around drinking with her husband and their friends. After they divorced at 27, drinking wine became her 'treat' in the evening. When her daughter (now 15) spent the weekend at her father's, it was an excuse for Lucy to head out and drink heavily in bars and clubs. It never seemed like an issue because everyone around her was drinking, too.

"About a year before I stopped drinking, I remember talking to two women solicitors on a night out and they both had a bottle and a half of wine to drink each," recalls Lucy.

"They were smart, successful and funny and I remember thinking 'how could they possibly be alcoholics?'

"That's the problem," she adds. "We often have a very narrow view of what it means to be 'an alcoholic' and as long as we think it's just a man sitting on a park bench drinking meths, the further we're able to place ourselves from the stereotype and the less likely we are to get help."

Soberistas.com was a bid to shatter this stereotype and since setting up the site in November 2012, it's gained 22,000 members, almost exclusively female and predominantly professional, degree-educated, middle-class women, married and with children, aged between 30 and 60.

It's something Tara (not her real name) (34), from Co Kildare, can relate to. "I was worried about my drinking," she explains.

"My hangovers were getting worse and I was often worried – wondering what I'd said or done the night before. But when I Googled 'how to stop drinking' everything that popped up was about AA and I really didn't think I was as bad as that. I know some people have had great success with AA, but I just didn't feel like it was for me."

Tara would often go out drinking three or four times a week with her husband.

Irish Independent

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