'Daughter's five-word question told me I had to give up drinking'

Anna Donaghey
-Credit: (Image: Cover Images)

A woman who started drinking at the age of 14 ended up downing a bottle of wine a night, until a comment from one of her daughters made her stop. Anna Donaghey, from Gloucestershire, found herself with a daily drinking habit that she couldn’t kick.

Anna, 53, said: "My addiction happened very slowly, and then very fast. I drank consistently from that first drink aged 14 all the way through to my late 40s, slowly becoming addicted until it hit me very suddenly that I was in trouble. I was drinking every night and when I wasn’t drinking, I was thinking about drinking.

"I had become secretive about it, to avoid judgment, hiding it from my husband. After cycles of failed moderation, I would set myself ultimatums that I never met. Ultimately I was drinking when I didn’t even want to.

"Drinking took a big toll - physically I ached, felt old and was carrying too much weight. I was waking up tired. The cycle was exhausting, my sleep was deeply compromised and my energy levels were very low. Mentally I was also very low – feeling stuck and controlled is terrifying.

"Looking back, I passed off so many aches, and pains as being age-related. I explained away so much of the emotional lows as being female and hormonal, and so much of the tiredness down to being a working parent. It is incredible just what a sub-optimal existence I was putting up with and trying desperately to normalise."

Anna Donaghey with her baby
Anna Donaghey started drinking when she was 14 -Credit:Cover Images

Anna felt weak and ‘like a failure for years’. "I couldn’t even bear looking in the mirror a lot of the time – I hated and had no respect for the person looking back at me."

Anna was also living in fear; she was frightened of quitting, not knowing how she would cope without alcohol, and frightened of a future in which she continued to drink. Then, one Sunday afternoon she was cooking while drinking wine when her daughters came in and asked to play a board game.

"As we did so, it became very apparent to my husband that I was very drunk. One of my daughters asked him: ‘Why is mummy behaving strangely?’.

"We had an argument; he was in tears. His message was clear, 'we can’t go on like this'.

Another low point was when Anna, now an alcohol mindset coach, was mugged in London, but her recall of the incident was so poor she was embarrassed to go to the police or hospital. "I lost count of the marital arguments. I attended weddings, of which I have very few memories. I was absolutely legless at a works-do, which was another undignified and highly regrettable moment. But those are the big moments.

"There were also countless days in which I knew I was just 'off' and irritable. Not really present and emotionally absent from time spent with the children."

As her drinking started to begin earlier and earlier in the day, Anna knew she had to take a drastic step and she had her last drink on New Year’s Eve 2020. She found a support group that helped and followed a method called ‘This Naked Mind’ which helped her realise her beliefs around alcohol were flawed.

Anna has turned her life around, is happier, healthier and now coaches other people to quit drinking and hosts podcast The Big Drink Rethink, where she provides help and tools to those curious to explore and change their relationship with alcohol.

"Overcoming my addiction makes me feel so powerful. It made me feel that if I could do that, I could achieve anything. Aged 50, I was reacquainted with levels of energy and motivation last felt in my twenties.

"Will I ever drink again? When people ask me why I don’t drink, or why I’m not having a drink, I always say that I drink as much as I want to – and I simply don’t want to. I don’t see that changing," she adds.